The Mormon Odometer "Roadometer"

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Project by ThorinOakenshield posted 06-22-2014 10:48 PM 5233 views 1 time favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Here we have a replication of the roadometer. There are several versions out on the web and some debate as to the actual design. I followed one of them put out by a professor at BYU who did some extensive digging on the subject. The wagon wheel turns the shaft one rotation every six turns of the wagon wheel. The large gear tracks a single mile and the small gear tracks up to 10 miles. There is a little 4 tooth gear behind the large gear that I attempted to take a picture of.

I was asked to help build a puzzle to work in conjunction with the telling of William Clayton and the building of the odometer. This was for a pioneer trek put on by my church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) once every 4 years. The kids walk 12 miles in 3 days pulling and carts on a really challenging horse trail filled with challenges like tons of mud among the only hills in Indiana. It was really rainy this year and there were lots of blisters. I heard there was lots of exhaustion, some people passed out, and other various injuries along the way. There is also a very spiritual part of the trek and it is a great way for kids to connect with the early members of our church and the trials and faith building experiences they went through.

I thought I would venture to recreate the odometer in such a way that the kids could put it together and play with it during one of the lessons they are given during the course of the trek. The couple that asked for my help like the idea and they came over on a couple occasions to help the work along. The gears come off if a dowel is pulled from the back. The screw shaft can also be dismantled by removing a dowel.

I included a picture of the short version of the story that was read to the kids. There is a more extensive write up on it HERE about half way down. Just search (ctrl+f) for “odometer” after you click on the link.

-- -Thorin Oakenshield, King Under the Mountain

8 comments so far

View Kelly's profile


73 posts in 2862 days

#1 posted 06-22-2014 11:23 PM

It’s quite remarkable what they could engineer considering what they must have had on hand! Thanks for sharing!

View ThorinOakenshield's profile


112 posts in 3153 days

#2 posted 06-22-2014 11:29 PM

I agree. I had no idea until I was approached about this project. We had the same thoughts as we used our modern power tools to craft it. We did have to do some hand chiseling on on the large dowel for the 4 tooth gear on the large wheel. Also the screw shaft was all hand chiseled. I had a chisel in one hand and super glue in the other :)

-- -Thorin Oakenshield, King Under the Mountain

View isaac42's profile


56 posts in 2906 days

#3 posted 06-23-2014 04:26 PM

Nice job on the “roadometer”

View Gentile's profile


369 posts in 2872 days

#4 posted 06-23-2014 06:04 PM

Cool. A few years ago I was in Wyoming, the middle of nowhere, and came across a convoy of LDS Family’s with hand carts. What the heck? I wondered. Good Family activity for reinforcing the Faith.

-- "I cut it twice and it's still too short"

View juanabee's profile


113 posts in 4062 days

#5 posted 06-24-2014 12:13 AM

What a great and challenging idea! Does the hole in the panel fit over the axle of the cart?

-- "Life's nonsense pierces us with strange relation." Wallace Stevens

View Dallas's profile


3599 posts in 3541 days

#6 posted 06-24-2014 12:31 AM

Love it! We learned about these in school when I was young in Idaho.

-- Improvise.... Adapt...... Overcome!

View ThorinOakenshield's profile


112 posts in 3153 days

#7 posted 06-24-2014 02:13 PM

The hole in the panel was a mistake. It not drilled at 90 degrees so we flipped the board over and started again. Every time we messed up we just said, “what would the pioneers have done?” And then moved forward.

I believe in the original design there may have been something on the universal screw shaft that secured it to the non moving part of the axle, and something on one of the wheel spokes to interact with the spoke on the universal screw shaft so that it indexed once every time the wheel spun around.

-- -Thorin Oakenshield, King Under the Mountain

View Thewoodman2000's profile


822 posts in 3024 days

#8 posted 06-24-2014 11:42 PM

Great project. Our ward is out this week on a Trek and the Bishop at the shop I work for is going out later in July. I am going to show this to him. I am sure he will be just as impress as I was to see this made again.

Great work!!!

-- (the only thing in there she says is....tap on head..........tap..........tap..... saw dust) - James

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