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1981 – 25 September 2016

Museum of Horsepower

The Museum of Horsepower’ collection of coaches and sleighs is to be put into storage beyond the public’s reach, the museum itself having closed its doors for the last time on 25 September 2016.

The HMB is nevertheless using its digital channels to ensure that information on the exhibits and documents from the archive remain accessible, independent of time and place. The knowledge acquired of this aspect of our cultural heritage will thus be preserved and kept alive – at least virtually.

Virtual museum

Tour of the museum

The collection of coaches and sleighs belonging to the Basel Historical Museum is to leave its location in the Merian Gardens as per 31 January 2017. The Christoph Merian Stiftung (CMS) plans to remodel the premises in Brüglingen and hence will be in need of the barn in which the Museum of Horsepower has been housed since 1981. Thanks to its partnership with the Google Cultural Institute, both the museum itself and its collection are accessible from October 2016. The Museum of Horsepower has thus become the HMB’s first virtual museum.

Virtual Exhibition

35 years in retrospect

Virtual Exhibition

Varied collection of sledges

Objects in the collection

Selection from the depot

Already in the 19th century, the Basel Historical Museum had been gifted with a number of sleighs from the 17th and 18th century. After 1930, coaches were increasingly added to the collection. Since 1981, when the former Carriage Museum opened in the Merian Gardens, the collection has grown continuously. Testifying to the mobility of our forefathers, it tells a story of fascination with travel and the mobility of the upper classes.

Until its closure in September 2016, the exhibition building that was later renamed the Museum of Horsepower attracted large numbers of visitors to its public collection.

Today these vehicles are stored in a depot. A representative selection of exhibits from the carriage and sleigh collection as well as a documented history of the museum are digitally accessible to the public.

Coaches and Sleighs

One focus of the collection lies on ostentatious vehicles for use about town dating from the second half of the 19th century, although the museum has some older, much rarer coaches as well.

The sleighs range from the lavishly ornate sleighs of the Baroque period to more modern, purely functional vehicles. Most were built, or at any rate used, here in Basel.

The Baroque Diana Sleigh from the court of the Elector Palatine ranks among the highlights of the collection. Baroque nobility would have used this exquisitely decorated, festive conveyance for sleigh rides through the snow.

Another highlight is the Biedermeier calèche. Although typically used for longer journeys, by removing the hood and the front and side windows, this vehicle could be converted into an open carriage for use in town.

Children’s Carriages and Sleighs

Baby carriages and other vehicles made specifically to entertain children were often pulled by the children themselves, or by a nurse, nanny or house boy. Sometimes a dog, goat or even a sheep was hitched up as draught animal.

The miniature Biedermeier calèche made specially for children is a good example of such a vehicle.

Sleighs drawn or pushed by hand sometimes had to double as baby carriages in winter. The offspring of wealthy families, for example, were bundled up in furs and then pulled or pushed to school by the maid or house boy. They were taken on skating excursions in the same way.

Travel Accessories

Also part of the collection are harnesses, bridles and reins, furs for riding in sleighs, liveries, bells, lamps and various other artefacts from the age of horse-drawn locomotion.

These accessories, especially those of the 19th and early 20th century, provide vivid proof of just how rapidly the streets of Basel were taken over by the automobile.


Basel Historical Museum
Management & administration
Steinenberg 4
PO box
CH – 4001 Basel

Reception: +41 61 205 86 00

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