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Cart from 16th century, found in Transylvania

The minecart or mine cart (also known as a mine trolley) is a type of rolling stock found on a mine railway, used for moving ore and materials procured in the process of traditional mining. Minecarts are seldom used in modern operations, having largely been superseded in underground operations (especially coal mines) by more efficient belt conveyor systems that allow machines such as longwall shearers and continuous miners to operate at their full capacity, and above ground by large dumpers.

Design and operation[edit]

Minecarts range in size and usage, and are usually made of steel for hauling ore. Shaped like large, rectangular buckets, minecarts ride on metal tracks and were originally pushed or pulled by men and animals (supplemented later by rope-haulage systems). They were generally introduced in early modern time, replacing containers carried by men. Originally, they didn't run on a real "rail", where the wheels would have a rim to fit into the tracks, but with plain wheels on a wooden plank way, hold in track by a pin fitting into a guide groove, or by the underside of the cart itself which was lower than the wheels and fitted between the planks ("Hungarian system").[1][better source needed]

As mines increased in size and output, the aforementioned methods became impractical because of the distances and quantities of material involved, so larger carts would be used, hauled by narrow gauge diesel and electric locomotives (in coal mining operations, where gas that is flammable would present a problem, the locomotives would be flameproof or battery powered). These were also used to pull trains transporting miners to the workfaces.

Minecarts were very important in the history of technology because they evolved into railroad cars. See History of rail transport.


Throughout the world, there are different titles for such carts. In South Africa, for instance, a minecart is referred to as a cocopan,[2] in German it is called Hund (alternative spelling "Hunt"), a homonym to "Hund" = "Dog". In Wales, UK, minecarts are known as drams. In the U.S. and elsewhere the term skip is used.[3]

Minecarts in popular culture[edit]

Minecarts have been depicted as a type of thrill ride; for instance Indiana Jones uses one in an escape scene. There are also real roller coasters whose design depict a mine cart track. Minecart levels, a term used for levels in which the player character takes a high-speed ride in a minecart, are one of the most common level types in video games, especially side-scrolling video games.[4] A minecart is also featured in Hoodwinked. Minecarts and tracks can be crafted by the player in Minecraft and used for transportation. They are also found in abandoned mineshafts that generate naturally as a part of the game's procedural generation.

In Great Britain, restored mine carts (known as "tubs") containing floral displays can commonly be seen on village greens and outside pubs in former coal mining areas such as Northumberland and County Durham.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ de:Hunt#Geschichte
  2. ^ Dictionary definition of "Cocopan"
  3. ^ "Copper Country". Engineering & Mining Journal. New York: McGraw Hill. 26: 1109–1110. 26 June 1915. 
  4. ^ "The Next Generation 1996 Lexicon A to Z: Mine Cart Level". Next Generation. No. 15. Imagine Media. March 1996. p. 37. 

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