Stagecoach

Preserved Concord stagecoach in Wells Fargo livery
Postcoach or diligence in Switzerland
Behind time, anonymous engraving of a stagecoach in England

A stagecoach is a four-wheeled public coach used to carry paying passengers and light packages on journeys long enough to need a change of horses. It is strongly sprung and generally drawn by four horses.

Widely used before steam-powered rail transport was available a stagecoach made long scheduled trips using stage stations or posts where the stagecoach's horses would be replaced by fresh horses. The business of running stagecoaches or the act of journeying in them was known as staging.[1]

Familiar images of the stagecoach are that of a Royal Mail coach passing through a turnpike gate, a Dickensian passenger coach covered in snow pulling up at a coaching inn, and a highwayman demanding a coach to "stand and deliver". The yard of ale drinking glass is associated by legend with stagecoach drivers, though it was mainly used for drinking feats and special toasts.[2][3]

Description

The stagecoach was a closed four-wheeled vehicle drawn by horses or hard-going mules. It was used as a public conveyance on an established route usually to a regular schedule. Spent horses were replaced with fresh horses at stage stations, posts, or relays. In addition to the stage driver or coachman who guided the vehicle, a shotgun messenger armed with a coach gun might travel as a guard beside him.

Wells Fargo mud-coach

A simplified and lightened vehicle known as a stage wagon, mud-coach, or mud-wagon, was used in the United States under difficult conditions. A canvas-topped wagon had a lower center of gravity, and it could not be loaded on the roof with heavy freight or passengers as an enclosed coach so often was.

A stagecoach traveled at an average speed of about 5 miles per hour (8.0 km/h), with the average daily mileage covered being around 60 to 70 miles (97 to 113 km).[4]