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.
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).