Wednesday, February 13, 2013

A Stagecoach to Yellowstone

I discovered an absolute gem of a museum last week:  The Santa Ynez Valley Historical Society Museum and Carriage House, located at the corner of Sagunto and Faraday Streets in Santa Ynez, California.  These little museums are fast becoming my favorites.  Because they are small, the information is easily absorbed.  I always, always, learn something new and see something fascinating.  This particular museum had a collection of old stagecoaches, phaetons, carts and wagons that blew me away!

The yellow stagecoach shown above captured my imagination.  The Yellow Stage Line partnered with the Northern Pacific Railroad in transporting tourists into the newly established Yellowstone National Park.  A new era in touring had begun!  People would take the trains to Montana and Idaho and then transfer to a stagecoach.  By 1886, the company had a fleet of these bright yellow coaches.  They would take them to one of the grand hotels in the park and drop them off.  A second, smaller coach would later take the tourists on the "Grand Loop" of the park.  Back in California, another similar business, the Yosemite Stage Line,  transported tourists into Yosemite Valley.

It couldn't have been easy, but when the travel bug hits, it hits hard.  People took the time to undertake these long, difficult journeys.  These stagecoaches were often held up by bandits.  Tourists carried money so they were easy targets.  Motion sickness was another problem (and one never portrayed in the movies!), not to mention the dust, dirt and lack of facilities.  Ah, so what?  Sign me up!
The collection is varied.  There are mail wagons, vending wagons, wicker phaetons, a hearse and a classic black brougham.  Another favorite of mine was the green wagon (pictured below) which was used in San Francisco for the delivery of small packages.
Of course, the advent of the automobile ended the era of the stagecoach.  However, the tourist industry, begun by these early entrepreneurs, continued to perpetuate.  My grandparents drove all the way from Kansas to Yellowstone in the 1920's in an old Model T--but that's another story for another day.

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