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Stagelines, Stagecoaches and Stage Robberies of the Old West
by R. Michael Wilson
The Stage Line, Team and the Railroads
Teams were made up of two, four or six animals – horses or mules. The hostlers and drivers knew their animals and often had a relationship with a team that lasted many years. They harnessed the animals to get the most efficient, humane, and safest use. They knew their horses well and kept efficient teams intact whenever possible.
The animals on the left of a team, furthest from the driver, were called the “NEAR”
horses and those on the right, nearest the driver, were called the “OFF” horses.
The front two animals in a team were the LEADERS, who were the smallest, smartest,
and most alert of the animals, while the rear animals in a team were the WHEELERS
and were the largest and strongest to give stability nearest the coach. If the team
had six horses the middle two were called SWINGERS, and these were generally mid-
What is a Stage Line?
A STAGE LINE refers to a line of “stages” of 12-
When the railroads began crossing into the west it was thought that this would spell the end of stagecoaches. In fact, more stage lines were established because of the railroads. The railroads made it possible to build towns all along a rail line, and made it possible to develop new areas some distance from the railroads, and stagecoaches were needed between the rail towns and depots and those towns established a distance away. However, while there was a growth in stagecoach operations, the distances they traveled became shorter and in some cases there were no “stages” at all, as the coach went from its point of origination to its destination with a change of horses. What finally spelled the end of stagecoaches was the automobile, and by 1910 businessmen were establishing automobile stage lines.
R. Michael Wilson -
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