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Manning Index of South Australian History
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    South Australia - Transport

    "Milestones by Road and Rail" is discussed in the Advertiser, 1 September 1936 (special edition), page 38.

    Horse Coaches

    Also see Adelaide - Transport , Aberdeen and South Australia - Communications.

    Also see under South East for an essay on "Coaching Days in the Lower South East".

    An Essay on Coach Transport

    Taken from Geoffrey H. Manning's A Colonial Experience


    Coach driving and work in livery stables were among occupations engaged in by some residents of Kensington and Norwood in the early days of settlement but, by the turn of the century, both were on the wane when the motor car and electric tram were introduced. James Chambers was the first cab driver in Adelaide when, in 1840, he operated a 'one horse fly' - a two-wheeled covered carriage. In 1847 James Findley ran a light, four-wheeled carriage with hood (called a phaeton) from a stand in a city street.

    Then, in the late 1850s, South Australia witnessed the arrival of the first hansom cabs (the well-known, two-wheel, two-seat, enclosed carriage whose driver sat outside on a high seat at the back and conversed with his passengers through a little trap-door on the roof), but, unlike Sydney where hansoms proved extremely popular, in Adelaide they were generally 'unholy' because of the privacy they afforded flirtatious couples, and so were to be avoided by 'any young man of character' who was 'wary of coquetting with ill-fame'. Instead, the most common cab to be found on the streets of Adelaide was the waggonette, a four-wheeled, six-passenger, covered vehicle drawn by two horses, with a box seat at the front for the driver and ample room for luggage.'

    A few two-wheeled cabs, more like bakers' carts than vehicles for the conveyance of human beings, were running; and the four-wheelers on the road were dirty inside and let in the rain in torrents when the weather was wet, while others were shaky and rickety. The worst of these conveyances disappeared gradually as each licensing day, which occurred every six months, came around. There was considerable liveliness sometimes, for reaching the city was by no means easy. Creeks were deep, bridged at most by slippery logs, while fords were difficult to traverse.

    Prior to the opening of the railway to Port Adelaide the mode of transport to the Port was by spring carts. These started from King William Street, thence to Morphett Street, the driver calling out, 'Port, Sir'. If a load was not forthcoming the driver would return to King William Street and repeat the procedure. Then, on the second try, if a load was still absent he would return again and say, 'As there is no load you must get out and wait for an hour.' Some of the drivers of those Port carts were noted figures of the times. Tom Shayle, 'Happy' Horrocks and another called 'Kid Glove' Williams, because his chosen best girl for the time was in the habit of receiving a present of half-a-dozen pairs of kid gloves.

    Occasional Essays on South Australia

    Researched and written by Geoffrey H. Manning

    Part IX - Transport in Early South Australia

    Essay No. 1 - The Beginnings


    Within the colony of South Australia in the 1840s the creaking bullock dray was the sole transport available and by the turn of the century many colonists in the prime of life could remember the days when railways and sleeping cars were unknown and where "the cloud of dust, which was the herald of a coach-and-four, was to be seen on every country road, through cloud or sunshine, across rivers, and over hills, that would appal many a modern driver; often with axles afire, these antiquated vehicles carried their living load from the city to the outermost fringe of settlement. They were guided by men who knew nothing of fear..."

    Reminiscing in 1898 a colonist proclaimed "that we have moved so quickly in these new lands, that the present generation, accustomed to travel in every direction by means of the ""iron horse"", are apt to forget or despise the methods which were the glory of their father's day..."

    The First Public Venture

    To James Chambers belongs the honour of pioneering the colony's first public conveyance, a "modest venture" comprising a spring cart drawn by two horses which conveyed people to and from Port Adelaide; he also owned the pioneer cab of the colony, having a stand in Hindley Street.

    As his business grew he ran coaches to Gawler and in April 1846 he advertised the introduction of a service to Burra following the opening of the "monster mine". Leaving the post office in Adelaide at two o'clock in the afternoon the coach proceeded across a bridge at Thebarton to the Grand Junction, crossed the Gawler Plains and arrived at Gawler at seven o'clock in the evening where passengers put up for the night at Calton's Old Spot Hotel.

    At daylight the next morning a three-horse cart drove via Templers, Forresters (a former hotel near modern-day Tarlee), past the "Stone Hut", Black Springs, Dan O'Leary's "Sod Hut" and then to Mr Charles Ware's Burra Hotel. This 100 mile journey was, under normal circumstances, accomplished in daylight. The return journey commenced on Friday mornings at 10 a.m. and was completed "by an early arrival in Adelaide on Saturday night;" the business was finally closed as a result of the opening of the Port Adelaide and Gawler railways.

    Some of the "staging posts" could only be described as primitive, one being described as follows: "Fancy a little pine hut divided into a kitchen and three bedrooms, the cob [clay mixed with gravel and straw used for building walls, etc] a great deal broken away from between the slabs, and the chimney persistently smoking as to decline to draw at all unless all the doors were open. No woman's face brightens the scene; no woman's hands to battle with the dirt... The venerable cook smokes as he prepares the supper and bears relics of many a former feast upon his shiny trousers. Those who are the most impudent get the beds, those who are honest get the floor..."

    Coaching Companies

    By the close of the 19th century the largest and oldest surviving establishment of its kind in Australia was Hill & Company, whose Adelaide headquarters were in Pirie Street and originally opened by William Rounsevell in 1844. "Day by day for half a century from those gates flowed a steady yet immense stream of every description of vehicle from the spring cart to the coach-and-eight... In its palmy days as many as 1,000 horses were required to carry on its enormous traffic."

    At the outset "Serpent" buses plied between Adelaide and Kensington then the firm took over Mr McDonald's "Rose and Shamrock" Scotch coaches then traversing the Glenelg Road, on which "the traffic became so great that twenty coaches per day were required to cope with it".

    The coach of the 1860s differed very materially from that of later years and, up until the early 1870s, it provided accommodation for a mail guard, who was in the employ of the Postmaster-General. He occupied a seat at the rear of the coach, similar to a driver's seat behind a hansom cab but by about 1872 "his warpaint was then considered by an impecunious government to be unnecessary and his services were dispensed with."

    One of the longest and most difficult of the many lines was that of Adelaide to Port MacDonnell, a distance of some 600 km (about 350 miles). Accordingly, it was little wonder that some people "could not muster the courage to undertake the journey more than once in a dozen years", for by the time they reached their destination "every bone in their body must have been shaken." To the north of the city the longest route went to Yudnamatana, via Kapunda, Melrose and Nuccaleena, from whence a packhorse completed the final 100 miles of a 400 miles journey.

    It was no light responsibility to be the driver of a team of six or eight horses attached to a crowded coach through the Adelaide hills and across the sprawling plains of the north; one such trip was described by a passenger in 1870:

    General Notes

    "Travelling in South Australia" is in the Register,
    25 August 1847, page 2d,
    "Careless and Insolent Drivers" on
    13 March 1863, page 3b.

    "Old Time Vehicles" is in the Observer,
    5 July 1919, page 31d,
    "The Old Coaching Days" on
    23 and 30 July 1921, pages 43d and 43a,
    27 September 1924, page 55d.

    "Relics of the Coaching Days" is in the Observer,
    12 February 1898, page 34a.

    "Memories of the Mails" is in the Register,
    3 January 1923, page 4e.

    Information on "Reformer", a covered stage cart on the Adelaide-Burra route, is in the Observer,
    26 June 1847, page 1b.

    Hints for drivers of horse drawn vehicles in inclement weather are in the Observer,
    26 June 1847, page 1b.

    Information on the "Express", "a new omnibus", is in the Observer,
    8 July 1854, page 3f.

    Omnibus on the American Principle" is in the Register,
    15 September 1856, page 3c.

    "How SA Firm Kept Cobb & Co at Bay" is in The Mail,
    18 April 1936, page 4.

    Mail guards are discussed in the Register,
    20 May 1859, page 3g.

    "A Journey to Mount Remarkable and Back in Rounsevell's Royal Mail" is described in the Advertiser, 4 March 1861, page 3c:

    "The Coach Horse" is in the Advertiser,
    14 March 1862, page 2e.

    "New Machine for Land Carriage" invented by John Beer of Brighton is in the Register,
    12 March 1862, page 2d.

    "Memories of the Mails - Old Coaching Days Recalled" is in the Observer,
    20 January 1923, page 43e,
    "The Old Coaching Days" at Nairne is in the Advertiser,
    19 July 1927, page 14a.

    "Mr Rounsevell's Central Establishment" is in the Register,
    30 August 1865, page 3c,
    "Public Vehicles and Travellers" on
    2 December 1865, page 2c,
    "Public Vehicles" in the Express,
    15 January 1866, page 2c.

    "Public Vehicles and Travellers" is in the Register,
    2 December 1865, page 2c,
    "Public Vehicles" in the Express,
    15 January 1866, page 2c.

    "Omnibus Racing" is in the Register,
    23 March 1866, page 2h.

    Passenger coaches are discussed in the Register, 1
    5 January 1867, page 3g,
    19 January 1867, page 6f.

    "To Mount Gambier by Mail Coach" is in the Register,
    23 and 28 February 1867, pages 2h and 3c,
    2 March 1867, page 1g (supp.).

    "Northern Mail Coaches" is in the Register,
    11 December 1866, page 2h.

    "The Far North Mail Coach" is in the Register,
    12 March 1869, page 2f.

    A coach trip to Goolwa is described in the Register,
    25 March 1869, page 3f.

    A "Coach Drivers' Story" is in the Observer,
    6 and 20 April 1889, pages 10e and 32b.

    John Hill and Co's stables are described in the Advertiser,
    5 February 1873, page 3c.
    Biographical details of John Hill are in Register,
    7 April 1888, page 6f, 31 May 1888, page 7d
    The News,
    16 March 1926, page 6e.
    Biographical details of John Hill are in the.
    The golden wedding of Mr & Mrs John Hill is reported in the Register,
    8 October 1917, page 4g.
    An obituary of John Hill, "A Pioneer of the Coaching Days" is in the Advertiser,
    20 September 1926, page 11d.
    "Coaching and Carrying - The Career of Mr John Hill" is in the Advertiser,
    11 October 1917, page 4i.

    A testimonial to W. Moyse, mail driver, is reported in the Register
    , 24 May 1872, page 5b.
    The reminiscences of William Moyse are in the Advertiser,
    10 November 1913, page 6h,
    25 November 1916, page 15c and
    Sidney W. Corkhill in The Mail,
    4 February 1928, page 16g.

    Information on passenger coaches is in the Register,
    15 and 23 January 1867, pages 2h and 3a; also see
    11 June 1869, page 2e.
    An editorial on cabs and coaches is in the Advertiser,
    24 June 1870, page 2e.

    "A Run Up to the Dry Country" is in the Register,
    29 June 1867, page 2h.

    "Horse Accidents" is in the Observer,
    18 April 1868, page 6g.

    A bogging of a mail coach in the South-East is reported in the Observer,
    3 October 1868, page 7a.

    The death of Charles Tanner, one of the first "whips" is reported in the Register,
    11 January 1869, page 2e,
    3 February 1869, page 2g,
    16 January 1869, page 16c,
    6 February 1869, page 5a.

    "Licensed Vehicles" is in the Register,
    6 March 1869, page 2c.

    "The Far North Mail Coach" is in the Observer,
    13 March 1869, page 6c.

    A coach trip from Adelaide to Goolwa is reported in the Observer,
    20 March 1869, page 14d.

    "Passengers in Licensed Vehicles" is in the Observer,
    10 April 1869, page 12c.

    "Holiday Driving" is discussed in the Observer,
    30 April 1870, page 12d.

    A meeting of coachmakers is reported in the Observer,
    6 May 1871, page 7g.

    "The Lighting of Vehicles" is in the Observer,
    21 October 1871, page 2g.
    A sketch entitled "Bogged at Night" is in the Australasian Sketcher,
    1 November 1873, page 137.

    A testimonial to W.H. Opie, mail driver, is in the Register,
    13 January 1872, page 5c.

    "Mail Coach Predicament" is in the Register,
    24 July 1872, page 4f.

    "Mail Coach Predicament" is in the Observer,
    27 July 1872, page 7g.

    Coaching experiences in the mid-north are described in the Register,
    18 February 1874, page 5f and
    21 July 1874, page 6d.
    Sketches are in the Pictorial Australian in
    May 1887, page 71.

    A coach trip north from Adelaide is described in the Express,
    22 and 27 October 1874, pages 3b and 2e.
    A coach trip "into the north" is described in the Observer,
    5 November 1881, page 34c.

    "A Wasted Estate" of a northern mail contractor, Michael Terry, is discussed in the Register,
    1 February 1878, page 4c.

    "Overcrowding Coaches" is in theObserver,
    3 August 1878, page 6e.

    Some discomforts of coach travel are traversed in the Observer,
    5 July 1879, page 8a.

    "A Day's Coaching" is in the Observer,
    21 and 28 May 1881, pages 905d and 953e.

    "The Responsibility of Coach Proprietors" is in the Register,
    28 June 1881, page 4f.

    "Chamier v Hill" is in the Observer,
    2 July 1881, page 31e.

    A coach trip to Port Augusta from Gladstone via Laura is described in the Register,
    1 November 1881, page 6c.

    A prospectus of the SA Stagecoach Company is in the Register,
    1 April 1882, page 2.

    "From Adelaide to Kingston" is in the Observer,
    13 January 1883, page 9c.

    A cartoon on "A Coach Trip to the Hills" is in The Lantern,
    26 January 1884, pager 13.

    A lecture on coach building is reproduced in the Observer,
    4 July 1885, page 8b and
    "A Chat With a Carriage Maker" on
    17 April 1886, page 39c; also see
    6 August 1885, page 3d.

    "Importation of Carriages" is in the Register,
    21 September 1885, pages 5c-6d,
    "South Australian Carriages" on 19 December 1885, page 5a.

    Sketches are in the Pictorial Australian in July 1886, pages 113-114.

    "On the Barrier Railway" is in the Register,
    12 November 1888 (supp.),
    "Barrier Railway Agreement" on 3 September 1890, page 7c,
    8 October 1890, page 4e,
    "The Barrier Railways" on 1 October 1891, page 4g.

    A mail driver's experiences during a flood are recorded in the Observer,
    20 April 1889, page 32b.

    "A Terrible Accident - The Deputy Post-Master General Killed" is in the Express,
    9 October 1893, page 2d.

    An obituary of Mr R. George, a former coach driver, is in the Observer,
    16 May 1896, page 46c; also see
    6 May 1896, page 3e.

    "Relics of the Coaching Days" is in the Register
    on 1 February 1898, page 6d.

    The humour associated with travelling by coach is discussed in the Observer,
    25 February 1899, page 25c.

    "The Cabman's Horse" is in the Observer,
    18 October 1902, page 33d.

    A photograph of the Hergott Springs -Birdsville coach "in flooded country" is in The Critic,
    6 May 1908, page 5.

    A mail coach is described in the Observer,
    31 October 1903, page 39a,
    9 July 1910, page 48d.

    Carriages and vehicles, etc, are described in the Observer,
    12 March 1904, pages 3a (supp.)-4b (supp.).

    A coach trip on Eyre Peninsula is described in the Observer,
    11 August 1906, page 39.

    A photograph of a coachbuilders' picnic committee is in the Chronicle,
    7 November 1908, page 31.

    "Mail Coach Horses" is in the Advertiser,
    17 March 1909, page 8i.

    An obituary of James Westcombe, cab proprietor, is in the Observer,
    5 November 1910, page 41a,
    biographical details of William Moyse, an employee of Hill & Co., on 22 November 1913, page 34d,
    (25 November 1916, page 21b - obit.).
    An obituary of Walter Smith, coach driver, is in the Register,
    15 October 1912, page 6g.

    "Coachman to Squatter", the reminiscences of Frederick A. Crews, is in The Mail,
    16 April 1927, page 1f.

    The reminiscences of Norman Richardson are in the Register on
    19 November 1907, page 5c,
    "Our Inland Mails - Bridging the Great Spaces" on
    11 March 1911, page 8c.
    Reminiscences of W. DeRieu, coach driver, on
    15 September 1913, page 14b and
    of early transport on
    20 March 1918, page 9c.

    "Old Coaching Days" are recalled in the Register,
    3 January 1920, page 6f,
    20 January 1923, page 43e.
    The obituary of William Kelton,
    a veteran coach driver, is in the Register,
    4 December 1926, page 13e.

    A coach trip from Adelaide to Murray Bridge via Wellington is described in the Register,
    11 June 1883, page 6c.

    "Treatment of Mail Horses" is the cause for complaint in the Advertiser,
    11 June 1912, page 8h,
    "Passing of the Mail Coach" appears on
    28 March 1914, page 18f.

    "Exit Coaches" is in the Advertiser,
    11 May 1921, page 10a.

    "The Old Coaching Days" is in the Register on
    16, 23 and 30 July 1921, pages 4g, 5e and 4e,
    13 and 20 August 1921, pages 4h and 9e,
    "Coaching Experiences Recalled" on
    3 January 1923, page 4e.

    "Coaching Days Recalled", the reminiscences of Mr J.P. Jones, is in The Mail,
    16 February 1924, page 1f,
    8 March 1924, page 2f.

    "Last of the Reinsmen" is in The Mail,
    9 April 1927, page 1a.

    Historical information on the Coachmakers' Federation is in The News,
    22 November 1928, page 24d.

    "Stage Coach Days" is in the Advertiser,
    13 January 1932, page 17b,
    "Coaching from Morgan to Wentworth" on
    3 January 1933, page 8g.

    "How Horse-Drawn Traffic Has Diminished" is in The News,
    24 May 1932, page 4c.

    "One of the DuRieu's" is in the Advertiser,
    8 January 1937, page 25a.

    Transport - Choose again