Cobb & Co. – Established 1854
Cobb and Co were prominent in the late 19th century, a transportation company that operated stagecoaches to many areas in the outback.
Cobb & Co. established an enviable reputation as the preferred method of transport thanks to the relative comfort, speed and reliability of their services. Cobb & Co. built its own coaches. Their last coach works in Charleville operated from 1888 to 1920.
When gold was discovered in Victoria in the 1850s people from all over the world rushed to the ‘diggings’ and mining settlements sprang up over night. These new towns needed fast and reliable transport.
Four young Americans – Freeman Cobb, John Murray Peck, James Swanton and John Lambert started a stagecoach company like those in the United States. The first Cobb & Co. coach ran on 30 January 1854 carrying passengers from Melbourne to the Forest Creek Diggings, now Castlemaine.
The coaches came from America, and ‘Yankee’ or ‘Canuck’ (American and Canadian) drivers were employed as drivers. These drivers had experience driving coaches in the American West. Later they also bred their own horses, which were suited to the task of pulling a fully laden coach at a gallop. Cobb & Co. halved the traveling times of competitors.
Coach bodies were suspended on thick strips of leather called thoroughbraces. Joseph Lyddy supplied leather care products to Cobb and Co which kept these harnesses in supple working order.
Coaches were usually pulled by teams of five or seven horses. Horse teams were changed at stations every 30 kilometres. This was perhaps one of the most important steps taken by the new company of Cobb & Co. as it meant a faster trip for passengers and a relatively more comfortable ride
Coaches averaged 12 kilometres per hour over rough bush tracks. Drivers took horse teams and coaches through forests, flooded creeks, and over mountain ranges. They faced bushrangers wanting money and gold.
Often families or married couples ran changing stations, with the husband looking after the horses and his wife cooking stews or damper and proving refreshments for passengers. In some places, passengers could also stay the night.
On busier routes and in villages where change stations were established, stables, pubs, hotels and townships sprung up to cater to the number of passengers who passed through. Some of these hotels were little more than primitive shanties, while others became large and prosperous establishments.
Eighty kilometres was a day’s journey for a Cobb & Co. coach. Forty horses and six staff would have been involved in getting the coach, passengers and mail through. There were other small coach operators, but they found it difficult to compete with Cobb & Co. and its comprehensive network of change stations.
Cobb & Co. coaches carried passengers and mail for 70 years and carried passengers and mail in every mainland colony of Australia as well as New Zealand, South Africa and Japan.
Cobb & Co. Museum
The $8 million National Carriage Factory development at Cobb and Co Museum in Toowoomba was opened by Premier Anna Bligh on 4 September 2010.
At the heart of the facility is a purpose-built, open plan working area honouring Australia’s skilled master craftsmen. Here, heritage trades workshops and accredited training programs are conducted including blacksmithing, silversmithing and leather work.
Leather Crafting and Leather Plaiting workshops
Make a range of unique leather accessories that will turn any outfit from ordinary to inspiring at one of Cobb+Co Museum’s leather crafting workshops.
The leather crafting workshops are conducted by award-winning leather artisan, Cherryl McIntyre.
Leather Plaiting workshops
Make a plaited belt that is custom-made to fit you perfectly or your own kangaroo leather whip at one of Cobb+Co Museum’s leather plaiting workshops. The leather plaiting workshops are conducted by Dame Mary Durack Award winner, Bill Webb. Bill is a four time Dame Mary Durack award winner and he has always enjoyed leather plaiting which he learnt from his Mum and one of the greats, RM Williams.
To register your interest for the Leather crafting or Leather plaiting workshops for further information call the Cobb and Co Museum on +61 (0) 7 4659 4900 or contact using the online form http://www.cobbandco.qm.qld.gov.au/About+Us/Contact+Us
Spectators are welcome at all workshops.