This year something special was built in our Gardiner, Montana shop: a stagecoach. The stagecoaches in Yellowstone are a historic and beautiful remnant of past transportation before engines and paved roads. These days guests can still hop on a replica of the original stagecoaches in Yellowstone at Roosevelt Lodge.
The life of a Yellowstone stagecoach is about 25 years. A few of our stagecoaches were ready for a replacement. This monumental task to rebuild the stagecoach from scratch was taken up by our employee Tony Leftwich. We wanted to share his experience about building this iconic transportation:
“I once said I wanted to leave my mark in Yellowstone before I ever leave. I think I have achieved that goal now. This past year, I had the honor and joy of building an iconic piece of the old west. I built a Yellowstone Tally-Ho Stagecoach from start to finish.
I took one of the older coaches we have, and I completely disassembled it to loosely make patterns. The wheels and undercarriage were reused because they were in good condition. But there was a lot of improvising. Most were so rotten that I had to draw it in my head first, then draw a pattern on cardboard, then trace it onto a piece of board to cut out. Every board that was cut came from a 2″ raw piece of white oak. Raw lumber is a whole new ball game for me. First I would cut the 2 ends off (since they were cracked), create a straight side by laying a piece of long flat steel on it, cut it to my desired length, mill it in half, plane the board, and only then could I measure my pieces for actual use. Yes very tedious work, but very enjoyable too.
My whole life I’ve been around building some type of structure, but I believe this took me to a new level of planning, building, stressing, brainstorming, creativity, growing gray hair, enjoyment, hatefulness, fulfillment, and pride to name a few. Don’t get me wrong though, I have enjoyed every minute of it.
Anyone who knows me knows how particular I am about everything. So imagine the things going through my head while building something like this. For example, there were 2, 12” long pieces that took 8 long hours each to cut and sand, then join together, just to make all the multiple curves look like one piece. I can tell you this; there are NO STRAIGHT CUTS with a stagecoach.
All in all, I’m pretty sure I came out with a great product that I hope the visitors of Yellowstone National Park will enjoy for many years to come. So please, come take a ride on it next summer, and take some pictures of your own. It belongs to you, the people who come to enjoy our national parks.”
To take a tour on a stagecoach, signup for a Wild West Adventure offered out of Roosevelt lodge from June 9 through September 3.