Coaching in the Yellowstone
Yellowstone Park Transportation Co.
Copyright 2020 by Robert V. Goss. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or utilized in any form by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by an information storage and retrieval system without permission in writing from the author.
Yellowstone Park Transportation Co.
YNPTCo Stagecoach Operations 1892 - 1897
YPTCo Stagecoach Operations 1898 - 1916
YNPTCo Stagecoach Operations 1892 - 1897
Yellowstone Park Association (YPA) transportation privileges were revoked Nov. 1, 1891 after Silas Huntley of Helena received the 10-year transportation franchise on March 29, 1891. He was allowed 14 months to begin operations by the Interior Dept. He brought in his brother-in-law Harry W. Child and Edmund Bach, Child’s brother-in-law. Together they formed the Yellowstone National Park Transportation Co. (YNPTCo) which was incorporated May 20, 1892 with capital of $250,000. Aaron and L.H.Hersfield were also partners in the operation, and Huntley became general manager.Yellowstone Park Association (YPA) transportation privileges were revoked Nov. 1, 1891 after Silas Huntley of Helena received the 10-year transportation franchise on March 29, 1891. He was allowed 14 months to begin operations by the Interior Dept. He brought in his brother-in-law Harry W. Child and Edmund Bach, Child’s brother-in-law. Together they formed the Yellowstone National Park Transportation Co. (YNPTCo) which was incorporated May 21, 1892 with capital of $250,000. Aaron and L.H.Hersfield were also partners in the operation, and Huntley became general manager.
Left: YNPTCo coach at Mammoth Hot Springs, ca1896
[Stoddards Yellowstone Park Travelogue]
Right: YNPTCo coach No.46, courtesy Yellowstone Gateway Museum.
In reality, YNPTCo actually began stage operations in March 1891 when George W. Wakefield lost his YPA contract. YPA then leased all of their transportation equipment and facilities to YNPTCo, who appointed Wakefield as President. A year later, the new company purchased the old Yellowstone Transportation Company and the Wakefield & Hoffman operations for $70,000 and was granted exclusive transport of NPRR passengers in Yellowstone National Park. The following February (1893), YNPTCo received leases for six parcels of land in Yellowstone to erect barns, corrals and other facilities. The company began with some 500 horses and 75-100 coaches of various types.
In Yellowstone Park
How to Travel Through Wonderland
Pall Mall Gazette, London, England, July 10, 1897
“The company is divided into departments, and each is presided over by a most competent man. The head stables are at the Mammoth Hot Springs. They consist of several large buildings containing the 550 horses, excepting those which arc going through the park and a number of saddle horses at the various hotels, on which the tourists make short trips. Then there are the long rows of wagon sheds, blacksmith shop, harness shop, saddle shop, repair shop, washing stand, a dozen houses for the drivers, and a hospital for the sick horses. The company employs over 100 men. These include a veterinary surgeon, three blacksmiths, harness maker, wheelwright, washers, painters, stablemen and drivers. The stables and other buildings owned by the company form quite a little settlement of their own, and are always a source of interest to the tourists, who are surprised to see such a plant away up in the mountains. The park season lasts but a little over four months in the year, and the expenses of maintaining such a plant are large. It costs 5.000 dols. a year to paint the coaches, and an equal sum is expended in incidentals, including new tyres, harness, axle grease, horseshoes, etc. The board bill for help alone is 10,000 dols. for the four months and a few days. In that time the horses eat 1,000,000 lb. of oats and the same amount of hay. As the plant now stands, it represents an investment of over 200,000 dols., and with only about a third of the year in which to do business.”
YPTCo Stagecoach Operations 1898 - 1916
Harry Child, Huntley, and Bach formed a new company called the Yellowstone Park Transportation Co. (YPTCo) in 1898 that took over the operation of the YNPTCo. They received a 10-year lease on March 31. Silas Huntley passed away three years later and his shares reverted to the NPRR’s North West Improvement Company (NWIC). Bach sold his shares to NWIC in 1902 due to health concerns and died of Bright’s Disease in the spring of 1904, leaving Harry Child as the prime operator of the company.
Above: YNPTCo coaches ca1903.
[Yellowstone Park Association brochure, 1904
Above: YNPTCo Tally-Ho coach #12 loaded with tourists leaving Gardiner and headed to Mammoth Hotel Springs.
[W.S. Berry Photo, undated, Montana Historical Society]
A New Company Will Handle the Yellowstone Business.
St. Paul, April 5.—The Yellowstone Park association this afternoon sold out Its entire belongings and interests in the National park to the Yellowstone Park Transportation company, which consists or S. S. Huntley and E.W. Bach of Helena, Mont., and H.W. Childs of St. Paul, the consideration being close to $1,000,000. Among the items transferred were the Mammoth Hot Springs hotel recently built for $200,000; the Fountain hotel, $100,000; Grand Canyon hotel, $100,000, and the Lake hotel, $75,000, besides four lunch stations and other property. J.H. Dean, president of the old company, will be manager of the new and the transportation company is now purchaser of all the property in the great national park.
[The Anaconda Standard, April 6, 1901]
With the purchase of the YPA hotel system in 1901 and the deaths of S.S. Huntley in 1901 and E.W. Bach in 1904, Harry Child gained control of all the park lodging and transportation concessions, save the various camping company operations. Between 1903 and 1907, four Concord Tally-Ho coaches were purchased for use on the Gardiner to Mammoth route. Previously, two Tally-Ho had been acquired between 1886 and 1889.
In 1901, a Northern Pacific brochure printed a schedule for park tours using the Yellowstone Park Transportation Co. coaches. Throughout the stagecoach era standard tours were generally 5-6 days duration, beginning and ending at the north entrance. In later years shorter tours were available, and travelers could eventually enter or exit the park at West Yellowstone and Cody, Wyo. The following is a typical tour schedule for 1901 and similar in later years.
TIME SCHEDULE IN THE PARK
The following approximate time schedule will give a comprehensive idea of the park itinerary:
First Day—Leave Livingston at 8.30 a.m., arrive Cinnabar 10.45 a.m.; leave Cinnabar at 11.00 a.m.; arrive Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel 1.00 p.m., taking lunch, dinner and lodging.
Second Day—Breakfast. Leave Mammoth Hot Springs at 8.00 a.m., arriving at Norris at noon for lunch; leave at 1.30 p.m., and arrive at Fountain Hotel, Lower Geyser Basin, at 5.50 p.m. for dinner and lodging.
Third Day—Breakfast at Fountain. Leave for Midway and Upper Geyser Basins at 8.00 a. m. Lunch at Upper Geyser Basin. Return from Upper Geyser Basin to Fountain Hotel at 4.30 p. m. Dinner and lodging at Fountain Hotel.
Fourth Day—Breakfast at Fountain. Leave for West Arm of Yellowstone Lake at 7.00 a.m. Lunch at lake and leave the lake after lunch for Yellowstone Lake Hotel at lake outlet. Dinner and lodging at Lake Hotel.
Fifth Day—Breakfast at Yellowstone Lake. Leave for Grand Caiion at 9.30 a.m. via Sulphur Mountain; arrive Grand Canon at 12.30 p.m. Lunch, dinner and lodging.
Sixth Day—Breakfast. Leave Grand Caiion at 10.00 a.m., arrive Norris at 12.30 p.m. Lunch. Leave Norris at 1.30 p.m., arrive Mammoth Hot Springs at 4.30 pm. Dinner. Leave Mammoth Hot Springs at 6.30 p.m., arriving at Cinnabar at 8.00 p.m.; leave Cinnabar at 8.15 p.m., arrive Livingston at 10.30 p.m.
Left: The new horse and coach barn at Mammoth, 1903
[YNP Black Scrapbook]
Right: Gardiner Wonderland article about the barn dance, 4Jun1903 edition.
In 1903 the company built a new coach and horse barn and related buildings at Mammoth, near the current Aspen Lodge site. The barn was a beautiful structure designed by Robert Reamer. Construction began in February and on May 7 the Gardiner Wonderland announced that, “The new transportation barn is nearing completion.” By the end of the month it was announced the building was complete and ready for occupation. A barn-warming dance was held the following week. The Tally-Ho coaches were housed in Gardiner to meet the trains, but most of the other coaches were stored at Mammoth and various locations throughout the park.
That same year the Northern Pacific RR opened up passenger service at the depot in Gardiner. Now the Tally-Ho coaches would have a shorter drive to Mammoth. A new Reamer-designed depot was built on the edge of town to host the tourist crowds.
Above: YPTCo coaches in front of the Northern Pacific RR depot in Gardiner, 1905. [YNP 22954]
In 1906 YPTCo constructed a new horse barn and carriage house, along with a bunkhouse/mess hall for the drivers and workers in Gardiner. They were located where some of the current Xanterra Parks and Resorts facilities are located above the Gardiner River. They were designed by Robert Reamer, using local stone and wood construction. The bunkhouse/mess was originally two separate buildings, but later joined by a breezeway. It still stands and is still used as employee housing by Xanterra. Sadly, the unique barns were torn down in 1926 to make way for the new concrete bus storage barn.
The Butte Daily Post announced on May 6, 1906, “The Transportation company anticipates a large business. The company is erecting a mammoth barn at Gardiner. There are sixty men now employed on the structure, which will house many of the horses used by the company. The company has a great barn at Mammoth Hot Springs, from where all its passengers make the start throughout the park, but it was found desirable to have stables at Gardiner, where stages meet the trains.”
Left: The new horse and coach barn at Gardiner under construction, 1906.
[Author's digital collection]
Right: YPTCo Tally-Ho barn in foreground, with horse barn to the rear.
[1914 NPRR brochure]
Left: YPTCo barn on left, carriage barn in center, and bunkhouse & mess hall on right.
[Original negative, Copyright: Goss Collection]
Left Top: 9-Passenger Abbot-Downing coach.
[1905 YPA Brochure]
Left Bottom: 11-Passenger Abbot-Downing coach.
[1905 YPA Brochure]
Right: Map of Yellowstone Park and the hotels and road system. The stages typically travelled in a clockwise direction, usually beginning at Mammoth for the YPTCo coaches.
[1904 YPA brochure]
In 1915, an event occurred that held huge ramifications for Yellowstone and the country. The Panama-Pacific Exposition was being held in San Francisco from February to November. Visitors flocked to the West Coast to view this stupendous fair. Most travelers relied on railroad travel, yet many folks chose to travel cross-country by automobile, many planning on visiting Yellowstone enroute.
Anticipating a heavy travel season, all the stage transportation companies purchased additional coaches and horses to meet the demand. Records show that visitation in 1915 reached almost 52,000 tourists, significantly more than the 20,000 of the previous year. Unfortunately, the investment by the companies would last a mere two years, as in 1917 the stagecoaches and horse wagons were banned from the park roads.
Above: Real-Photo postcards of the true-to-size replica Old Faithful Inn built by the Union Pacific RR. The rustic interior was used for fine dining at lunch & dinner, and also for twice-daily orchestra concerts with plenty of room for dancing.
[Real-Photo poscards, author's collection]
Pressure had been building for many years to open the park to autos, but efforts had been unsuccessful. Mid-season 1915, Yellowstone and the Interior Dept. relented and on August 1, the first auto officially entered Yellowstone National Park. Over the previous year the roads and bridges had been improved to allow for motorized traffic. However, autos shared the roads with stagecoaches during 1915 and 1916. It became quite apparent that such a system would not be successful in the long run.
The government mandated the conversion to motorized vehicles of all concession vehicles. Late in the fall of 1916, all of the transportation operations were to be consolidated into one company operating under a monopoly lease. These companies, which included Frank Haynes Yellowstone & Western Stage Co., Cody-Sylvan Pass Motor Co., and the Wylie and Shaw & Powell camping company coaches, came under the control of YPTCo and Harry Child. Child arranged with the White Motor Company to purchase 117 10-passenger auto stages to be used in the park beginning in 1917.
The Yellowstone Park Transportation Co. kept it same name until 1936, when all the Child and Wm. Nichols' enterprises were combined into the Yellowstone Park Company.
Left: Stagecoach passing through the Roosevelt arch in Gardiner, ca1910. [Bloom Bros. postcard #A-6865]
Right: YPTCo White Motor Co. auto-stage passing through the Roosevelt Arch in Gardiner, ca1923. [Bloom Bros. postcard YP62]
Stagecoach Robberies in Yellowstone:
(1) 7/4/1887 - Near Split Rock in Gardiner Canyon - 1 stagecoach.
(2) 8/14/1897 - 3 miles west of Canyon Hotel - 6 coaches and 1 military wagon robbed.
(3) 8/24/1908 - Near Turtle Rock in Spring Creek Canyon on Craig Pass - 17 stagecoaches and 8 wagons.
(4) 7/29/1914 - Shoshone Point on Craig Pass - 15 coaches.
(5) 7/9/1915 - 1 mile south of Madison Jct. - 5 coaches.
Perhaps the greatest stagecoach hold-up in Yellowstone occurred on Aug 24, 1908, near Turtle Rock, enroute from Old Faithful Inn to Lone Star Geyser and Lake Hotel A single bandit held up 17 coaches and wagons. Upon completetion of his dastardly deed, the hold-up man escaped and was never captured. In an excerpt from the 1908 Yellowstone National Park annual report, the Park Superintendent briefly describes the robbery:
"The unfortunate event, the hold-up of seventeen coaches, surreys, and spring wagons on August 24, and the robbery by one man or many of the passengers therein at a point on the main road between Old Faithful Inn and the Thumb of Lake Yellowstone, and about 4 1/4 miles distant from the former, took place about 9 a. m. on August 24 . . . Four of the looted coaches belonged to the Yellowstone Park Transportation Company, five to the Monida and Yellowstone Stage Company, and eight to the Wylie Permanent Camping Company. As near as can be learned by the separate memoranda handed in by the passengers the losses sustained by them in the robbery aggregated $1,363.95 cash and $730.25 in watches and jewelry. Upon being liberated the first coach of those robbed drove rapidly to the camp of the road sprinkling crew, located about 2 miles east of the hold-up point, where notice was given and a messenger dispatched to Old Faithful Inn—distant 6 miles—with news of the robbery."
Upon safe arrival at the Lake Camp, members of the Wylie Camping Company involved in the robbery reflected on their escapade as what would no doubt be the most exciting adventure of their lives. Mr. H.B. Mitchell of Great Falls describes their meeting that evening:
“That evening [24Aug1908] we had a meeting of the sufferers ait the lakeside hotel, and adopted resolutions which have already been published . . . “The American people have the faculty of seeing the humorous side of even a serious matter, and this case was no exception. The holdup man was hardly out of sight before we were laughing at each other, and the various incidents that had not seemed so funny while the man had his gun upon us. Besides the association mentioned above, the Wiley [Wylie] tourists organized the "Lone Star Involuntary Benevolent association" in memory of the occasion, and for the fun we could get out of it. I was elected president and the ‘Not on Your Life’ girl, as she was called for the rest of the trip, secretary. We had our inaugural meeting around the camp fire with toasts by various members of the suffering party, songs written for the occasion and general jolity." [Great Falls Tribune, 29Aug1908, p5]
Mr. and Mrs. Mitchell reached Butte yesterday. He had the honor of being elected president of the “Lone Star Involuntary Benevolent association," a society to which only those traveling with the Wylie company and who were in the hold-up are entitled to membership. This organization celebrated the event with speeches and much merry-making the evening of the affair at the Lake Hotel camp and still look back upon the hold-up as the real event of their trip. Mr. Mitchell said those In the holdup look back upon it as something not to have been missed—the real event of the trip, and one never to be forgotten.
The "Not on Your Life" girl mentioned previously is explained by Mr. Mitchell: "In the last coach were five ladies besides the driver. The first one was Miss Stasia Riley, of Austin, Minn. He demanded her money. *Not on your life,” replied Miss Rilev. 'Here’s a dollar,. and that’s all you set from me." Evidently he admired the nerve for he passed to the next without further demands." [Great Falls Tribune, 29Aug1908, p5]
Stage Robbery 9Jul1887
Stage Robbery 15Aug1897
Los Angeles Heraldl
Stage Robbery 25Aug1908
Billings Daily Gazette
Stage Robbery 30Jul1914
Daily Ardmorite, OK
Stage Robbery 16Jul1915
Glascow Courier, MT