Recreating history: Pollock builds authentic Concord stagecoach
Casper – Since he was young, Bill Pollock has been drawn to stagecoaches.
“I’ve always been fascinated by stagecoaches, and several years ago, I told my wife Nancy I’d like to build a stagecoach,” Pollock says. “When I retired, that’s what I did.”
In 2011, Pollock retired from his nine-to-five job as a carpenter, and he jumped into pursuing his dream to build a stagecoach.
Starting from scratch
In building the coach, Pollock crafted every piece – with the exception of the wheels and axles – from scratch.
“I got a set of plans from the Smithsonian for an Abbott and Downing 1860s stagecoach,” he explains. “I started with just a set of plans.”
He took the plans and broke them down, extracting the measurements to recreate his full-scale model.
Over the next five years, Pollock worked on the stagecoach when he had time.
“It took a lot of determination,” he says. “All the wood and iron I used was scrap.”
All of the iron used in the stagecoach was salvaged from a neighbor’s ranch.
“I beat on iron until I was blue in the face when I started,” Pollock comments. “At that point, all I had was a torch, so I’d heat the metal up and bend it.”
He continues, “I ended up building a forge, and after that, I built a steamer to help curve the wood.”
The wood came from skids used to ship pipe.
“I salvaged the boards that I wanted from a trucking company in Casper, brought them home, cleaned them up and planed them down to the thickness that I needed,” he says.
The wagon is made from ash, oak and poplar.
“I started working on the reaches, which is the bottom part of the coach,” he says. “Then, I started on the headers and just kept working.”
When it came to building the sides and doors, Pollock says the wagon is curved in all directions, which was challenging to perfect.
“I built a table and a jig for the walls,” he explains. “The two walls are nearly identical.”
The wagon is held together using dado joints and mortises and secured with glue.
“There are no nails or screws,” he comments
For the wheels and axles, Pollock sought out Hansen Wheel and Wagon out of Letcher, S.D.
When complete, Pollock hand-painted the stagecoach and embellished it with a painting of a buffalo.
“The completed coach is right at 1,800 pounds,” Pollock says. “My neighbor lets me store the coach in the buggy room of his arena.”
True to the time
In building the stagecoach, it was really important for Pollock to be as period correct as possible.
“The wheels are bearing wheels, and when I did the research, I found that that was period correct,” he says, adding that the rubber on the wheels was also authentic. “From the 1870s to 1890s, the buggies in cities had rubber wheels to drive over cobblestone streets.”
“I did a lot of reading and research to make sure every aspect was right,” Pollock says. “I also purchased pieces like square nuts to make sure the stagecoach was right.”
After the stagecoach was complete, Pollock notes he made a few changes to increase the safety and usability of the coach.
“When I first built it, I made the tongue solid. It went straight out from the wagon and hooked to the team,” Pollock says. “On the first ride, when we went through a barrow ditch, the tongue pulled the horses’ heads down, and when we came up, the tongue went up under their chin. It wasn’t safe.”
A friend and wagon builder advised Pollock it’s better to be safe than perfectly period correct.
“I agreed, so I put a hinge on the tongue, which worked a lot better,” Pollock says.
He also adjusted the height on the leather straps that hold the body of the coach to reduce wear and tear on the straps.
In addition to the full-size coach, Pollock has also built miniature wagons, including a sheep wagon, chuck wagon and hay wagon. Now, he’s working on a miniature stagecoach.
“I built the sheep wagon at the same time I did the full-size coach,” he explains.
The sheep wagon received top honors at the Wyoming State Fair in the woodworking division.
His chuck wagon, which is about three feet long, is complete with wooden pots, pans, a coffee grinder and all the necessary accessories.
“For the full-size stagecoach, I also built a wooden cash box,” Pollock smiles. “I couldn’t have a stagecoach without a cash box.”
As he looks to the future, Pollock has big goals.
He’s built other wagons over the last several years, including a people hauler, but Pollock hopes to build another full-size wagon next.
“I’d really like to build a mud wagon,” Pollock says, explaining that mud wagons were lighter and used in the mountains and places where the terrain was more challenging. “I acquired the plans at the same time I got the plans for my Concord coach. I hope to build a mud wagon soon.”
Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at email@example.com.