Before the arrival of the railroad, riding on the frontier by stagecoach was a preferred means of travel.
Though many stage lines were replaced by railroads, the stagecoach hung on for a while as it could often go where trains couldn't. Furthermore, tracks and other specialized equipment did not have to be built to accommodate stage lines.
However, the coming of the railroad eventually displaced stagecoaches. After all, a train could haul more people and cargo with better efficiency than a stagecoach.
Trains were much faster than stagecoaches.In the 1870's, travel time by stage was 24 days for a 2,800-mile trip from St. Louis to San Francisco, making their average speed, which included frequent stops, 3 and a half or 4 and a half, miles per hour.
By comparison, in 1876 an express train went all the way from New York to San Francisco in three days and 11 hours, which was over 55 miles per hour.
Furthermore, trains didn't have to stop at night.
The care and feeding of horses was not a factor in travel by train. Engines did have to be refueled and watered, but their operators didn't have to worry about feeding, watering, doctoring and replacing living animals.
Adding further to the railroad's advantage was train travel was far more economical. Stagecoach travel was around 15 cents per mile and stagecoaches had to stop for the passengers' and drivers' meals which were poor quality and averaged $1.
Travel by train was much cheaper at five cents a mile for first class and four cents for second class.
For those who didn't mind sitting on a hard bench, it was just a little over two cents per mile. Trains stopped only briefly for quick and delicious meals at Harvey Houses, which were only 75 cents.
In the 1890s, the advent of dining cars shortened the trip even more. This food was also good and economical.
A very important factor in comparing trains to stages was comfort and safety. Hands down, trains the lead the way in these areas. The ride on a train was much smoother and the passengers rode in closed cars which protected them from the rain, snow and wind. Though air conditioning was non-existent, cars could be heated during the colder months.
Though unsafe by today's standards, trains tended to have fewer accidents than stagecoaches. Being on a set of closed tracks was helpful.
Another issue stage drivers had to take into account was dealing with horses. Though most of the time there were no problems, live animals do have a mind of their own and, especially if startled, tend to do their own thing.
As a result, stage drivers often lost control of their team.
In addition to passengers, stagecoaches and trains often hauled coveted cargo. Stages operated in remote areas with few people aboard to protect them and were easy prey for highwaymen and attacks from American Indians.
Trains, on the other hand, usually had more people aboard to defend their cargo. At the very least, passengers and crew could later serve as witness against robbers or aggressors.
In addition, trains were massive and had a lot of momentum. Therefore, though possible, it took a great deal coordination and planning to bring a train to a halt in order to rob or attack it.
Stage lines existed in this area after the arrival of the A.T. & S.F. in 1872.
But within a few years the expansion of the railway, and later the construction of roads, made stagecoaches here and all over the country obsolete.