This coach is one of the few surviving vehicles that can claim a direct association with the famous Cobb & Co name which began in the gold rush years of the 1850s.
The coach is believed to have been built in Geelong in about 1880. Like the original American-built Concord coaches imported by Cobb & Co, this coach has the large leather thorough-brace suspension which made it ideally suited to VictoriaÍs rough bush roads.
One of the things I love about this vehicle is you can see in it the wear and tear of decades of use - the footstep word down by hundreds of passengers clambering aboard, and the bow in its body caused by the weight of luggage on the rear and the front over hundreds of miles of rough roads.
The coach is a superb piece of 19th century craftsmanship. It's similar in construction to the original imported coaches, but the body is squarer and simpler in design, making it cheaper and easier to construct and was built using a variety of local and imported timbers. Nevertheless, you can see in each component the beautiful workmanship with parts shaped to have maximum strength and minimum weight.
The coach was pulled by a team of four or five horses and could carry up to seventeen passengers. Women and children travelled inside with three adults on the front and rear seats and three more on this removable bench seat, with a simple leather strap as a backrest. Personal possessions were stowed under the feet and children carried on the laps. Gentlemen travelled outside, with two passengers beside the driver at the front, another three behind them and if needs be, three more on the rear end of the roof facing backwards. Luggage was piled high on the roof rack and the rear luggage rack. In the boot under the driverÍs seat mailbags and valuables like gold were carried.
It is believed to have been the last horse-drawn coach to be operating commercially in Victoria. By 1955 its condition had so deteriorated that the coach was at risk of being broken up and burnt. An advertisement was placed in a Melbourne newspaper seeking a new home for it. The only person to respond was Harley Dickinson, a Geelong schoolboy. During weekends and vacations, he began the enormous task of restoring the coach, assisted by some mates and his father. With only a limited budget, he relied largely on the good will of local businesses and second-hand materials. Fortunately, he took a very enlightened approach for the day, opting to retain much of its original fabric and paintwork.