Thanks to the tireless work and attention to detail of Rorie Watts and the Quesnel and District Heritage Association (QDHA), a restored Victorian-era coach will make its Quesnel debut at the Billy Barker Days parade.
Well before Lyft and Uber were a Silicon Valley pipe dream, horse-drawn coaches would taxi those in need of a ride from one end of town to the other.
Although some modern conveniences were absent, there is a style and panache to the old coaches that is hard to replicate.
The ‘Quincey Coach’ has been an ongoing project for the Quesnel and District heritage Association, which operates the Quesnel Antique Machinery Park (AMP) south of the city on Dragon Lake Road.
Discovered by David Lockyer of Quesnel on a visit to Hat Creek Ranch in Cache Creek in 1998, the coach was soon after brought to Quesnel with the help of the city and the province.
Its history goes back quite some time.
According to Lanna Saunders, who along with her husband Lloyd, help run QDHA, the coach was built anywhere between 1890 and 1892 by the E.M. Miller Company.
It was originally owned by the Victoria Transfer Company, which operated it as a taxi on the streets of Victoria.
Later it was purchased by Mr. Charles Semlin, Premier of B.C. from 1898 to 1900, who used it to transport his VIP guests back and forth from the railway station in Ashcroft to his Cache Creek ranch.
It is believed that sometime in the 1960s, the coach was taken from the Semlin ranch back to Victoria, where it was disassembled for restoration. It was stored at the B.C. Transportation Museum until its closure and, for unknown reasons, the parts were taken to Hat Creek Ranch and stored in a barn.
Eventually, the coach came to QDHA at the Quesnel Antique Machinery Park and, after a few stops and starts, was stored in a corner of the shop until last winter.
After applying and receiving a grant from the B.C. Museums Canada 150 fund, the volunteers of the AMP along with Rorie Watts (2nd Millennium Antique Restoration /Repairs) and others who made invaluable contributions of skills and donations of supplies, the Quincey Coach is ready to meet the public.
Harold Mueller, who operates Crazy M Ranch in Prince George, will bring down two horses to pull the coach and he will have the honour of driving it in the parade, while MLA Coralee Oakes will have the privilege of riding inside.
The coach will continue to be stored at the AMP after the parade and will be available for photo opportunities.
Saunders says they will also consider renting it out for weddings.