Demand for coach travel to the Victorian gold fields was so high during the gold rushes that special coach lines were established. Two of these were run and operated by Chinese entrepreneurs. There is also some evidence of Chinese built coaches at this time, though on a small scale. When travelling on coaches Chinese passengers were often required to undertake the onerous task of opening and closing gates during the journey.
According to the Bendigo Advertiser Chinese miners commonly travelled by coach to the Victorian gold fields after their arrival in Melbourne as early as 1857.
Demand was high enough during the late 1850s and early 1860s that other firms put on special coaches to deal with it. In 1861 the Argus reported that two coach lines were owned, driven and generally patronised by Chinese. One line ran from Melbourne to Creswick and in June 1861 another was proposed from Geelong to Ballarat. The Bendigo Advertiser mentioned in an 1868 article that Ah Chue who was currently 'keeping a cabbage garden' had previously been a coach driver at Castlemaine.
The Mt Alexander Mail also reported on a 'Chinese coach' which ran between Guildford and Creswick's Creek and crossing Deep Creek in 1863. Daley in his 1931 account of the Chinese in Victoria during the goldrushes mentions that a line of vehicles were run at low fares by a Chinese company from Guildford to the camps in Bendigo (Sandhurst), Castlemaine, Ballarat and Maryborough.
In 1866 it was reported in the Maryborough Advertiser and subsequently republished in the Argus that Jimmy Ah Gouey had began a minor coach building business at Eaglehawk Gully. He had been commissioned to build a 'dog-cart' and had built the coach himself, including painting, picking-out and varnishing.
Austin's history of the Cobb and Co travel discusses the social hierarchy associated with coach travel and Chinese passengers within it. Coaches often travelled through private property and so gates had to be opened and closed during the journey. This onerous task was generally rotated between the men on the coach, sometimes 'gate boy' was paid to do it or occasionally it was illegally given to a swagman or bagman to do in exchange for a ride. If there was a Chinese passenger on board the task was often required of them.
Sources used to compile this entry: ; Austin, K.A., The Lights of Cobb and Co: The Story of the Frontier Coaches, 1854-1924, Rigby Ltd, Adelaide, 1967; Austin, K.A., A Pictorial History of Cobb & Co: The Coaching Age in Australia, 1854-1924, Rigby Ltd, Adelaide, 1977; Daley, C, 'Chinese in Victoria', Victorian Historical Magazine, vol. 14, February, pp. 23-35; Daly, Charles, 'Chinese in Victoria', The Victorian Historical Magazine, vol. XIV, February, pp. 23-35; Argus: 6 July 1866, p.5a, 5 February 1861, p.6e, 11 June 1861, p.4g. Bendigo Advertiser: 9 April 1859, 30 July 1857, 4 Dec 1868. Argus Index. Bendigo Advertiser Index, Bendigo Golden Dragon Museum collection. Mt Alexander Mail, 19 August 1863.
Prepared by: Sophie Couchman, La Trobe University
Newstead & District Historical Society
- General collection; Newstead & District Historical Society. Details
- Austin, K.A., The Lights of Cobb and Co: The Story of the Frontier Coaches, 1854-1924, Rigby Ltd, Adelaide, 1967. Details
- Austin, K.A., A Pictorial History of Cobb & Co: The Coaching Age in Australia, 1854-1924, Rigby Ltd, Adelaide, 1977. Details
- Daley, C, 'Chinese in Victoria', Victorian Historical Magazine, vol. 14, February, pp. 23-35. Details
- Daly, Charles, 'Chinese in Victoria', The Victorian Historical Magazine, vol. XIV, February, pp. 23-35. Details
- Golden Threads, photograph (1), Cobb and Co coach with Chinese labourers, 1883, People and Collections database, Golden Threads project, http://hosting.collectionsaustralia.net/goldenthreads/collections/recordCObject.asp?ID=345. Details
- Cobb & Co coach loaded with people (probably from China) and luggage
- c. 1865 - c. 1871
- Australia - Victoria - Newstead
Created: 24 March 2004, Last modified: 11 November 2005