Stagecoach

Opened: 1976
Closed: 2009
Location: Pioneer Village
Ride Duration: ~10 min
Ride Capacity: ~10

Stagecoach at the original Pioneer Village in Salt Lake City on a postcard dated July 1969.

The original Pioneer Village in Salt Lake City offered Stagecoach and Ox-Drawn Wagon rides and both continued to be a part of the experience when Pioneer Village opened at Lagoon in 1976.

A proper stagecoach was brought in for guests to ride in 1976, but after it was fixed up and painted, it was decided to display it in Carriage Hall instead. They continued to use the carriage that was used in Salt Lake City which was more like a surrey or a station hack, historically used to transport people from a railroad station to their hotel. A slightly different carriage replaced the older one by the mid-1990s. The ride retained the Stagecoach moniker the entire time it was in operation.

The Stagecoach as seen beyond a truss bridge in a 1978 Lagoon brochure. Photo: Lagoon

From the boarding area in front of the Pony Express Museum (which now houses a Swig franchise, just south of the restrooms) the Stagecoach traveled behind Governor Dern’s barn, crossed Farmington Creek and passed through a wooded area and pastures with deer and buffalo. When it reached the Pioneer Pavilion it crossed the creek again and made its way down Main Street on its way back to the boarding area.

Stagecoach in the '90s.
Stagecoach in the 1990s. Photo: Lagoon

In the ’90s, the loading area was in front of the cabin next to the Pony Express Museum and was later relocated to a small stable west of the Dern Barn. When plans were being considered for expanding Pioneer Village in the ’90s, different plans show only small alterations to the original stagecoach road. However, when Rattlesnake Rapids was built, the new road was significantly shorter. From that point on, the Stagecoach went past some of the animal pens, then to the east side of Rattlesnake Rapids where the horses circled a hay barn and returned down the same path without ever crossing any pedestrian walkways.

This attraction was unique as it was operated by a family, the Thurstons, who owned the clydesdale horses. Glen and his son Dale drove the horses and were assisted by their wives. Both were members of the Clydesdale Breeders Of The U.S.A. for which Dale served on the board of trustees and was inducted into the association’s Heritage Hall Of Fame. For a while, Anheuser-Busch purchased clydesdales from the Thurstons for their famous Budweiser clydesdale team.

The ride was usually only open on the park’s busier days. It seems the ride was closed for a season around the time Dale retired in 2007, but returned again (apparently run by his children) until its final season in 2009.

The new Swig location inside what was once the Pony Express Museum. Photo: B. Miskin

The carriage has been used more recently as a Frightmares prop in the straw maze and scare zone in Pioneer Village. During the rest of the season it can be seen behind the Model Train Museum.

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other LINKS

1976 Pioneer Village map showing a rough representation of the Stagecoach’s route.

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SOURCES

Pioneer Village dedicated. Deseret News, 31 May 1976.

Glen Thurston. Deseret News, 20 Jan 1996.

1966 Pioneer Village brochure.

1976 Lagoon brochures.

Dale H. Thurston. Walker Mortuary, accessed 10 Jun 2013.

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4 replies on “Stagecoach”

I’ve been trying to find an article I read about 50 years ago, concerning a skeleton found in the desert near lookout pass, that was probably a Pony Express rider. The gun was emptied of “bullets” that was found near the body. This was article was probably written in the middle ’60s. I thought the pistol was once displayed at Pioneer Village. But I’ve found nothing concerning this subject ever since. Do you have any clue as to where this writing would be, as well as the rusty pistol?

I am looking for information on the stagecoach and its history. Do you know where it came from and when it was built? This stagecoach has found a permanent home at the National Oregon/California Trail Center in Montpelier, Idaho and was donated by the owner.

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