Friday, April 8, 2011

Coaching Through Yellowstone

My post today is about Yellowstone National Park and includes photos from my visits, plus items from my collection. For years, I've been collecting old stuff related to YNP, especially if it has something to do with the railroads that served the Park in the first half of the last century.

Yellowstone Park is one of my favorite places. I've visited there many times, taken many pictures, and  now collect vintage memorabilia related to the Park. The old postcard above shows a group of tourist leaving the Northern Pacific Railroad station at Gardiner, Montana, aboard a stagecoach on their way into the park for a tour. They have just stepped off the train after what might have been a long journey from places all over the world. The photo below is a scan of a very old glass slide (commonly known as a lantern slide) showing a train at the depot in Gardiner.

If these tourists were entering the Park in the summer of 1903 they would have passed through the entrance arch dedicated by President Theodore Roosevelt in April of that year ... 108 years ago. (If you're into history a great article was written about the arch's history by Lee Whittlesey and Paul Schullery and can be found at the following link -- note: allow several seconds for the article to download -- it's worth the wait -- The Roosevelt Arch )

The close-up above shows the cornerstone. My photos in this post are from visits about 10 years ago and were taken with a medium format camera using FUJI color transparency film.

The tour in 1903 would have been guided, of course, and perhaps the stagecoach driver or tour guide would have handed each traveler a little booklet called "Coaching Through Yellowstone Park."

This little booklet is in my collection. Let's take a look inside.

Compliments of Yellowstone Park Transportation Company. A sketch of a soldier on horseback is followed by a brief introduction: "The Park is under the control of the Government. Fort Yellowstone, the name of the post, is located at Mammoth Hot Springs. The soldiers patrol the park daily and during the park season a summer encampment is maintained at the Lower Geyser Basin. Infractions of the superintendent's rules are severely punished."

Sounds like they were serious.

A further look into the booklet shows the distances to various points in the Park.

The sketches are neat. Of course, in 1903, automobiles were in production in the world, but there weren't many and none were allowed into the Park. The way to see Yellowstone was on the stage, on horseback, or walking. Yellowstone is located in the Rocky Mountain part of the United States, and in the early 1900s almost all tourists arrived via train and toured via stagecoach.

As the stage entered the Park it would pass through the "Golden Gate." 

There is a sketch of the Golden Gate showing a rider on horseback passing through. There is also some info on additional places to be visited. The big concrete road in my picture was just dirt in 1903. They say the dust was something to deal with.

Some of the sights they might have seen and why Yellowstone is called "Wonderland."

Heart Spring in the Upper Geyser Basin

Apparently, one of the traditions was to have everyone in your coach sign your booklet.

There are quite a few signatures in the book, so perhaps it included more than just one coach. I like the last signature on the page below ... Frank B. West, Columbus, O.  In the description of "Hotel Accomodations" it is noted: "The uniform rate at Park hotels for stay not exceeding seven days is $4.00 per day. After seven days $3.00 per day."

The scenery really hasn't changed that much since 1903.

The Madison River.

Steam escaping from an old geyser. The alignment of the clouds in the sky was coincidental and has nothing to do with the geyser. But I like the way it looks. The rocky substance that looks a bit like a volcano is called geyserite and is produced by steaming water and minerals coming out of the geyser.

Famous Old Faithful geyser in eruption.

The little booklet, like today's modern guide book, includes a "Geyser Table" showing the frequency of eruptions. Notice the sketch ... today visitors are not allowed to get nearly so close to the geysers.

The 1903 trip through the Park will conclude in the next post on John's Island. Hope you enjoyed this part and thank you for visiting!


  1. This was a nice approach to revealing Yellowstone. The road through the Golden gate is pretty exciting. I sometimes missed the views due to squeezing my eyes shut. Here is the link to my first entry on my visit on my travel blog. I hope we get to see more of your pictures.

  2. What a neat book. You can only imagine what it was like for 7 days in Yellowstone in a stagecoach. I'll bet they didn't have backups on the road because an animal was spotted and no parking problems. Great post to your blog, looking forward to part 2.

  3. Now that's a unique collection hobby! I wonder in those days how many folks could afford to go site-seeing. It is so much a part of present day culture, but back then, life was so much harder, with much more manual labor and transportation was long and difficult. Really interesting!

  4. I love Yellowstone too! One of my Sickstas lives just an hour north in Livingston Montana. Love that little booklet...very cool.. thanks for sharing. :)

  5. Loved the post and the old memorabilia! I've never been there but would like to go one day. Thanks for the tour!!

  6. Exceptional post! My how things have changed. It's so very intersting to see the vintage memorabilia. Your images are wonderful! I especially love the Morning Glory Pool photograph. A most fascinating and splendid post, John!

  7. fascinating! Yellowstone Park is a lovely place to visit.It has been at least 28 years or more since I was there last.

  8. Great place and photos. Thanks for sharing this wonderful place. :)

  9. I have never been to Yellowstone – when is the best time to visit? I enjoyed the tour and it was made more interesting with the addition of your vintage guide book.

  10. John, I'm here from Vagabonde's.

    This is a great post. You really put your heart into making your readers vicariously experience what it's like to visit there, now and in the past.

  11. Such wonderful information and great pictures! Super:)

  12. John, this is just outstanding! What a great job you've done weaving the narrative in along with the pictures and the fascinating memorabilia. So fun and informative. I especially love the signatures of all the visitors. What a splendid touch. Well done, my friend!

  13. What a neat post with a lovely transition between old and new! Another outstanding Post my Friend!

  14. Really like this John. Very well done with the all the memorabilia and everything.

  15. Thank you for posting this information. It is quite timely for a project I'm working on.


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