How we used to travel
Hay has strong associations with the famous Cobb & Co coach company.
The firm of Cobb & Co was started in Victoria by a partnership of four Americans, at the head of which was Freeman Cobb. It was sold in 1856, and then in 1861 was taken over again by another syndicate, headed by American James Rutherford.
At first the coaches were imported, but factories were started in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland. Under the management of Rutherford, the Cobb & Co empire spread in all directions.
Sunbeam Cobb and Co Coach wheel
In June 1862 they moved to Hay, with an impressive calvacade which included 10 coaches, 2 feed wagons, 20 drivers, 103 horses, with cooks and ostlers, all preceded by a brass band. Hay became the headquarters of Cobb's Southern operation, the Victorian and Riverina network, and the coach factory was set up in Hay, where it operated for about 35 years. James Rutherford died in 1911, but Cobb & Co's coaches still carried in the mail in some parts of Queensland well into the 1920's.
Henry Proctor worked for his brother's coach building factory in Ballarat for thirteen years, before moving to Hay in 1881. He succeeded Thomas Johnston in the management of the Cobb & Co coach factory, probably the largest coach factory outside Sydney. This factory was originally at the corner of Lachlan and Simpson Streets, and at one time there were over thirty workmen employed there.
The Sunbeam Coach, which stands in Moppett Street, was built by Henry Proctor- his brand JHP conjoined is burned in under the coach. It was originally licensed to carry 11 passengers, and commenced service on the Deniliquin-Hay-Booligal-Ivanhoe-Wilcannia run (over 300 miles) in 1886. It continued as a mail coach until 1901 when it was converted to a 17 passenger vehicle, and used only for special occasions. It was restored to its former condition in 1972.
The Cobb and Co coach is one of Hay's most treasured objects. A conservation study is currently being undertaken to ensure it is preserved for the future.