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Barnard's Express
BX Stagecoach Line

Barnard's Express, later known as the British Columbia Express Company or BX, was a pioneer transportation company that served the Cariboo and Fraser Fort George regions in British Columbia, from 1861 until 1921.

The company dates back to the peak of the Cariboo Gold Rush when masses of adventurers were descending on the Cariboo region. There was a great demand for transportation of passengers to and from the goldfields, as well as the delivery of mining equipment, food supplies and mail between Victoria and Barkerville.

In December, 1861, Francis Jones Barnard established a pony express from Yale to Barkerville. In the summer of 1862, Barnard merged his company into the British Columbia and Victoria Express Company and won the government contract to deliver the mail.

The first horses used by the company came Oregon. Then, in 1868, 400 head were purchased in California and Mexico and driven to the company's ranch in Vernon. Later, when the Canadian Pacific Railway was completed, most of the company's horses were bought locally or were shipped from Alberta or Saskatchewan.

The company had a strict policy that they would not purchase any horses that were broke. The company wanted their horses trained exclusively for staging, a process that generally took three months, even then they were never truly broken and had to be expertly handled.

A hostler would lead the teams out to the stages only once the baggage had been secured and the passengers and driver were safely seated. Once harnessed to the stage, the reins were given to the driver and he could release the brake. The stage horses often leapt and reared at the start of a trip, but settled into a smooth trot once they were underway. The whip rarely had to be used to encourage them, as they knew the next station meant a good feed and a warm stable.

The stations were approximately 18 miles apart and the teams were changed at each one. The hostlers at the stations took pride in taking care of the company's horses, often competing to see who kept the teams in the best condition. One rule that was strictly followed was that each horse had its own harness, which was cleaned every time it was taken off.

In 1863-64, additions like the use of sleighs in the winter were used instead of wagons. The year of 1864 saw the start of a 14 passenger four-horse stage. Later, with increase of business, the stage was enlarged to a six-horse coach. By 1866 Francis Jones Barnard became the sole proprietor of the horse express business from Victoria to Barkerville and in 1867, Barnard purchased the interests of Dietz and Nelson.

Barnard's Express incorporated as the British Columbia Express Company in 1878 became commonly known as the BX.

The BX had a wide variety of stagecoaches. Some only required a team of horses while others were pulled by hitches of four or six. Some had closed-in carriages and others were open. For winter travel, the stagecoaches were replaced by sleighs of all sizes, including some that could carry fifteen passengers. Many of the later stagecoaches were Concord stages, built with shock absorbers made from leather springs which made for a more comfortable ride.

The company had a stagecoach built in California specifically for the visit of the Governor General, Lord and Lady Dufferin, who rode in it from Yale to Kamloops and back. The coach was painted in the bright red and yellow BX colours and had the Canadian coat of arms on its front panels. It cost $50 a day to ride in this famous coach, but many visiting diplomats and English aristocracy rode in the Dufferin when they went hunting in the Cariboo.

The writing was on the wall for the company and in 1884, the bridge across from the Fraser River was opened and trains came to Lytton. By 1886 Hamilton had died and Barnard sold out to Stephen Tingley who thus became sole owner.

Tingley made his final move to Ashcroft and drove continuously until 1897 when he sold the company to a group of Toronto lawyers.

The last stage was driven to Soda Creek by Charles G. Major. Major took the stage out as he was on his way to Cariboo in the spring, and Mr. Stephen Tingley, best known driver and final owner, took charge on the return leg of the final trip of the BX Express.

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