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Coach (carriage) facts for kids

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Le Royal Mews de Londres-007
The Gold State Coach of the British monarch

A coach is originally a large, usually closed, four-wheeled carriage with two or more horses harnessed as a team, controlled by a coachman and/or one or more postilions. It had doors in the sides, with generally a front and a back seat inside and, for the driver, a small, usually elevated seat in front called a box, box seat or coach box. The term "coach" first came into use in the 15th century, and spread across Europe. There are a number of types of coaches, with differentiations based on use, location and size. Special breeds of horses, such as the now-extinct Yorkshire Coach Horse, were developed to pull the vehicles.


Kocs (pronounced "kotch") was the Hungarian post town in the 15th century onward's, which gave its name to a fast light vehicle, which later spread across Europe.

It was not until about the middle of the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, that coaches were introduced to England. Coaches were reputedly introduced into England from France by Henry FitzAlan, 19th Earl of Arundel.

Museu Nacional dos Coches (4) - Mar 2010
Ornate detail on one of the Portuguese Royal Coaches at the National Coach Museum in Lisbon.

A coach with four horses is a coach-and-four. A coach together with the horses, harness and attendants is a turnout.

The bodies of early coaches, as of American Concord stagecoaches, were hung on leather straps. In the eighteenth century steel springs were substituted, an improvement in suspension. An advertisement in the Edinburgh Courant for 1754 reads:

The Edinburgh stage-coach, for the better accommodation of passengers, will be altered to a new genteel two-end glass coach-machine, hung on steel springs, exceedingly light and easy...

A coach might have a built-in compartment called a boot, used originally as a seat for the coachman and later for storage. A luggage case for the top of a coach was called an imperial. The front and rear axles were connected by a main shaft called the perch or reach. A crossbar known as a splinter bar supported the springs. Coaches were often decorated by painters using a sable brush called a liner.

In the 19th century the term coach was applied to railway carriages, and later to motor coaches.

Types of coaches

Museu Nacional dos Coches (2) - Mar 2010
A Portuguese Royal Coach driver's uniform
Museu dos Coches 2 - Jul 2009
A detailed door of a coach of the Royal House of Braganza.

There are a number of coach types, including:

  • araba, aroba or arba: used in Turkey and neighboring countries
  • coachee: American, shaped like a coach but longer and open in front
  • Concord coach: large, closed, horse-drawn; body swung on leather thorough braces, driver's seat outside in front, covered baggage compartment at the rear
  • The park drag carriage was a lighter, more elegant version of the Road Coach. A park drag (or simply drag) is also known as a "private coach" as it was owned by private individuals for their own personal driving. A park drag has seats on its top and is usually driven to a team of four well-matched carriage horses.
  • fly: horse-drawn, public
  • funeral coach: hearse
  • hack or hackney: let for hire
    • hackney coach or jarvey: used as a hackney carriage; especially, one with four wheels, drawn by two horses, seats for six persons
    • fiacre: small
  • rumble-tumble: heavy, moves with a deep rumbling sound
  • stagecoach: heavy, usually four-in-hand, closed; formerly made regular trips between stations, carrying passengers and goods
    • mail coach or post coach: used for carrying the mails
    • mud wagon: lighter and smaller than the Concord coach, flat sides, simpler joinery
    • road coach: revived in England during the last half of the 19th century
  • tally-ho: a four-in-hand (the Tally-ho was the name of a coach that once plied between London and Birmingham)
  • whirlicote: heavy, luxurious

A coach of state is used to convey persons in state. The principal ceremonial coaches in the United Kingdom are the Gold State Coach, Irish State Coach and Scottish State Coach.

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