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Old 01-25-2021, 08:03 PM   #1
Jinumon
 
Join Date: Mar 2013
Default [HT] Cost of a Stagecoach Ticket

Hey all,

Got something of a doozy for you. I've been trying to work up a reasonable price for ticket on a 19th-century stagecoach, like the one presented in GURPS High-Tech, pp. 232-233. What follows is my best attempt at creating said pricing; I'm just looking for suggestions and proof-readers.

Following the example set in David Pulver's Medieval Sea Trade from Pyramid 3/87: Low-Tech III for calculating the oversea shipping rates, we get the following:

The rates assume the stagecoach is teamed by a driver (TL5 Average job, $1,100); this includes food. Assuming the stagecoach operates for 16 hours per day, 30 days per month, a total of 3 drivers will need to work in shifts to operate the stagecoach if each works an 8-hour shift, 20 days per month, for a total cost of $3,300/month. The cost of stabling, feeding, and shoeing the team of 6 horses costs $150 per animal, per week, or an extra $3,600 per month. It will take 2 teams (12 horses, periodically switched out) to pull for the entirety of the grueling 16-hour day, so double this to $7,200. The stagecoach and horses are financed at 8% compound interest requiring 1% of its worth every month in payment; a $4,400 stagecoach plus 12 $1,200 saddle horses requires $188. Add an extra 1/500 cost for general maintenance/veterinary expenses at $37.60/month, for a grand total of $10725.60/month, or about $10,700/month. Finally, the stagecoach can carry 10 passengers, 128 miles per day, 30 days per month, or 38,400 passenger-miles.

Break-even cost per passenger-mile is therefore $10,725.60/38,400 = $0.28, or about 3.6 passenger miles per G$. Assume 1.33 times this to allow for some profit without being undercut by competitors. Now, a stagecoach has capacity for 10 passengers, but will likely not carry so many at a time, so let's halve the expected number of passengers to 5, effectively doubling the cost per passenger-mile. That means the cost of a one-person ticket per mile is about $0.28 x 1.33 x 2 = about $0.75. Considering that railroads (GURPS High-Tech, p. 35) and steam liners (GURPS High-Tech, pp. 35-36) of the era cost $1/mile and $3/mile, this seems appropriate.

Anyway, how'd I do? Does this seem right? Are there any costs I'm overstating or forgetting? Let me know what y'all think.

Jinumon
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Old 01-25-2021, 08:24 PM   #2
Mysterious Dark Lord v3.2
 
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Default Re: [HT] Cost of a Stagecoach Ticket

The website desertusa-dot-com has a section on stagecoaches of the 1860's. They list a period stagecoach as carrying six passengers and taking twenty-five days from St Louis to California. The ticket cost is listed as $200 (equivalent to $3000 modern), meals cost extra.
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Old 01-25-2021, 09:10 PM   #3
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Default Re: [HT] Cost of a Stagecoach Ticket

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mysterious Dark Lord v3.2 View Post
The website desertusa-dot-com has a section on stagecoaches of the 1860's. They list a period stagecoach as carrying six passengers and taking twenty-five days from St Louis to California. The ticket cost is listed as $200 (equivalent to $3000 modern), meals cost extra.
Any idea when this article was written? I'd be interested to see how their "$3,000 modern" measures up to the GURPS $ (2004 USD unless I'm mistaken).

Jinumon

EDIT: I should also note this carriage carried 9 passengers and was drawn by 4 mules, not 6 horses, which undoubtedly shakes up the formula.

Last edited by Jinumon; 01-25-2021 at 10:13 PM.
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Old 01-25-2021, 09:46 PM   #4
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Default Re: [HT] Cost of a Stagecoach Ticket

I do not think that mules were ever used for stagecoaches, they were usually too weak and too slow.
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Old 01-25-2021, 10:34 PM   #5
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Default Re: [HT] Cost of a Stagecoach Ticket

Quote:
Originally Posted by AlexanderHowl View Post
I do not think that mules were ever used for stagecoaches, they were usually too weak and too slow.
They were definitively used, afaik.

The Butterfield St Louis to San Francisco line (3000 miles iirc) used about 200 coaches, 1000 horses and 500 mules.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Roughing It, by Mark Twain
We left our six fine horses and took six mules in their place. But they were wild Mexican fellows, and a man had to stand at the head of each of them and hold him fast while the driver gloved and got himself ready. And when at last he grasped the reins and gave the word, the men sprung suddenly away from the mules’ heads and the coach shot from the station as if it had issued from a cannon
...
After breakfast, we bathed in Horse Creek, a (previously) limpid, sparkling stream—an appreciated luxury, for it was very seldom that our furious coach halted long enough for an indulgence of that kind. We changed horses ten or twelve times in every twenty-four hours—changed mules, rather—six mules—and did it nearly every time in four minutes. It was lively work. As our coach rattled up to each station six harnessed mules stepped gayly from the stable; and in the twinkling of an eye, almost, the old team was out, and the new one in and we off and away again.
...

Last edited by Celjabba; 01-25-2021 at 10:37 PM.
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Old 01-25-2021, 10:36 PM   #6
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Default Re: [HT] Cost of a Stagecoach Ticket

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jinumon View Post
Any idea when this article was written? I'd be interested to see how their "$3,000 modern" measures up to the GURPS $ (2004 USD unless I'm mistaken).

Jinumon

EDIT: I should also note this carriage carried 9 passengers and was drawn by 4 mules, not 6 horses, which undoubtedly shakes up the formula.
Their example "stagecoach" is arguably not a stagecoach.


A little light research indicates that stage coaches were run continuously, without stopping. It seems to have been one of the quirks of the transportation, that you had to sleep while it was moving.



For the inflation, we just have to remember that the numbers are for "1860's", which means the cost was between 4,500 and 2,300 dollars. The cheapest point is actually 1865: the US dollar did funny things during the civil war. I'm not entirely sure it would have any real effect out west away from the war.



Rail lines were generally cheaper than coach. A quick perusal of Wikipedia says Omaha to San Fransisco by train was $65 , a third of the stage price. I know that most my ancestors came west by train, because it was so much cheaper and easier than previous methods.
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Old 01-26-2021, 12:34 PM   #7
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Default Re: [HT] Cost of a Stagecoach Ticket

Okay,

So considering the insights of these kind folks, I'll be recalculating based on the following factors.

1) Travel time increased to 23 hours per day (day and night travel with a 10-minute break every ~4 hours)

2) 25 work days per month, not 20 (I remember this being the case in Low-Tech Companion 3: Daily Life and Economics, and figure this should carry over since it is pre-Worker's Rights Movement)

3) 3.6 drivers will be needed to run it constantly, not 3 (considering the above factors)

4) 2/3 - 1/3 split between horses and mules (using Saddle Horse and Large Mule from the Basic Set)

5) 3 teams of animals will be need instead of 2 (12 horses and 6 mules)

6) Financed at 16% interest instead of 8%, paying 2% value per month instead of 1% (I imagine stagecoaches running 22 hours per day wear out, and should thus be paid off, more quickly than things like ocean-going vessels)

7) 6 typical passengers instead of 5 ("Each row seats three passengers, for a total of nine - although six is more usual, and even that means a claustrophobic ride!" GURPS High-Tech, p. 233)

All that said, the calculations are as follows:

Monthly Break-Even Point = $3,960 (salaries) + $7,200 (maintenance for 12 horses) + $6,000 (maintenance for 6 mules, calculated proportionally based on Saddle Horse cost vs. Large Mule cost) + $616 (financing) + $61.60 (incidental maintenance) = $17,837.60

Passenger-Miles per Month = 22 (hours/day) x 8 (mph) x 30 (days/month) x 6 (passengers) = 31,680

Passenger-Miles per Month Break-Even = $17,837.60/31,680 = $0.56/passenger miles

Cost/Passenger Mile + Profit = $0.56 x 1.33 = $0.75

Hmm. Coming up with the same amount, though pretty much all historical accounts point to the railroads being significantly cheaper than stagecoaches. Looking at some historical sources, the price in GURPS High-Tech for railroad travel seems to be consistent with the cost of first-class accommodations; the Transcontinental (Pacific) Line charged $134.50 in 1870 (~G$1,940) for 1,912 miles of travel. Second-class was about 80% of that, and "emigrant" (economy) was about 50% of first-class. That would put Economy-class rail travel at G$0.50/mile, while stagecoach travel is G$0.75/mile for economy-class. Does this seem appropriate?

Is there something I'm missing here? A x2-x5 multiplier for the danger of crossing wild lands in a stagecoach?

Jinumon
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Old 01-26-2021, 03:25 PM   #8
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Default Re: [HT] Cost of a Stagecoach Ticket

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jinumon View Post
Any idea when this article was written? I'd be interested to see how their "$3,000 modern" measures up to the GURPS $ (2004 USD unless I'm mistaken).
This is about typical for 19th century US coaches. Runs from various towns on the Mississippi to points in California typically cost around $200 contemporary (roughly GURPS$4000) and took 3 to 4 weeks, with 25 days being the usual target.

Note that "stagecoach" varies a lot with time and place. The UK for example had a much longer service history, and routes that routinely took a week in the late 17th century had been cut to a long day by the time the railroads stole the business ca. 1840, which meant effective fares dropped even where per day prices didn't. A typical fare might be half a pound ($GURPS 50 ish) a day, though you could easily pay a 10-fold premium for private coaches, leaving on your schedule and stopping at more luxurious coaching inns.
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Old 01-26-2021, 10:33 PM   #9
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Default Re: [HT] Cost of a Stagecoach Ticket

Look in Pyramid 95: Overland Adventures, for an article from C.R. Rice "Low-Tech Transportation." It'll give you his numbers.
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Old 01-27-2021, 01:42 PM   #10
Jinumon
 
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Default Re: [HT] Cost of a Stagecoach Ticket

Something I've been running into a lot, whether it's in other GURPS books or historical references, is a discrepancy between how fast it says it says a stagecoach travels in GURPS High-Tech ("an average of 8 miles an hour") and other sources, which estimate between 4 and 5 mph. Is the sidebar in GURPS High-Tech assuming a paved road? I guess because it's under the heading "On the Coach Across America" I assumed that was an average for a trip, you know, across America, plains and backroads and all. Is the sidebar just inaccurate?

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