14th August 2009 was the 85th Anniversary of the last service by the Cobb & Co Coach between Surat and Yuleba. Its last stop was at Yuleba on the 14th of August in 1924, retiring the service in Australia.Cobb & Co was Australia’s most important stage coach company in its day.
Established in Melbourne in the 1800’s at the height of the gold rushes, it proved to be very popular as a means of transport to the goldfields. Soon horse-drawn coaches were used to carry passengers throughout Victoria, followed by New South Wales and then into Queensland. Service 177 became the Cobb & Co’s most famous route, running from Yuleba through Surat and onto St George. With a total of 203 Km, there were changing stations situated approximately every 25 Km. At each changing station there would be a meal break for the driver and passengers, and a fresh team of horses for the next stage.
· Friday, 14th of August, celebrations commenced that evening in Yuleba at the Yuleba Memorial Hall with a Bush Dance. The Ran Tan Bush Band played there was a BBQ dinner and bar. There were horse drawn wagon twilight tours Yuleba, whereby passengers took a relaxing coach ride around the town. Locals were encouraged to decorate their homes with lights for the event.
· Saturday morning (early), riders and participants will gathered for breakfast in Garth Cox Park and Morning tea was provided at the Maryanne. People were encouraged to stop at each stone monument which marks the location of the changing stations.
· Lunch was at the Wallabella stock route watering troughs, which is in close proximity to ‘Waldegrove’, which was also a changing station in its day.
· Saturday evening brought all participants together at “Bainbilla”. Now owned by George and Lyn, David & Graham York and their family of Wallumbilla. “Bainbilla” was a significant changing station, even boasting a hotel. The York’s generously offered their historic property for use for the overnight stage of the celebrations.
Bush Poet and storyteller, Jimmy Hunter, a well known Yuleba identity who passed away in 2013 provided entertaining stories and poems of the local area, both past and not so past and the characters which have flavoured the communities. Jimmy’s family, the Hunter’s, also have historic ties in Yuleba.
A Camp Oven Dinner was provided and horses had a chance to be fed and watered ready for the next stage the following day.
Sunday morning was another early rise with breakfast and saddling the horses for the ride in Surat. Following the trail that the Cobb & Co Coach took past Frogmoore Station, known for its abundance of waterlilies, the riders proudly rode into Surat and there were hundreds of people there to welcome them and witness that fantastic sight. some even found it very emotional.
· Sunday Lunch was at the Surat Race Course. The celebrations continued with various activities. Vendors were available for people to purchase their lunch, snacks and drinks. Other vendors were also there to sell various bits and pieces of interest.
· Surat boasts its very own Cobb & Co Store Museum, and people will be encouraged to stroll through the museum and view the memorabilia, stories and artifacts on display there.
Participants were encouraged to dress in period costume and there were prizes awarded for different categories, such as youngest rider, oldest rider, best team, best costume etc.
. There was a Camp Oven Dinner and festivities at ‘Bailbilla’ which was open to everyone and entry to ‘Bainbilla’ was free. The Dinner was delicious and cooked by Scott Richardson.