In May 1847, John Croall replaced a withdrawn mail coach service from Edinburgh to Dumfries, via Moffat, with a new coach called ‘Hero’. When the Caledonian Railway reached Beattock in September 1847, Hero collected passengers for the new station that was for a time a terminus.
The railway finally opened through to Glasgow on 15 February 1848; Glasgow and Edinburgh had been linked by rail since 1842. Hero, also known as the Moffat Hero, now began a service from ‘Mrs Cranston’s Hotel’, Moffat, to the Beattock station to meet the 9:50am train from Glasgow and Edinburgh and carry passengers on to Dumfries and returning from Fraser’s King’s Arms Hotel, Dumfries, in time for the 4pm train at Beattock running North. The final mention of this service appeared in ‘The Scotsman’ on 28 November 1849.
Described as a splendid, new, fast, four inside coach, the Moffat Hero, it seems, ran for three seasons as rail travel rapidly rendered redundant hundreds of similar stage coaches. The coach remained in the area, however, as it is next recorded as being resident in the coach house at the Tontine Hotel, Peebles. It was used at the Beltane Festival for many years right into the 1950s when it was swapped for a landau provided by St Cuthbert’s Cooperative Society. St Cuthbert’s then used the Hero for ceremonial work in the City of Edinburgh into the 1970s, when it passed into the care of West Lothian Museums.
The Hero could carry comfortably four ‘insiders’, perhaps with room for two children, but up to ten hardy travellers would ride on the roof. The two large boots and the space between the roof seats would be filled with luggage and no doubt mail and parcels.
The vehicle has survived in remarkably sound condition. The museum plans to rebuild its wheels and to demonstrate it as a rare survivor of ‘four-in-hand’ coaching.