From Stagecoach to the Postauto
6 November 2022
Kaspar Stockalper (1609-1691), the entrepreneur, politician and diplomat from Brig (Canton of Valais), established professional postal services across the Simplon pass.
The museum in the Stockalperschloss pays attention to this activity in the exhibition “Passage Simplon”. His successful (and lucrative) business delivered mail from Milan to Lyon in less than eight days.
The couriers and later the mail coaches drove through the gate of the Ursuline convent, hence the name Simplonstrasse, later changed to Alte Simplonstrasse.
Napoleon ordered the modern road construction over the 2005 metre-high Simplon Pass. Over 5,000 workers completed this work in less than a year. It also marked the beginning of the stagecoach era and later the Postauto.
Eight or ten horses pulled the stagecoach or diligence. The journey from Brig to Domodossola (at the foot of Simplon in Italy) took 12 hours.
The distances were indicated with so-called Distanzsteinen, distance stones. Until 1875 the length was measured in French miles, a legacy of Napoleon. One mile was 4.445 km. From 1875 onwards, it was measured in today’s kilometres.
The stagecoach enjoyed great popularity. Until 1905. In that year, the first car crossed the Simplon. In 1906, the Simplon railway tunnel was completed.
The Postauto replaced the stagecoach after the First World War (see also Swiss Spectator, Period IV, 23 September 2021). The last professional stagecoach on Swiss soil disappeared in 1961 (Avers in Graubünden).
(Source: Stockalper Museum, Brig, www.stockalperstiftung.ch/museum).