By John Shroyer
The San Francisco and San Jose Railroad linked its two namesake cities in 1864, but stagecoaches still predominated on the routes to communities west of El Camino Real. Stagecoach operator Simon Knight owned the first cross-Peninsula stage line; his son, Walter, and another local man named John Poole were the drivers. Knight’s largest stagecoaches could carry as many as 17 passengers. The stages ran from Redwood City to Searsville, La Honda, San Gregorio and Pescadero. The business office of the Knight Stage Coach Co. was situated in the American House Hotel, on Main Street in Redwood City.
The trip from Redwood City to Pescadero could take up to eight hours, owing to frequent stops at hotels and roadhouses along the way for the drivers to imbibe, rest and water their horses. The waiting passengers often griped that the drivers drank more than the animals.
The end of horse-drawn stagecoaches came in 1910 with the emergence of the “horseless carriage,” then known as an “open-air coach.”
Walter Knight, who had taken over the stage line, immediately purchased a large auto that carried up to 20 people, including the driver. But roads still had not been improved, which made the ride just as long and precarious as it had been by stagecoach.