How big was the Leviathan ‘Monster coach’?

Written by Jeff Powell, Cobb+Co Museum

This lithograph illustration of the coach by H Deutsch may be a fairly accurate image of the ‘Leviathan,’ matching the description in The Argus, although the people seem a little too small. (Image courtesy State Library of Victoria)

Contemporary newspapers which are now accessible via the TROVE website may help clear up the confusion. Regarding when it first operated The Star, Ballarat, in surprisingly low-key announcement stated,

Cobb & Co’s ”Leviathan” will start for Geelong on Saturday morning at 11 O’clock a.m. The above was built by J.D.  Morgan, of the Township.

The Star 30 Dec 1859: page 3

Melbourne’s Argus newspaper related that coachbuilder J.D. Morgan took nine weeks to build the ‘Leviathan’ in his Ballarat workshops.  The coach cost Cobb & Co the very large sum of £375. It had five rows of seats inside and seven ‘outside’ on the roof. Each upholstered bench seat was capable of accommodating five people, making the total of 60 passengers. However it seems likely that for short trips and special occasions many more would cram on. The coach was described as looking top heavy, but wider than normal axles were used to provide stability. The Argus provided quite comprehensive dimensions for the ‘monster’ coach.

The width of the axles is 6 feet 10 inches, and there is a distance of 12 feet from axle to axle. The length of the coach from “stem to stern,” not including the bowsprit or pole of 10 feet 11 inches, is 17 feet 9 inches, and the height from the ground to the top seat 11 feet 3 inches, and the diameter of the wheels being 5 feet 7 inches and 4 feet respectively. The weight of the monster is computed at a ton and a half…

The Argus 5 Jan 1860: page 7

(Axle – 2083mm; axle to axle – 3658mm; pole – 3328mm; body length – 5410mm; height 3430mm; wheels 1702 and 1220mm.; weight – 1.524 tonnes.)

The ‘Leviathan’ was elaborately painted with side panels featuring an American eagle and the Stars and Stripes to indicate the nationality of both the builder and its Cobb & Co owners, as well as the Prince of Wales Plume, a woman carry a vase and another about to spear a lion!

The Star states that the ‘Big Coach’ was harnessed to 16 horses when it made its debut outside the Cobb & Co office next to Bath’s Hotel, but eight were taken off for the trip to Copenhagen Grounds where a ‘Mr Smith of Red Hill Photographic Room took a splendid photo of the mammoth coach.’ Sadly the photo which could have answered so many questions has disappeared (3 Jan 1860: page 2.)

A photograph of the ‘Leviathan’ does exist, but it is a little too far away to get a good view. Cabbage Tree Ned Devine was the driver when the All-England Cricket team visited Geelong in 1862.
“Cobb & Co’s Leviathan coach drawn by twelve
splendid greys and driven by a famous whip, conveyed
them and their friends to Gosling’s British Hotel,
where they reside during their sojourn.”
Geelong Advertiser 21 Jan 1862: page 2