Logistics of Establishing a Pony Express

“But the logistics of a mail relay stretching 1,966 miles from the Missouri River to Sacramento was so daunting that only an incurable dreamer like Russell would have considered implementing it. . . . The stage line currently maintained stations at 20- to 30-mile intervals where animals could be changed or rested; ponies racing at breakneck speed would need changing every ten miles or less. And west of Salt Lake City, Russell’s stage line had no operations at all.

All told, dozens of new stations would be required between the Missouri River and Sacramento. In the absence of forests, lumber to build the stations and corrals would have to be hauled great distances. Hundreds of high-quality ponies, capable of outrunning the Indians’ swift ponies, would need to be purchased, probably at three or four times the cost of ordinary range-bred horses. And a new breed of employee—young, skinny riders—would need to be hired and trained.

The enterprise would likely cost Russell, Majors & Waddell more than half a million dollars—for a mail service that was likely to be superseded by the telegraph and the railroads within a few years.”