Inside the Stagecoach
July 1, 2014

Stroke doesn’t stop Missouri man from building a model stagecoach

Despite having suffered a stroke, a mortgage customer honors Wells Fargo’s legacy by building a model stagecoach from scratch.

Harlan Diehl looked up from his coffee one morning at the Wells Fargo calendar hanging on his kitchen wall and immediately knew what his next project would be: building a model stagecoach from scratch.

Says Delores, “There’s never a dull moment around here.”

And why not, thought the 83-year-old? He’d been woodworking since he was a kid, built two houses, and had a long career as a handyman for the Springfield, Mo., Housing Authority.

Using clamps in place of the left arm he couldn’t use anymore after a 2002 stroke, Harlan worked on the stagecoach a few hours each morning in his workshop for eight months straight.

“I watch a lot of Westerns that have the stagecoach in them and love the Wells Fargo stagecoach images on the calendars we get as Wells Fargo mortgage customers,” he says. “I kind of put the two together and started making my stagecoach.”

Once Harlan completed his project, he and his wife, Delores, showed it to friends at the Chesterfield Family Center where they do hydrotherapy and other exercise. And then, Delores sent a letter and several photos of the stagecoach replica to Wells Fargo Home Mortgage in Des Moines, Iowa.

“Once Harlan gets an idea, he goes with it, and I was so impressed with his stagecoach,” Delores says. “I’m really proud to show it off and wanted Wells Fargo to see that.

“Harlan has always done woodworking and when he had his stroke, instead of giving in to his handicap, he found ways to continue with what he enjoyed.”

Harlan built the stagecoach from the calendar photo he liked best (March 2012 edition) and went online to see images of a stagecoach undercarriage and other details to guide his work. “I tried to make it just like the picture and used a scale of 1 inch per foot.”

He fashioned the stagecoach body from mahogany and the trim from cedar; the axles are a combination of oak and mahogany. Among the model’s details are upholstered seats, windows shades, and a treasure box filled with gold-painted wood bars. Harlan topped it all off with a Wells Fargo red-and-yellow-paint scheme complete with the company name over the doors.

“I put it on the coffee table first and Delores said, ‘No, it’s too big,’ ” Harlan says with a chuckle. “I made a special wooden box for it and it’s sitting out in my garage. It’s too big for the fireplace mantle, too.”

Harlan has no plans to stop building. He’s already cleared a space in his workshop for the next project — a steam engine — amid the birdhouses and birdfeeders, tables, stools, and canes in varying degrees of progress.