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When it comes to travel, the royal family hardly lacks options. Although the royal yacht, Britannia, was decommissioned in 1997, they still counted in their group another historic mode of transport – the Royal Train.
Based on the documentary Royal Travel Secrets, which premieres November 15 on PBS at 10 pm. M. ET (sneak peek above) we take a look at the often-secret written history of this royal locomotive.
Although her husband Prince Albert was a big fan of locomotives, Victoria was initially a little more conservative about the idea of the royal train. Only at Albert’s urging did she finally agree, at the age of 23, to her experience, becoming the first-ever train queen when she took a train from Slough to Paddington.
Royal historian Kate Williams explains: « [The royal train] was very important in the Victorian era. ». « She saw that traveling through the country was her duty, while the Kings hadn’t necessarily thought of it before. They were so happy to be seated in their mansions and not really going on a tour. Victoria has a very different attitude, strongly feeling that her job is to travel around Britain as much as possible, so the Royal Train makes it easy for her..
The Queen apparently took comfort, commissioning a special set of train cars for herself in 1869.. Costing £ 700 of her own money (about $ 60,000 today), the cars were painted 23-karat gold and embellished with silk and satin.. Over the years, it was also upgraded with the latest modern technology such as electric lighting in the 1890s, and a toilet on board, which Victoria refused to use, preferring to stop the train for her to take breaks in the bathroom every few hours..
In fact, says Williams, in 1866, a train station was built in the village of Palater so that the Queen could use the train to travel more easily to Balmoral, a longtime favorite royal retreat..
It is understood that information regarding the travels of members of the royal family has historically been carefully protected, and the Royal Train has been no exception for most of its life.. During World War I, King George V, Queen Elizabeth II’s grandfather, used it not only to travel around the country but also as a residence, as he felt it was inconvenient to ask his subjects to arrange accommodations for him during those resource-constrained times, according to By Williams.
Likewise, his son, King George VI, used it to visit areas of the country that had been bombed by the Germans during WWII.. This decision resulted in a major overhaul of the train for security reasons, replacing the wooden cars with white roofs with a 56-tonne armor-coated version full of security measures, including special lockers for storing highly classified documents.. .
The existence of the train was not revealed to the public until after the end of the war, but even today, details of every royal train journey are preserved – even the train employees themselves have not been informed of the royals will travel with them.
To celebrate her Silver Jubilee tour, Her Majesty the Queen received a modern version of the Royal Train. Over the years it has been modernized, including a £ 320,000 refurbishment in the 1980s according to Secrets of Royal Travel, which added protection against machine gun fire, rockets and bombs. In addition to enhancing train safety, the Queen, Prince Philip and Prince Charles all had design inputs, including an unusual touch like the shaving mirror installed next to the toilet for Prince Philip..
In contrast to Queen Victoria’s plush interiors, the current 9 Royal Train Cars are quieter in design. Royal historian David McClure said in the documentary: « Everyone assumes that the Royal Train is very luxurious. It looks a bit like the East Express but is more practical than glowing. ». . But this simple look is as much a part of Queen Elizabeth’s style as the gilding and tassels were in Victoria. « The way the Queen decorates all of her private areas is really practical, » says Williams, « so the fact that the train is not surprising is what she absolutely loves. ».
And like her, the Royal Train clearly remains a favorite of the Queen, who has said it is one of the few places where she can truly relax in the privacy of.
While Queen Victoria refused to eat while on the train (judged to be bad for her digestion), eating on the Royal Train has a long history. King Edward VIII insisted that all the proteins served on the train were hunted or fished from his own property.. Prince Charles is less demanding, requiring only that the products served in the 12-set food cart on the train be locally sourced and served on his porcelain. .
Queen Victoria was not the only Queen to make a history of train plumber. During the reign of George V, the Royal Train was equipped with what appears to be the first bathtub that has been placed on a train. It’s a feature that has stood the test of time, although it’s not always the easiest feature to use.
The bathtub used by Queen Elizabeth’s parents, George VI and Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, features a red line on the inside of it to mark the water level. This measure was popular during WWII rationing to save the fuel used to heat shower water, but on board a train it may have served another purpose – to prevent slipping while the train is in motion. Queen Elizabeth is reported to be taking less drastic action to prevent bathroom spills, simply by pulling the aisle to a stop on a side rail, according to Secrets of Royal Travel..
When it comes to traveling the Royal Train, don’t expect blazing speeds. Queen Victoria has strict restrictions on the speed she will allow the Royal Train to travel – 40 mph during the day, 30 at night.. This may be due to the belief at the time that moving at a very high rate of speed could make a person insane.
While we have long since evolved beyond these beliefs, the modern Royal Train continues to run at a steady pace compared to other passenger trains on the rails – while the fastest trains are in the U. K. The Royal Train usually runs at 200 mph, and the Royal Train leans around 70 mph. In fact, the modern Royal Train has an employee dedicated to directing the fastest trains around them to avoid delays on the tracks.. And while it may not be known for speed, Royal Train employees compensate for it meticulously and are said to pride themselves on consistently arriving within 15 seconds of their expected arrival..
As if the personal transportation of the Royal Family wasn’t exclusive enough, the Royal Train is even more private. Emily Andrews, Royal Commentator for The Sun explains, « The Royal Travel Secrets » is only intended for senior members of the Royal Family.. . “At the moment this is the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall.
While members of the royal family and other guests sometimes share in the rest of the train at the invitation of senior members of the royal family, this is not an honor that is conveyed to many. While there is a possibility that Prince William has rode the train before, Prince Harry and Kate Middleton have never rode the train.. . On the other hand, Queen Megan invited Markle to join her on the rails for the royal participation in Cheshire in 2018.
Train travel might be more old-fashion than flying, but that doesn’t mean it’s cheaper. In fact, according to Secrets of Royal Travel, a ride on the Royal Train is about four times more expensive than flying by plane, costing around £ 52 per mile, compared to £ 12 by air.. The expenses have sometimes raised some controversy because, like all official trips of the royal family, the royal train’s costs are paid for by the Sovereign Grant, a taxpayer-funded grant given to the Queen every year to cover the official expenses of the monarchy.. .
Given that it was the government’s decision not to fund future Royal Yachts that shut down Britannia, some have questioned whether the days of the Royal Train were numbered. However, the royal family consistently insisted that the train was an integral part of royal life and the fulfillment of their duties.
Queen Elizabeth II, the British Royal Family
World News – California – Secret History of the Royal Train
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