Royalty at its Prime on the Rail Tracks -Fahmida Mehreen
Journey by train is something we much often learn about at a very early age; be it an own experience or something we merely read about, more or less we get accustomed to what it may possibly be like by the time people hit their teens. Nonetheless, the journey by the British Royal Train is one of a kind and cannot be put in the general line. So, how is it different? Let us explore.
Looking back at history, the train was first used by Queen Consort Adelaide i.e., the title given to the wife of King William IV, who rode the caboose from Nottingham to Leeds in 1840. Two years later, Queen Victoria was the first monarch to travel by the train from London to Windsor. There are other accounts which says that it was a 30-minute journey from Slough in Berkshire to Paddington Station in London. It runs in the records that she has written in her diary that it was a ‘delightful and quick’ trip. In 1869, she custom-built a pair of extravagant coaches, which included a salon ornamented in blue silk and 23-carat gold details. It was, however, removed later in the early 1900s and is displayed at the National Railway Museum in York at current times.
The train is reserved for the royals to travel on, more particularly the senior royals, that too by the invitation of the Monarchs. Senior royals include Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall, and the Duke of Edinburgh. In the meantime, the Duchess of Sussex became the youngest royal to accompany the Queen on the royal train as she carried out a day of engagements with the Queen in Cheshire in June 2018. Even though William has traveled on the Royal Train before, this was his first time with his beloved wife. In 1997, when he was just a young boy, he has traveled by the train to Balmoral to his mother’s ancestral home i.e., the home of Princess Diana, in Althorp on the day of her funeral. Furthermore, he traveled with his father on his birthday in 2003 to carry out formalities in north Wales. Amidst many facts, one of the most enthralling particulars is that the Royal Train was used by Prince Charles and Diana, Princess of Wales, as a start off to their honeymoon before boarding on a cruise on the Royal Yacht Britannica through the Greek Islands.
Now, moving on to what the carriages are like on the Royal Train. Provided that it is not just any casual train, extravaganza comes hand in hand with it. The train has nine carriages with multiple bedrooms and attached dressing corners and bathrooms. The dining room can seat 12 people at a time. There is also a study or an office room where the Queen may work at her ease. There are fantastic accommodation facilities for the royal staff and guests who may be accompanying the Queen on the journey. Its regalia is immaculate, being neatly polished in burgundy which is known as Royal Claret and embellished with royal crests with black coach lining and a grey roof. What’s surprising is that the interior is very functional and not just lavish.
The Queen has a 75ft long coach, both air-conditioned and heated. It has a single bed in the bedroom, a sitting room, a dining space and a desk to work on. Additionally, it has a bathroom that contains a full-sized bathtub. There is a similar carriage for the Duke of Edinburgh, but with a kitchen too. Both the carriages are decorated with Scottish landscapes and Victorian prints on the walls.
The train is usually reserved for the most senior royals, with some exceptions. These include the VIPs and corgis. Besides the Queen’s carriage, the other mentionable carriages are the Duke of Edinburgh’s salon including a bedroom and bathroom, the Prince of Wales’s sleeping car with a salon, the Royal Household sleeping car, the Royal Family dining car with kitchen, the Royal Household dining car with kitchen, the royal Household couchette, the diesel generator and the brake van.
In the context of more recent news, a few weeks after her marriage, Megan Markel took a solo trip with the Queen by the Royal Train to Cheshire. Several royal arrangements were performed by Her Majesty and the Duchess of Sussex, which includes the opening of a bridge, visiting a theatre and having a meal with several notable personalities.
Now, as a common man, how close can we go to the Royal Train? Sadly, not much. Often times, critics cite that it is an unnecessary luxury of the Royal family, which tends to hamper regular train schedules. However, there are some supporters who argue that the current arrangement underscores convenience over luxury, and is still often the most practical and secure mode of travel to fit the required schedule and avoid interruption to the community and general people. I, as a person who resides in a Commonwealth country, find some logic on both the stances. It is a closed luxury for the Royal family from which general masses have nothing much to gain. But on the contrary, I also believe that these royalties hold strong evidence from history which would get wiped away if the existence of such royal components is eliminated forever. The rest is up to you to make up your mind whether the British Royal Train is just a matter of waste of resources which should be on the shelves by now, or it is worth knowing more and more about it as it runs down the tracks.