Thursday, June 9, 2011

June 13, 1842 --- A Royal First

At 23, the young Queen takes her first train ride. Some years earlier, at her first glimpse of the huffing and puffing iron machine, she complained of the smoke and noise and noted, "It is a curious thing indeed." For her first ride, she's accompanied by Prince Albert, who's been on the rails before, albeit nervously; reportedly, he once grumbled, "Very nice, Mr. Engineer, a little slower next time."

The Great Western Railway, designed by the legendary I.K. Brunel, had linked Bristol with London Paddington in June of 1841. The line, however, bypassed Windsor, in part, due to concerns that the noise and smoke might disturb those at the Castle. In addition, the headmaster at nearby Eton had fought the railway on moral grounds, claiming it "must be to the greatest degree injurious" to both health and discipline at the school.

To return from Windsor to Buckingham Palace, Victoria and Albert must travel by carriage to the G.W. Railway's station at Slough to catch the Royal special to Paddington. One correspondent noted that "preparations on an extensive scale were ordered to be made for the transit of the Royal pair ... which were carried into effect with the greatest secrecy." Precisely at noon, the Phlegethon engine rolls eastward pulling the magnificent Royal saloon car, "tastefully improved with bouquets of rare flowers." At Paddington, they are greeted by directors of the railway, accompanied by "large numbers of elegantly dressed ladies," apparently their wives. The Illustrated London News described the Queen's arrival: "Precisely at 12:25, the royal special train entered the Paddington terminus, having performed the distance in twenty-five minutes, and on her Majesty alighting she was received with the most deafening demonstrations of loyalty and affection we have ever experienced."

With military escort, the Queen arrived at the Palace shortly before one o'clock. In a letter to her uncle, Leopold, King of the Belgians, she declared herself well pleased: "In half-an-hour, free from dust and crowd and heat, and I am quite charmed with it."

1843 Illustration of the Phlegethon Engine & Royal Carriage from

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