The Princess Royal visits the National Railway Museum in York
- Credit: Archant
Painstaking conservation work has a royal viewing.
The Princess Royal visited the National Railway Museum in York to see the completed restoration of Queen Victoria’s royal saloon carriage - 150 years after it was first built. She was met by museum director Judith McNicol and Dame Mary Archer, chair of the Science Museum Group before beginning a private tour of the museum’s Station Hall.
‘I am honoured to welcome Princess Anne to the National Railway Museum which was opened by her father in 1975, to showcase the range of fascinating objects in the collection as well as the skill and dedication of my colleagues,’ said Ms McNicol. ‘This is the first time the carriage exterior has been restored since it joined the collection, and the conservation team has had to proceed with the utmost care to preserve this unique item for future generations.
‘Everything has been completed by hand using a mix of traditional and modern skills and materials and the finished result is a real achievement of which I’m sure Queen Victoria herself would have approved.’
The visit began with a personal viewing of the museum’s latest exhibition, Testing, before Princess Anne met children from York High School and viewed Terrance Cuneo’s 1967 painting of Waterloo Station. She then viewed the museum’s collection of six royal carriages which included one previously used by Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother in which the princess would have travelled as a child.
The tour ended with a chance to see the completed restoration of Queen Victoria’s royal saloon and to speak to the conservation team who carried out the work. The Princess dedicated a plaque to mark the completion of the project, which is the most extensive external refurbishment of the carriage in 50 years.
Built by the London and North Western Railway (LNWR) in 1869 for Queen Victoria, the saloon is one of the most lavishly decorated royal carriages to survive and is a favourite with visitors from around the world.
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The carriage originally cost £1,800 and was the first to feature onboard comforts such as lavatories and electric lighting. It remains the most luxurious royal carriage in the collection and features ornate decorative moulding finished with gold leaf and is furnished with rare tropical hardwoods and fine silk.
The carriage would have been used by Queen Victoria to travel to her estate at Balmoral and was one of several royal saloons built by rival railway companies to compete for her patronage.
During the project, four members of the museum’s conservation team spent more than 2,000 hours stripping layers of yellowing varnish and peeling paint, before restoring the carriage to its former glory. The team applied more than 1,500 individual sheets of 23 ¾ carat gold leaf by hand, replaced pieces of damaged frieze and repainted in the original colours of Carmine Lake and Flake White, before coating the carriage exterior with a synthetic UV-resistant varnish.
The project was completed on site in Station Hall to give the public the chance to see conservation work taking place.
The National Railway Museum has six royal carriages on display in Station Hall, ranging from Queen Adelaide’s carriage – the oldest in the collection dating from the 1840s, to carriages used by King Edward VII, Queen Elizabeth II and Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother.
For more information on the royal carriages, visit railwaymuseum.org.uk/ whats-on/royal-carriages