Travelling in Royal Style

On 4 October 2017 at the Spoorwegmuseum (Railway Museum) in Utrecht, The Netherlands, the exhibition “Vorstelijk Reizen” (Travelling in Royal Style) opened its doors. It is not clear to me how long it will be there, although some places say 2025. Pieces from the collection of the museum show the long history of royals travelling by train. The museum among others owns three royal railway carriages and a royal waiting room. To relive the history there are audio fragments so you can hear the staff of the train speak. Actors play royal persons. In the waiting room you go back to 1914, when in May King Christian X of Denmark paid a state visit to Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands. You understand the exhibition is somewhere on my to do list for 2018.

In the past, when travelling by airplane wasn’t existing or not yet common, the royals travelled a lot already and therefore used their own railway carriages. The first Dutch railway track between Amsterdam and Haarlem was opened in September 1839. The Dutch royals very soon discovered the advantages of the quickly expanding railroad lines. They used the train for visits in the country, state visits or holidays. At first they travelled in existing first class cars, but in 1848 the first royal railway carriage was built. Queen Anna Pavlovna got her own carriage in 1864, but already died in 1865 without ever having used it. Her brother-in-law Prince Frederik however loved using it. Unfortunately in 1905 the carriage was demolished. A replica was built in 2010 and is now shown in Utrecht.

Queen Wilhelmina in 1903 received a new royal train: two cars, a baggage car and a kitchen car. They were used until 1940. As off January 1948 Wilhelmina had her own royal train again, including a car for luggage. They were not used for a long time. Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands and his four daughters had a new car in 1953, Queen Juliana got hers in 1955. All were somewhat older cars refurbished for the occasion and were used until 1993.

You might be surprised, but the Dutch royal family still has its own railway car. Queen Beatrix in 1993 had new cars, the old ones went to the Spoorwegmuseum. Therefore an existing Intercity car was rebuilt. It has two bedrooms with two beds and a desk, a big saloon with tables, chairs and a sofa. Furthermore there is a kitchen and a small bedroom for staff and for certain visits. Queen Beatrix sometimes used the train on Queen’s Day. In 2010 she unexpectedly needed to use it, when an exhibition including the train had just been opened. Together with then Prince Willem-Alexander and Princess Máxima she travelled to Copenhagen for the 70th birthday of Queen Margrethe II. Because of a volcano eruption in Iceland travelling by plane was not possible.

The train has been extended with two first-class cars in 2012, which are only for use inside the Netherlands. The train also has WiFi since a while. In Februar 2013 Willem-Alexander, Máxima and their three daughters used the train to travel to Lech for their yearly skiing holidays. In 2017 they used the train on King’s Day to travel to Tilburg. Normally the royal cars are connected to a regular train.

Most of the old royal railway carriages do not longer exist, but some of them are still there, and if you go to a railway museum, you might be lucky and find a “palace on wheels” there. The Spoorwegmuseum in 2010 had a huge exhibition with royal trains, called “Royal Class”. A few railway stations in the Netherlands still have a royal waiting room. The one from The Hague SS can now be seen in the Spoorwegmuseum. Still existing are the once of Amsterdam Central, Baarn and The Hague HS. All three have been restored and are in the possession of the Nederlandse Spoorwegen (Dutch Railways). The one in Apeldoorn was demolished in 1976, the one in Vlissingen Harbour badly damaged and demolished in 1944.

Openingsvideo by the museum:

Another, longer video by RTV Utrecht:

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