Queen Victoria’s railway carriage of 1843

The carriage constructed for her Majesty’s use, by the directors of the London and Birmingham Railway Company, is of a very superior description; and the elegance and convenience combined in the design have scarcely a parallel in the records of coach-building. The following are the details from the Morning Chronicle:

Queen Victoria's Royal carriage, 1843, London & Birmingham Railway
Queen Victoria’s Royal train, 1844, London & Birmingham Railway (Image: Illustrated London News, 1843 | Public Domain – Google Books)

The carriage itself is of an oblong shape, the dimensions being about 13 feet by 7 feet, thus forming a handsome saloon, nearly 8 feet high in the clear. The finest mahogany has been used in its construction; and the body of the carriage is double panelled throughout, and stuffed with felt, in order to lessen the vibration and increase warmth. The carriage is divided externally into three compartments, formed by the door and panels on either side. The body rests upon a bed of the finest ash, a coating of India rubber? three-quarters of an inch in thickness, being placed between, which has the effect of almost destroying the vibration generally attendant on railway carriages. At either end of the state saloon, and entirely unconnected with it, are small compartments, for each a guard, who has the control of a powerful argand lamp, which, on passing through the tunnels along the line, reflects a strong light through a ground-glass of globular form inserted in the panelling. The roof of the carriage projects six inches over the body, and rises in the form of a dome towards the centre, where a ventilating apparatus is fixed, surmounted by a colossal gilt crown, which gives a striking finish to the exterior design. A newly-invented spring has been adopted, one peculiarity attached to it being the insertion of a thin hoop of steel within a leathern belt, which has the effect of increasing the power of tension in a very remarkable degree, and rendering the motion of the carriage perfectly easy. The wheels are of the best construction, having wooden felloes six inches deep, with strong iron centre-pieces, and the inconvenience arising from sudden concussion has been guarded against so far as possible by the finest description of buffer springs. The carriage is painted dark lake (the Queen’s colour) relieved with scarlet and gold; the upper quarterings having a broad border of French white round the plate glass windows in either panel. These windows are three feet six inches wide, by two feet six inches high, and have a gilt beading round the exterior, with small gold ornaments at each corner. The lower quarterings are ornamented with the heraldic devices of the royal family. The Queen’s coat of arms is emblazoned on the door panel, and the insignia of the Order of the Garter occupy the centre of each side panel. The entrance is made by folding steps with four treads, covered with morocco.

Queen Victoria's Royal train, 1844, London & Birmingham Railway
Queen Victoria’s Royal train, 1844, London & Birmingham Railway (Image: Illustrated London News, 1843 | Public Domain – Google Books)

“The interior of the carriage is lined throughout with delicate blue satin, wadded and tufted, and the angles finished with broad fluted pilaster of the same elegant material. The hangings of the windows are light elegant draperies of blue and white satin, tastefully finished with fringe. The cornices are of satinwood, lightly and exquisitely carved, and slightly relieved with gold. One extremity of the saloon is occupied by an ottoman, finished in satin, en suite with the curtains. There are also two chairs finished in the same material, the satinwood frames of which are beautifully carved in the Louis Quatorze style1. Two console tables and two encoigneurs in the same taste complete the furniture, with the exception of the carpet, which is Axminster, of suitable design, and the rich tones of which contrast advantageously with the delicate effect of the other furniture: in the centre of the design are the Royal Arms. It should also be mentioned that by an ingenious arrangement of an elegant curtain, the saloon can be divided into two compartments at pleasure.

“The inconvenience arising from cold in the most carefully constructed railway carriage, where a long journey has to be performed in the winter season, suggested to the directors the necessity of fixing a warming apparatus in the bed of the carriage, and Mr. Perkins, the inventor of the steam gun, has accordingly fitted a very ingenious apparatus for the purpose of heating the carriage which may be thus briefly described: a coil of pipe placed near the hinder axle-tree, and supplied with water from a small cistern in the bed of the carriage, is kept heated by means of a lamp with four burners. This pipe is continued round the carriage between the flooring; and the water becoming hot, the heat is communicated through a small brass grating in the floor the temperature of the carriage being regulated by the ventilator above alluded to.

“The carriage has been built under the superintendence of Mr. Wright, the chief of the company’s carriage department; and the interior has been fitted up by Messrs. Gillow, the eminent upholsterers of Oxford-street.

“Throughout Monday, the secretary’s office was thronged by ladies and gentlemen, anxious to inspect the carriage and through the obliging attention of Mr. Creed, and Mr. Long, his assistant secretary, many hundreds were permitted to do so.”

Illustrated London News, 2 December 1843

© 2021, Graham Ward. All rights reserved.

  1. Lois XIV Style
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