Thanks in part to the 10th International Railway Congress taking place in Britain, that year, the LNER Centenary celebrations attracted word- wide attention, in a way that the LMS Liverpool and Manchester Centenary, and the Great Western failed to quite match.
Wednesday 1st July
The LNER was never a prosperous undertaking, but whenever the opportunity offered to promote itself, it did so with superb attention to detail and panache. With the LNER managment structure composed of three divisions, each with a measure of autonomy, the lead in this instance fell to the North Eastern, under Divisional General Manager, George Davidson, who was on their arrival at Darlington Bank Top first LNER officer to be presented to the Duke and Duchess of York (themselves an appropriate choice of Royal Sponsors, given that before her marriage, the Duchess had been Lady Elizabeth Bowes Lyon, with many family connections in the North East). Mr. Davidson accompanied the party by motor car to Faverdale Wagon Works, for a visit to the Exhibition. It should be noted that all these events were timed to the nearest MINUTE! At the works entrance, the party were received by William Whitelaw, Chairman of the LNER, Lord Faringdon, Deputy Chairman and Sir Ralph Wedgwood, Chief General Manager.
After speeches and a brief opening ceremony (at 3-23pm!) their Royal Highnesses viewed the Exhibition from 3.30 pm (Mr. Nigel Gresley, Chief Mechanical Engineer, was on hand to explain some of the exhibits) before departing, again by motor car at 4.15 pm. Five minutes were allowed for leaving the Exhibition to reaching the motor cars at the gate. The Exhibition then opened to the public
Thursday 2nd July.
The highlight of the day, was the procession of 54 locomotives and trains past specially erected grandstands, which lasted from 11-00am until noon. The Royal party was met at the site (10-48am) by Viscount Grey of Fallodon (in a graceful gesture, Mr. Whitelaw had deferred to Grey, as a former Chairman of the North Eastern Railway to act as host on behalf of the LNER). Better remembered as Sir Edward Grey, British Foreign Secretary at the outbreak of the Great War, this was one of the few major public engagements which he undertook in later life, because of increasing blindness. A tragedy for a man whose main interest in retirement had been bird watching.
At 12-01 pm, Viscount Grey presented the Duke with a silver model of “Locomotion” and the Duchess with a silver model of “the historical Stockton and Darlington railway carriage”. Guests departed going their separate ways, including a contingent for events in Stockton. Amongst these was Mr. Harold Macmillan, the local M.P., who would later become a Director of the Great Western Railway, and later still, Prime Minister. The Royal Party left at 3-40pm., with special trains leaving from 4-38pm conveying guests to Faverdale Works, for a banquet chaired by Viscount Grey, starting at 6pm and ending at 10pm.
The booklet lists all the exhibits in the procession, the music played at the various venues, and the multitude of special trains laid on for events on 1st, 2nd July and for the visit of several hundred International Railway Congress Delegates on 3rd July.
As a retired former railwayman, specialising in Public Relations, having been involved in events ranging from the opening of a new Concourse at Leeds City, (since demolished!) through to the inauguration of electric train services from Kings Cross to Leeds, with innumerable station openings, loco and power car namings, Royal Visits, and a major role in “Rail 150”, I can only say that I am full of admiration for what my predecessors achieved.