In the summer of 1982, I had a phone call from my old friend George Hinchcliffe, of Flying Scotsman Enterprises and Steamtown at Carnforth. We had worked together on many facility packages for film and TV companies, where George provided locos and rolling stock, and BR Eastern Region provided locations, to the financial benefit of both organisations.
“Last time we had a drink together, Young Man (for some reason, although pushing 40 I was always “Young Man” to George) did you not tell me that your favorite GWR loco was the Dean Bogie Single?”
“Well I am building one”.
“What, in 0 gauge?” (He was a noted model maker).
“No, 12 inch to the foot scale!”
(There is a thud as my jaw hits the desk)
“You are pulling my xxxxxx!
“No. it is a special job for Tussauds. Come over and see in two or three weeks, we should be fitting the boiler shell”.
Thus it was that accompanied by Eastern Region photographer Robert Anderson, I turned up at Steamtown, for what I can only describe now as a “Jurassic Park” moment …
The Queen as she was to be called had reached the stage shown in the top left photo on page 30. George can be seen, hands clasped behind him, with his back to the camera. Sadly, she was not to be a working replica – the days of “Tornado”, “The Unknown Warrior” , “Cock O´ The North” and other new working steam locomotives lay far in the future .
The Queen apart from carrying wheels was largely scratch built and was combined with an ex-South Eastern and Chatham Railway tender disguised with fittings from a GWR tender. The locomotive’s bogie and rear wheels were also from another GWR tender, but the large driving wheels were only half complete (the lower half) and they did not sit directly on the rails. This allowed the locomotive to be rolled into position when the exhibition was built. The replica was completed in December 1982 and delivered to Windsor by road in January 1983.
The original Windsor GWR station building, on a difficult site, was little more than a glorified train shed. This was completely rebuilt by the GWR for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, with a much grander frontage and an interior reminiscent of Paddington. Two island platforms and a bay on the south side were provided In 1982/3 British Rail and Madame Tussauds restored the station, creating an exhibition called Royalty and Railways, later renamed Royalty and Empire. The exhibition recalled the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1897, using displays of wax models and an audio-visual show featuring Audio-Anamatronic figures of a type developed by Disney at Epcott.
After entering the exhibition via the ticket office, visitors entered scene on the platform depicting the arrival of the Royal Train, complete with figures of station staff and a full size replica train – The Queen and two carriages. Directly behind the loco was No. 229, a replica coach mounted on an ex-British Railways BG Full Brake underframe and containing waxwork figures of various members of the Royal Family. The second coach was the original Royal Day Saloon No. 9002 that was rescued and restored for the exhibition from a cliff top in Wales, where it had been converted into a holiday bungalow
On leaving the platform, visitors could see the restored royal waiting room with figures of Queen Victoria and the Prince and Princess of Wales, before entering ‘The Royal Parade’ area. A walkway was constructed up and around the canopy, allowing visitors to view figures of the royal party exiting the waiting room and the queen boarding her Ascot landau. Over seventy wax figures of 2nd Battalion Coldstream Guards formed part of this scene. I visited the exhibition on three separate occasions in different years during the holiday season, each time I was the sole visitor, so had the full benefit of the experience without modern distractions.. Approaching the Parade area, one heard the Guards present arms, then walking out onto the gallery, the only sound was the jingling of horse harness, as the beasts fretted to be off The overall effect was stunning. For a few moments I was back in 1897, and surprised by the immobility of the Royal Party… The train was equally impressive, but in a rather cramped situation, so it was difficult to see all the elements at once.
The last part of the exhibit was the ‘Sixty Glorious Years’ audio-visual show, which was frankly cheap looking, using clunky multiple slide projectors, the only technology available at the time. The screen then sank to reveal unconvincing, rather creepy moving animatronic figures of some of the great personalities of the Victorian age, including Queen Victoria herself.
As can be guessed from my experience of finding the place deserted, the exhibition was not a financial success, closed in the 1990s and almost all of the exhibits were taken away. The locomotive The Queen was too expensive to remove, so, rather than being cut up, it was incorporated as a feature of a restaurant on the concourse. She was still there shorn of her tender the last time I visited Windsor in 2006, and I could have shed a tear at the state this beautiful (if fake) machine was in,, with flaking paintwork, dull brass and copper, bits missing and litter on the footplate.
The Royal Waiting Room is part of a restaurant on the concourse.
PREVIEW BELOW – MAY TAKE A WHILE TO LOAD.