Working on the Royal Train

by Ralph Orchard

Royal train

I went to work at FHQ Park Royal in June 1977 after being on the London Underground for 7 years. I was very proud a privileged to do a couple of journeys on the Royal train in that year as it was Silver Jubilee year.

My very first trip was with Sergeant Alan Palmer (Percy to most) we had to take the Queen Mother to Dalmeny Station which is just short of the Forth Bridge. The journey up was uneventful. Although after Percy had shown me how to set up the radio and how to make calls to the Home Office Forces that we were travelling through, I had to go to bed and he would call me at 03.00 hours to change over duties.

When I awoke at 08.00 hours I said to Percy “I thought you were going to call me at 3”. He said “I did and 03.30 and 04.00 and 04.30 and 05.00 but you were sleeping so soundly I decided to leave you there”.

We dropped the Queen Mother off at Dalmeny where she was attending the local Highland Games. We went across the Forth Bridge which was an experience on its own because, there were big windows at the back of the train looking along the track so the bridge came into view in a whole new perspective and as I had never been that far north by train by train before. It was a wonderful view.

On her return to the train we went to some remote sidings where we stopped whilst she had her evening meal. A few of us got off the train and stood by the engine. We heard that the Queen Mother wanted steps to get off the train for a walk, the train staff went off to do what they needed to.  Most of us remained at the front of the engine. After a short time we heard a voice say “Good evening gentlemen is everything all right?”, it was the Queen Mother and her detective having a short walk. I can’t remember all that was said but she stood chatting for a good ten minutes. Then she said that she was going back to the train so her detective stayed with us chatting.

Suddenly her detective said “Oh b****r” and went running off. We could see the Queen Mother was walking towards some isolated houses. When the detective returned we asked what the panic was. He said “She could have knocked on one of those doors and asked to use the phone to phone the Palace”. Could you imagine answering your front door to be met by a very elegant lady who asks to use your telephone? You would have thought it was a stunt by you’ve been framed Jeremy Beadle.


Extract from the February 2012 edition of History Lines (No. 30)