Severn Valley Railway unveils The King's Royal Saloon
The release of a recent ‘blockbuster’ film has raised public interest in H.M. King George VI and the role he played in the defeat of Hitler. The film, which featured Colin Firth, received 7 BAFTA’s and 4 OSCAR’s and is the highest grossing British film ever. Visitors to the Severn Valley Railway now have the opportunity to visit the armoured ‘Royal Saloon’ built to protect the King.
In the darkest days of World War II, Britain faced an uncertain future. The safety of the sovereign, H.M. King George VI, was paramount. As leader of the Country, he needed to travel throughout Britain to maintain morale and help to build resistance against the threat from Nazi Germany. Railway engineers were tasked with providing the King with a secure means of transport – their solution was to build an ‘armoured’ carriage.
H.M. King George VI’s Royal Saloon No.798 was built in 1941 by the London Midland and Scottish Railway at their Wolverton Carriage Workshops in Buckinghamshire. The coach incorporated substantial protection against bomb attacks and other enemy action. This took the form of a strong steel welded framework fitted with an armour plated steel roof and side panelling. The windows were fitted with armour plated shuttering. As a result of the added protection, the coach and its sister vehicle, built for H.M. Queen Elizabeth (later the Queen Mother), were the heaviest railway carriages to run in Britain, weighing 56 tons apiece. They were also exceptionally long, at almost 70 feet.
After the death of King George in 1952, the coach was used by H.R.H. Prince Philip and was used as part of the royal train until new saloons were introduced to commemorate the Queen’s Silver Jubilee in 1977. The coach was then presented to the National Railway Museum and exhibited at the Glasgow Museum of Transport until being moved to the Engine House at Highley in 2010.
This special Royal Saloon is now proudly displayed to visitors at the Severn Valley Railway’s ‘Engine House.’ From April, visitors at weekends will have the opportunity to take a guided tour through the carriage for a nominal fee, hosted by volunteer guides who have researched the history of the vehicle.
Trains to the Engine House will be running from Kidderminster and Bridgnorth at weekends from Saturday 26th March, over the Easter holidays and throughout the summer.