On Wednesday, Meghan Markle becomes the first of the younger generation of royals to score a ride on the royal train for an official outing with Queen Elizabeth.
The train has been called an exclusive “palace on wheels,” but when Meghan, 36, steps aboard tonight for her journey to Cheshire alongside the Queen, she will find it very different from the castles and palaces she has already experienced in her short time as a royal.
Although it doesn’t have quite the same degree of luxury, the train is preferred by the Queen, 92, and other senior royals because it is a home-away-from-home — complete with an office, sleeping quarters and dining areas.
The nine burgundy carriages currently in use date from the Queen’s Silver Jubilee of 1977. Those carriages replaced others that first came into service in 1941.
The carriages provide accommodation for the royal household staff, railway staff and police personal protection officers. There is space for communication equipment and its own electric supply, author Brian Hoey writes in At Home With the Queen.
The Queen’s saloon is a 75-ft. long carriage divided into a formal entrance hall, a sitting room, bedroom and bathroom with a full-sized bath. Adjoining her area are bathroom facilities for the Queen’s dresser and a second lobby.
The personal area is decorated in pastel shades with a pale blue sofa. When Prince Philip, 97, traveled with his wife before retiring from public duties, he also had a large private quarters, including a 10-seat table for him to hold meetings.
The train ride — which departs tonight from London — will give Elizabeth and the new Duchess of Sussex ample bonding time.
“The train seems to be the one place where, when away from home, the Queen and her family can truly relax out of the public gaze,” Hoey writes. “It may not have quite the same romantic images as when Queen Victoria rolled in majestic style from Windsor to Balmoral, insisting that the driver never exceeded 30 miles an hour, but there remains some of the glamour of bygone days.”
“When jet travel has in most cases reduced the longest journeys to a single day, Prince Charles says he gains a lot of pleasure just looking out of the window at the countryside of Britain passing by.”
Elizabeth’s great-great grandmother, Queen Victoria, first rode a train in 1842 — aboard a special carriage built for her and her family by the Great Western Railway Company in 1840. (Last year, the Queen re-enacted Victoria’s first train ride on the 175th anniversary of that journey.)