Scottish Railway Preservation Society Collections pages

Great North of Scotland Railway Royal Saloon

Great North of Scotland Railway Royal Saloon
GNSR Saloon No.1 General Arrangement Drawing, 1897.
Reproduced with permission of the Great North of Scotland Railway Association

Core Collection. Acquired 1965. On display in Museum Hall 2. GNSR livery.
Built 1897, GNSR Kittybrewster Works, Aberdeen.

King Edward VII's Saloon from the Great North of Scotland Railway (GNSR) was the only Royal carriage made by or for a Scottish railway company, and is arguably the highest quality Scottish-built railway carriage to survive. The use of bogies offered a smoother ride and also enabled a long body.

The carriage was built as Saloon Carriage No.1, for private hire to shooting parties and others. Until Edward VII became King in 1901, the Scottish railway companies did not need Royal Trains - Royal journeys to and from Scotland started or ended in England, and normally used the Royal Train owned by the London & North Western Railway. However, the new King was expected to wish to make journeys around Scotland while on holiday at Balmoral, and it would not have been practical for the GNSR to borrow a Royal Train from several hundred miles away each time. As a result Saloon No.1 was sent back to the works for a rebuild, and re-emerged as a Royal Saloon.

Internally, the carriage was finished to the very highest standards, with electric lights and hot water radiators. There was a main saloon, panelled, wallpapered and furnished like a drawing room, and at one end a smaller smoking saloon with dark wood panelling, leather armchairs and a lavatory. The other end of the carriage contained a compartment and lavatory for the Equerries, and half of a standard GNSR third class non-corridor compartment for the Royal attendants. This was fitted with a sink unit and worktop, a small electric tea urn and a single-ring electric cooker. It also contained an electrically-powered boiler for the heating system. Externally, the carriage was finished in the company's standard livery of dark red and cream, lined out in red and yellow, with "No.1" as its running number. It is also unusual in that it has a clerestory roof.

Records exist of several official journeys made by the King and the Royal Family in this carriage, and King George V may have used it early in his reign. In 1924 it was refitted for use as an Inspection Saloon by the company's directors and senior officials, in which guise, renumbered 982002, it was used until the early 1960s. In 1965, it was narrowly saved by the Society from being destroyed for scrap.

This is the oldest bogie coach in the collection, and shows the direction in which carriage design was moving at the end of the 19th Century. Bogie coaches were much larger and heavier than their 4 and 6-wheel predecessors, and locomotive designs had to evolve rapidly to suit.

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