About the object
Queen Victoria was the first British monarch to travel by rail from Slough to Paddington in 1842. She was “charmed” by the “delightful” experience. What adventure did you love or would like to have?
Slough Museum’s Victorian Slough Pod is on the second floor of The Curve. The Pod tells how Queen Victoria was the first British monarch to travel by train from Slough Train Station in 1842. She journeyed to Paddington Station in London – but did she find and look after the namesake bear?
Queen Victoria was the first British monarch ever to travel by train. The first railway line in Britain had been opened in 1830, between the cities of Liverpool and Manchester, when Victoria was 11 years old. Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg, loved new inventions, and persuaded her to try this new form of transport.
On June 13, in 1842, the 23-year-old queen and her family took a horse-drawn carriage from Windsor Castle to Slough railway station, four miles away. There they boarded the royal saloon carriage, specially designed like a grand home. It had a padded silk ceiling, blue velvet sofas, matching silk curtains, fringed lampshades, fine mahogany wooden tables and thick carpets. The Times described it: “the fittings are upon a most elegant and magnificent scale, tastefully improved by bouquets of rare flowers arranged within the carriage.”
The train was pulled by a locomotive engine powered by coal and steam, and took only 25 minutes to reach Paddington Station in West London. (Today the fastest journey from Slough to Paddington takes 14 minutes.) The engine was called Phlegethon of the Fire Fly class and had been built in 1840. A replica of the original Fire Fly is now at Didcot Railway Centre in Oxfordshire, just up the Great Western Line from Slough.
On the footplate was Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the famous engineer who had designed Paddington station, the railway line from London to Slough and the world’s first iron ship to cross the Atlantic Ocean the SS Great Britain. The young queen wrote to her uncle, King Leopold of Belgium, that she was ‘quite charmed by this new way of travelling’. However, the Queen worried that the normal speed of 43 miles per hour would affect her health, so she insisted that her trains never went more than 30 miles per hour. Later a signal was fitted to the roof of the royal saloon in case the Queen wanted to tell the train driver to slow down.
The next day The Times newspaper reported: “Yesterday Her Majesty the Queen, for the first time, returned from her sojourn at Windsor Castle, accompanied by her illustrious consort, Prince Albert, Count Mensdorf, &c.by way of the Great Western Railway. The intention of Her Majesty to return to town by railroad was first intimated to the authorities at Paddington on Saturday afternoon, and in consequence preparations on an extensive scale were ordered to be made for the transit of the Royal pair from Slough to the Paddington terminus, which were carried into effect with the greatest secrecy.”
As part of our Make With the Museum series at The Curve Club you can create a bear who shares his name with the train station UK royalty first travelled to from Slough.