Chris Jackson/Getty
Simon Perry
September 09, 2015 11:50 AM

On the day she became the longest-reigning monarch in British history, passing the record of her great-great grandmother Queen Victoria, Queen Elizabeth was characteristically steadfast.

Speaking briefly at a podium in Scotland where she was opening a new railway line on Wednesday, the 89-year-old monarch said she and her husband Prince Philip, 94, were grateful for the warm welcome.

“Many . . . have also kindly noted another significance attaching to today, although it is not one to which I have ever aspired,” said the Queen, who wore a stylish tribute to her forebear. Pinned to her turquoise Karl Ludwig coat was a bow brooch – a historic accessory passed to her from Queen Mary, who had received it from Victoria. Her matching hat was by her longtime in-house designer and dressmaker Angela Kelly.

“Inevitably, a long life can pass by many milestones; my own is no exception,” she continued. “But I thank you all, and the many others at home and overseas, for your touching messages of great kindness.”

Later on Wednesday, she will pass the 63 years and 216 days record of Victoria.

Accompanied by Prince Philip, her partner of 68 years, she was welcomed off the train by the Royal Company of Archers following a 30-mile ride from Edinburgh to Tweedbank.

The morning, which began with the unveiling of a new portrait of Her Majesty, started a little late as fog delayed her helicopter from Balmoral Castle.

She was officially opening the $500 million rail line, Border Railway – the longest new line to be built in the U.K. in 100 years. But the day was really about her longevity on the throne.

Her Pegasus Pullman royal carriage aboard the train was decked out with white tablecloths and white flowers on the tables, and each passenger in the royal carriage was given a bag of flapjacks to eat during the journey.

Several thousand well wishers gathered to welcome her in Tweedbank. “I’m here to see the Queen on this special day because of the longest reign,” said Isa Mackintosh, 73. “We’re not likely to see this happen again. She’s a wonderful person.”

As the Queen walked past the children of Tweeedbank primary school, Christian Robertson, an education officer at the local Borders Council, leaned forward to chat. “We were talking about the railway. She was saying how much she enjoyed the steam train,” Robertson tells PEOPLE.

The eldest and youngest pupils at Tweedbank Primary School were chosen to present posies to the Queen.

Four-year-old Molly Inglis said she had been practicing her curtsy and saying Your Majesty ahead of her big moment.

And Erin Stoddart, 11, told reporters, “I ve been feeling quite nervous. It s very exciting.

Their teacher Alyson Weir said: “It was so special to have the Queen here on such a momentous day.

“She was asking the children about the school and said she hoped they’d have a lovely day. It’s fantastic for the Borders that we are having the railway. It has been a huge learning experience for the children.”

At 5:30 p.m. in the U.K. on Wednesday evening, bells will ring out across the land as Elizabeth officially passes Victoria’s record. By then, she will be back at Balmoral Castle spending some time with grandson Prince William and Princess Kate, and their children George and Charlotte.

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