Queen Elizabeth may have passed her forebear Queen Victoria’s record of longevity on the throne, but there is something she can’t beat — Victoria’s position as the first British monarch to ever ride a train.
And on Tuesday, 175 years after that inaugural ride, Queen Elizabeth and husband Prince Philip took the same journey from Slough, close to her Windsor Castle home, to Paddington in west London.
Queen Victoria was the first reigning British monarch to travel by train in 1842.
The original journey took about 30 minutes and the then 23-year-old queen called it “delightful” and said the “motion was very slight, and much easier than a carriage — also no dust or great heat.”
The fastest trip today is 14 minutes, but the Queen’s new train, from the Great Western Railway company, was scheduled for a leisurely 19 minutes.
Before the Queen, 91, and Philip, who just turned 96, headed off from Slough at 12.01 p.m. the royal couple walked through the original waiting room at Slough Railway Station, which was also used by Queen Victoria. They were also shown a historical timeline of the Great Western Railway and some art by local schoolchildren.
On the journey with them was Gillian White, great-great granddaughter of Daniel Gooch, who drove the original locomotive (Phlegethon), and Isambard Thomas, who is the great-great-great grandson of the engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel, who designed the Great Western Railway line and assisted Gooch during the 1842 journey.
Sitting in the waiting room that dates back to the same period, Thomas, a typographic designer, 53, says, “It means a lot. It’s a great honor to be asked to travel on the train with the Queen — and a bit nerve-wracking.
“It’s interesting to be recreating this and thinking what the world was like then. Train travel was new and the queen was a very young monarch and Brunel was young and train journeys were young.”
White, 87, says, “I’m proud of my great-great grandfather and all he did. It’s an honor to be here and meet the Queen — it’s exciting.”
The Queen regularly uses trains — taking them back and forth from London to her home on Sandringham Estate in Norfolk.
The two descendants of the trailblazers of the Industrial Age had never met before. But the had time to get to know each other while also chatting with the royal couple in the carriage on the way to London.
But what does one talk about while on a train with the Queen?
“It was really interesting. It was a privilege to be seated next to the Queen. We talked about railways,” Thomas told PEOPLE. “I was very much at ease. It didn’t feel awkward. It was fascinating how much interest she had in trains and train journeys.”
He adds, “She has a proper knowledge of Queen Victoria’s diaries of the event that happened 175 years ago and was interested about what Great Western Railway are doing now. It’s remarkable that she and the Duke of Edinburgh agreed to do this.”