In 2010, the Dutch Railway Museum in Utrecht hosted the international exhibition entitled Royal Class, regal journeys. The entire museum was decked out in a regal atmosphere. For the first time ever, historical royal trains from all over Europe could be seen in a single exhibition. A unique experience for anyone who is curious about the luxurious way in which European Royalty was used to travel.
Carriages used by the different royal houses of Europe were on show. A special replica of Saloon Car No.1 was also being built. This carriage was originally built in 1864 specially for Queen Anna Paulowna, the wife of the Dutch King Willem II. The carriage used by the present Dutch Queen, Beatrix, was also on show. Besides the carriages used by the Dutch royal house, a special area has been set aside for the carriages on loan from foreign collections.
A number of these are quite unusual. Visitors could see one of the oldest preserved royal carriages in the world, the carriage used by the British Queen Mother Adelaide, dating from 1848. The carriage built specially for the state visit made by King Edward VIII to Ireland in 1902 was also on show. The Santarèm museum in Portugal has kindly lent us not only the carriage used by Queen Maria Pia of Portugal but also the locomotive that pulled it and the saloon car used by the two princes, making up a complete royal train dating from 1858. In addition visitors were able to admire other carriages and interiors as used by King Louis II of Bavaria, Tsar Alexander II, Franz Ferdinand, Carl Gustav of Sweden and King Albert I of Belgium.
This exhibition brought together a magnificent collection of historical rolling stock. And it is not only the carriages themselves that are so special; the stories behind them are interesting in their own right. The exhibition demonstrated clearly just what prompted kings, emperors, tsars and other rulers to travel by train. The museum’s company of actors brought these stories to life in an informal and accessible way, making Royal Class, regal journeys a unique and unforgettable exhibition for young and old alike.