The paradox of narrow minded political thought sees one group of people trying to force the British population to use public transport and particularly to use the railway system, but at the same time claiming that the Royal Train is outdated and irrelevant. For centuries, the British Royal Family relied heavily on water transport because travel overland was dangerous and slow. When the railway system expanded rapidly through the second half of the Nineteenth Century, it provided a level of speed and comfort that was ideally suited to taking members of the Royal Family out to the corners of the British Isles.
NAME: The Royal Train, The Inside Story
CLASSIFICATION: Book reviews
AUTHOR: Richard Blizzard
PUBLISHER: Haynes Publishing
BINDING: Hard back
SUBJECT: steam, engines, railtrack, technology, reproduction, Royal travel, Royal Transport
DESCRIPTION: The paradox of narrow minded political thought sees one group of people trying to force the British population to use public transport and particularly to use the railway system, but at the same time claiming that the Royal Train is outdated and irrelevant. For centuries, the British Royal Family relied heavily on water transport because travel overland was dangerous and slow. When the railway system expanded rapidly through the second half of the Nineteenth Century, it provided a level of speed and comfort that was ideally suited to taking members of the Royal Family out to the corners of the British Isles. It was entirely logical to make a Royal Train available for this purpose. By dedicating rolling stock for Royal transportation, it became practical to include all of the facilities for communication and security necessary, and to provide accommodation for all of the supporting staff. It was effectively a palace on wheels. Using basic rolling stock, the fitting out was of an appropriate standard. Great attention to detail made the Royal Train an impressive and unique system that did so much more than just move people between points on the rail track. At the end of a day’s engagements, the Royal passengers and their staff could embark, travelling through the night to the next day’s engagements. There was time for food and rest, ready for the next day’s work. While the Royal travellers and their key staff slept, staff could prepare changes of clothes and prepare for the next events. It was a civilized and comfortable means of attending engagements across the country. Where time permitted, the train could pull into a secluded siding during the night to ensure a good rest for those on board. The train could take on and deliver mail during a journey so that the Royal passengers could attend to communications. Adequate security personnel could be carried as risk levels dictated. The Royal Train started as leading edge technology and was part of the facilities that make a Constitutional Monarchy special. Any head of state serves at least in part a ceremonial function. Where the head of state is an elected politician and the chief executive of the Government, he or she finds difficulty in providing the level of ceremony and the guarantees for the Constitution. This is largely because most countries with such a head of state are in post for less than eight years, too short a period to learn all of the intricacies of the ceremonial and too focused on short-term politics to give the role much consideration. A Constitutional Monarch in most cases serves for life, being educated into the role from childhood. When a Monarch reigns for maybe decades, he or she develops considerable skills that make an impressive contribution to the people of the country. The role is not static and evolves over generations. Based on a family, the Constitutional Monarchy provides a team of people who provide the future replacements and project the Monarch beyond the capabilities of a single person. For the other members of family it is training on the job while supporting the Monarch. What republicans have difficulty in understanding is that the Monarchy is not just a person. The Monarch represents the hopes and fears of the people. Although a Constitutional Monarch may spend carefully in hard times, and not spend lavishly in the best of times, the people have expectations of their King or Queen. They are special because their people expect a high standard. As a result, ceremony is important. In the Twenty First Century, the Royal Train is as appropriate as it was more than a century and a half ago when it was the major high-speed method of transport. The book looks at the organization and planning in detail. The text is adequate but what makes the book is the high standard of illustration. The end papers contain drawings of the carriages that make up the Royal Train, setting the standard for illustration. Through the book there are first class photographs, mainly in full colour. Monarchists and train enthusiasts are likely to rush to buy copies of the book and the number sold will demonstrate the interest in the British Royal Family that endures. The author has included a chapter reviewing the cost and value of the Royal Train. It is very difficult to provide a true cost benefit analysis because usage varies greatly. There is a cost just standing because there is the capital cost and the maintenance, together with personnel costs, which is present without costing the money spent every time the train is used. That means that there will be periods when the train is using funds but providing no direct return. Taking a cost per mile is equally misleading because that cost will appear low in periods of heavy use when there is often no realistic alternative. The real cost benefit analysis is of the Royal transport costs in total and the costs of the alternatives. At any period, it may be more practical for an event to be attended by car travel or by air. That means that aircraft and vehicles have to be available and the Royal transportation costs are a mixture of options. Where vehicles and aircraft are allocated in the same way as the Royal train, and aircraft or ships may be chartered, all of these costs go to making up the total cost. Looking at any one cost in isolation is misleading because each option is most appropriate to specific events. When the income produced by the Royal Family in their endorsement of British commerce and industry is counted, Constitutional Monarchy is a very cost effective service to a nation, even before the benefits of the Constitution and national reputation are examined.