Queen Victoria’s favourite rail carriage is to be given a new lease of life for the first time in half-a-century.
Staff at the National Railway Museum in York have began working on the luxurious 19th Century transport which is set to last 18 months.
The restoration of the outside of the saloon carriage will include a complete overhaul thanks to a private donation from a supporter of the museum.
It will involve stripping back layers of paint and varnish and applying sheets of 23.75 Carat gold leaf by hand – returning the carriage to how it first was 122 years ago.
The carriage was adapted from a double carriage in 1895 and lavishly finished in teak with precious silks, satin wood and bird’s eye maple inside the carriage.
The interior was last restored in 2003 to preserve the delicate fabrics – but the exterior remained untouched until now.
Helen de Saram, conservator and collections manager at the National Railway Museum, said: “Queen Victoria’s Saloon is loved by visitors from all over the world and is undoubtedly one of the museum’s most popular attractions.
“However, despite being well cared for, the years are beginning to show, and cracks were appearing in the panelling, Shellac is peeling and yellowing, and the paint had faded.
“It is very exciting to be able to restore this Royal treasure back to its former glory, using a combination of the latest materials and techniques as well as traditional craft skills.
“We are also very grateful to our generous donors, without whom we would not be able to embark on restoration projects of this scale.
“We plan to finish the first side in time for the royal wedding which is expected to be in May.”
The carriage originally cost £1,800 – with the queen personally contributing £800.
It features original attendant buttons which she would press to order the train to stop.
She was fond of doing that on her way to Balmoral to admire the view, although it caused havoc with her scheduled timetable, as did her meal stops as she refused to eat on the move.