Royal Tour 1939


In 1939, Canadians saw a 29-day, 8,600 mile tour by King George VI and Queen Elizabeth of England. The parents of the present Queen Elizabeth II also saw 1,099 miles of the United States.


1939 Royal Tour

In 1939, Canadians saw a most important and luxurious train. It was a 29-day, 8,600 mile tour by King George VI and Queen Elizabeth of England. The parents of the present Queen Elizabeth II also saw 1,099 miles of the United States. The royal train began its trip led by a specially lacquered Hudson and consisted of 12 specially painted cars. Even the pilot train was impressive.

The United States route included New York Central, Pennsylvania, New Haven and Delaware & Hudson trackage.

The big show began in Quebec when a Canadian Pacific ocean liner, “S.S. Empress of Australia” docked. They went west to Vancouver generally on the Canadian Pacific and east on the Canadian National. CP hauled them 3,300 miles while CN hauled 4,200. The westbound run was done by just one locomotive but utilized 25 engine crews. This locomotive was later exhibited at the New York World’s Fair and served as model for 65 more Hudsons – all of which wore a Royal crown insignia and were termed “Royal Hudsons”. Crossing the Rockies required helpers, usually huge 2-10-4’s.

Once in Vancouver, the King and Queen took a coastal steamship to Victoria and started eastward on Canadian National behind streamlined Northerns and Mountains as far as Niagara Falls, Ontario. They entered the United States at Suspension Bridge, NY over New York Central trackage.

While Canadian engines had special color schemes, those used in the United States were in standard paint (fresh, of course). The train weighed about 1,000 tons and the pilot train was about 900 tons. They had to be equipped just like a hotel for the long trip. 40 miles per hour allowed use of only one engine unless crossing mountains.

Half the cars on the Royal and pilot trains were Canadian Pacific and half were Canadian National. Diplomatic protocol put the most important passengers in the rear cars. The cars in the Royal train were modified to provide a symmetrical appearance. A CP business car had its observation platform enclosed to match the car sides. The pilot train was used by press, police and maintenance personnel. It was drawing room sleepers and 3 baggage cars.

Each car in the royal train received a King’s crown at each end of the letterboard and a special panel with the royal cipher. The cars had royal blue sides, gold window stripes, painted underframes and trucks, and lacquered roofs. A baggage car had head-end power because the car generators could not keep up with demand. This generator was steam-driven but had a backup gasoline engine. This baggage car had spare parts for the train including touch up paint. It had floodlights and even wire ropes for crowd control. Another baggage car had living accommodations for diner crews, extra food storage, and a telephone switchboard which was hooked up at each stop. The remaining cars were altered to provide such services as a barber shop, dispensary with royal surgeon, wardrobe rooms with steam pressing tables, and a mini post office. There were three office cars: the King’s, a rail operations office, and a general train office. There were showers in seven cars.

The first 27 miles in the States was over the Central’s Niagara Falls Branch. Two New York Central Hudsons were backed over the Niagara River bridge and coupled onto the trains in Canada. The trains were then backed over a wye to head them down the Niagara Falls branch. A NYC 0-8-0 with a buffer coach was hooked onto each train’s rear for the back-up movement. At Buffalo, Pennsylvania trackage was used for 435 miles into Washington.

Arrival in Washington was just before noon with departure near midnight the next day. The trains were parked on tracks 19 and 20.

Leaving Washington, the trains used the newly-electrified Pennsylvania line. The King rode in the GG1 as far as Philadelphia. Motive power was changed to K4s at Jamesburg, NJ for the ride up the New York & Long Branch. At Red Bank, the royal party boarded a Navy destroyer for a trip to the World’s Fair. They did not rejoin the trains until two days later in Hyde Park. In the meantime the trains were routed over three railroads.

K4s pulled the trains to Rahway and the main line where GG1s pulled them to Penn Station. After restocking the trains, New Haven electrics pulled the trains over the Hell Gate route to New Rochelle where a reverse move was made to head back to New York City. The trains entered the Hudson Division of the New York Central at Mott Haven. New Haven power was swapped for T-motors which brought the trains to Harmon. From there, Hudsons pulled the trains to Poughkeepsie for overnight storage. When the time for departure from Hyde Park came, the trains moved six miles to Hyde Park for boarding. Employee timetables show no sidings at Hyde Park capable of holding a long train so the boardings where probably from the Westbound track No. 3 (the main was four track at that point).

At Rensselaer, the trains made a 17-minute stop to swap the Hudsons for D&H Pacifics. New York Central pilot engineers rode the trains as far as Troy. This six-mile stretch was over the New York Central’s Troy & Greenbush Branch and was between SS100 at Rensselaer and the tracks of the Troy Union Railroad.

The trains entered Delaware & Hudson tracks right after midnight on June 12, 1939. About six and one half hours and 424 miles later the trains were delivered to the Canadian Pacific. Crew changes were made at Whitehall (7 minutes) and water stops at Whitehall and Plattsburgh (7 minutes). At Rouses Point, Canadian customs inspectors boarded and the trains moved over the D&H-owned Napierville Junction Railway to the Canadian Pacific at Delson Loop track. The U.S. Pullmans were also detached at Rouses Point.

The Canadian portion of the trip was well publicized, but the U.S. leg was not as it was considered a private diplomatic mission. Preparations for the trip were elaborate. Most of the running in the U.S. was at night and was not highly publicized. The State Department paid all costs except for two American Pullmans added at the border and paid for by the news services. The Pennsy was the principal contracting carrier, trip arranger and ticket issuer with 200 one way fares sold from Suspension Bridge to Rouses Point via Washington.

Operations were the same as a POTUS (President Of The United States) special. Trains on adjacent tracks were inspected. Opposing trains reduced speed to 30 mph and following trains could not pass. Facing point switches were spiked and every bridge, grade crossing and interlocking guarded. Steam locomotive tenders were emptied and refilled with high grade coal. All paperwork was considered top secret. Operating schedules were figured to the minute for each station and interlocking.

Returning to Canada at Delson, Quebec, the Royal couple used CP, CN, Quebec Central and a coastal steamer to reach Halifax for the trip home.






Pennsylvania RR Procedures for 1939 Royal Tour

See a larger picture of Pennsylvania RR Procedures for 1939 Royal Tour.
Overview of the trip of the King and Queen. Consists of the trains
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Schedule: Niagara Falls to Block Station NR
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Schedule: Block Station KS to Washington Terminal Track 17
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Schedule: Washington Terminal Track 17 to Red Bank, NJ
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Schedule: Train from Red Bank, NJ to New York Penn Station. Royal Party boards US Navy Destroyer. Staff boards US Coast Guard Cutters.
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Schedule: Train from New York Penn Station, passed to New Haven Railroad (SS-4). Proceeds to New Rochelle Yard. Reverses, changes power and goes To Mott Haven (SS-MO). Train delivered to New York Central RR. Power and crew change. Trains to Poughkeepsie (no power change at Harmon… NY Central “Hudson” all the way. Royal party entrains at Hyde Park. Train delivered to Delaware & Hudson at Rennselaer. Engine and crew change. NY Central pilot to Troy. Train crosses Green Island Bridge. Goes through Cohoes, Ballston Spa and Saratoga.
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Schedule: Water and inspection stop at Whitehall. At Rouses Point, newspapermen, etc. detrain at Rouses Point. Train handed over to D&H subsidiary Napier Junction Ry. At Delson, train delivered to Canadian Pacific Ry.
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Sleeping car service, dining car service, ticketing arrangements.
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Parking and sanitary charges at Washington Terminal, Poughkeepsie. Equipment charachteristics.
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Equipment characteristics continued
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Electric lights, heating, air conditioning, water and icing
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Pintsch gas, coal and charcoal, floodlighting and auxiliary generators
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Gasoline: Drained at Red Bank and refilled at Poughkeepsie (not allowed in NY City tunnels). Telephone: Bell Telephone coordinated by Bell Telephone representative aboard royal train.
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Spare parts, hopper shutes, first aid kits, mechanical and electronical supervisors on board. Police protection.
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Baggage Masters assignments, CNR and CPR employees on board. Pennsylvania RR management assignments. Position of rear brakemen. Daily newspapers.
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Pennsylvania RR officials copied
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Railroad Station at Troy, New York

The station in Troy was owned by the Troy Union Rail Road. The TURR lasted from the mid 19th Century till the mid 20th Century. It was owned by the New York Central, Delaware & Hudson and Boston & Maine. Access from the South was from Rensselaer; from the West, via the Green Island Bridge; from the North was street running almost the entire length of Troy. See
Penney’s blog for more information (and a great movie from the 1950’s).


The Royal Tour was turned over to the Delaware & Hudson by the New York Central in Troy.


Royalty on the Canadian Pacific

There is some excellent information on
royal tours through history on the Canadian Pacific available. It not only talks about the 1939 royal tour, but also other times royalty rode Canadian trains. Included is information on funeral trains, holiday trains and school trains.


Royalty on a 1957 Trip to the United States

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II of England and her consort Prince Philip traveled in a Baltimore & Ohio Special Train. They journeyed with their entourage in a 12-car consist from Washington, D.C. to Stapleton, Staten Island where they were met by New York’s Governor Averill Harriman before their entry into New York City. In addition to the B&O, the route included Reading, Lehigh Valley and Staten Island Rapid Transit. The royal pair occupied office car No. 100.



In early 2007, Prince Charles and the Dutchess of Cornwall visited Philadelphia. At the conclusion of their visit, they rode to New York City on a private electric train. These are the cars they rode in.


The Cardinal Train


The Cardinal Train ran in 1926 from New York to Chicago. Pullman supplied the New York Central RR with this heavyweight consist hastily repainted a bright scarlet with gold lettering to carry the College of Cardinals to the XXVIII International Eucharistic Congress held in Chicago.

The Cardinals Train (New York City to Chicago: June 16 – 17 westbound, June 25 – 26 eastbound, 1926)
“Eagle” series hwt baggage-club (ACL service)
10 cpt hwt sleeper (NYC service)
(2) 6-3 hwt sleepers
NYC hwt diner
6-3 hwt sleeper
Private car “Superb” (gothic type)

The train departed Grand Central Terminal and had a large crowd of well wishers. Large crowds, with bands and local dignitaries, were also waiting at Albany, Syracuse, and Rochester.

At Porter, Ind. the “Red Special” (as it had been dubbed) probably left the LS&MS and operated over the MCRR to Kensington, where it would have joined the ICRR.

After the famous train had made its return journey, the cars were repainted to standard Pullman green and returned to regular service.

In 1926, the Hudson would not be available for another year, so The Cardinal’s Train was probably pulled by a Pacific. If it only had a 6-car consist, the Pacific should have been more than sufficient, even up the West Albany Hill.

Con-Cor did a “Cardinal’s Train” set, which occasionally shows up on e-Bay – tain’t cheap! Of course, it featured Rivarossi’s J-3a, which was even more out-of-date for 1926.

The Cardinal Red would certainly would make a colorful contast to the normal NY Central green in 1926 !!!


US Portion of 1939 Royal Tour

The schedule for the US portion of the trip panned out as follows:
June 7th, 1939/Wednesday 16:35
Niagara Falls – service train, add U.S. cars to Pilot Train
21:30 Niagara Falls, On Handover to the New York Central System
21:35 Suspension Bridge, NY – interchange trains to the NYC – wye trains with NYC switchers – USA welcoming ceremonies held here.
22:28 North Tonawanda
22:32 Tonawanda
22:59 Buffalo Central Station Handover to the Pennsylvania Railroad
23:14 Buffalo Central Station – change locomotives
June 8th, 1939/Thursday
00:20 Machias
00:54 Olean Port Allegheny, PA – water
03:21 Renovo
03:26 Renovo
04:40 Williamsport – water
04:50 Williamsport – Hotbox on Pilot Train at Montgomery, PA, the only time on the entire tour that the press arrived late for a state function – they missed the Welcoming Ceremony by President Roosevelt as their train arrived 7 minutes late.
04:59 Williamsport
07:28 Harrisburg
07:38 Harrisburg
08:32 York
10:01 Baltimore, MD – Remove steam locomotives, GG1s added to rear end of trains as trains from this line cannot operate to Washington front leading due to Trackage arrangement
10:07 Baltimore
11:00 Washington, DC Union Station – Pullman cars on Pilot Train released from service at Washington. – Trains parked at Washington Union Station, Royal Train on track 20.
June 9th, 1939/Friday 23:30 Washington, DC Union Station
June 10th, 1939/Saturday
00:39 Baltimore,
03:00 Philadelphia, PA
03:03 Philadelphia
04:24 Jamesburg, NJ – change locomotives
04:34 Jamesburg, NJ
05:30 Sea Girt Handover to the New York & Long Branch RR
06:00 Red Bank – Royal Party detrains, to New York City by U.S.S. Warrington,from Fort Hancock, Sandy Hook to Battery Park, Manhattan; by car to World’s Fair site
08:10 Red Bank – Royal Train equipment move. Handover to the Pennsylvania Railroad
08:37 Woodbridge Junction
08:49 Union – change power
08:59 Union
09:30 New York City, NY Pennsylvania Station
09:40 New York City
09:48 Harold Avenue PRR handover for switching to the NYNH&H RR
10:23 New Rochelle Yard – change power, trains reverse.
10:38 New Rochelle Yard
10:58 Mott Haven Yard – change power, trains reverse
11:12 Mott Haven Handover to New York Central Railroad
12:57 Poughkeepsie – trains parked for occupancy- Pilot Train track 1, Royal Train on track 3
June 11th, 1939/Sunday 21:15 Poughkeepsie
21:30 Hyde Park -Royal Party entrains
22:00 Hyde Park
23:20 Rensselar – change engines and crews in yard, NYC pilot to Troy
23:37 Rensselar
23:55 Troy
June 12th, 1939/Monday 00:01 Troy Handover to the Delaware & Hudson Railroad
01:00 Saratoga Springs
01:57 Whitehall – water and inspection
02:04 Whitehall
04:38 South Junction – water and inspection
04:45 South Junction
04:54 Plattsburg
05:37 Rouses Point- U.S. Pullman cars removed from Pilot Train
05:40 Rouses Point Handover to the Napierville Junction Railroad
06:32 Delson, PQ – interchange train to CPR on “loop” – change locomotive

The types and numbers of motive power used:
NYC J Hudson ? Suspension Bridge – Buffalo
J Hudson ? Mott Haven Yard – Troy, NY
PRR 2 K-4s Buffalo – Baltimore
GG1 #4838 Royal Train – Baltimore – Washington
GG1 #4838 Royal Train – Washington – Jamesburg
2 K-4’s NY&LB ? Jamesburg – Woodbridge Junction via Red Bank, NJ
GG1 ? Pennsylvania Station to Harold Street (?)
NYNH&H Electric Loco. Pennsylvania Station to Mott Haven Yard via Harold
D&H/NJRy. 2 “600” class 4-6-2’s both Royal and Pilot Trains, Troy – Delson, QC


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