Queen stopped by Mountains too

The Royal visit last week coincided with the 60th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh’s visit to Australia.

State Records NSW — the State archives based in Kingswood, in western Sydney — has a timely exhibition documenting the 1954 Royal tour at State Records, at the University of Western Sydney in Kingswood, until June 30. There are photographs, souvenirs and behind-the-scenes documents including coded telegrams about the visit.

Curator Susan Charlton said, “there is extra special interest in the local journey his grandmother took, 60 years ago” but it’s purely co-incidence that the exhibition planned last year coincides with the Royal visit of Prince William, Princess Kate and their baby, Prince George.

When the Royals visited Katoomba in February, 1954, crowds of students from Katoomba and Blackheath Primary Schools lined Katoomba Street.

Jennifer Welsh on the Gazette Facebook page recalled they received a plastic medal each with a red, white and blue balloon, but the Royals were “gone in a flash of shiny black car, then back to school”.

According to the Department of Railways Report of 1954, more than 22 million train journeys were made to see the Queen — the highest ever recorded to that time — including trips by 150,000 school students.

On the morning of the Royal couple’s arrival, a train left Central Station every minute to cope with the crowds. 

The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh arrived by Royal Train at Katoomba Station, which had undergone a ‘complete facelift’ for the occasion. The motorcade drove through the crowded streets and at the Echo Point welcoming ceremony the Queen declared: “My mother has often told me of the rare beauty of these Mountains and today I have been delighted with them myself.”

The Royal party then took a scenic drive to Leura where they re-boarded the train to Sydney while crowds waved from the observation platform.

The train was 47 minutes late arriving back in Sydney after the Queen requested the train run slowly due to the large crowds alongside the tracks and station platforms. 

More than 80 photos are included in the exhibition Royal Express to Central, which can be viewed online or at the archives.

Ms Charlton said the photos were taken by unknown government photographers. The exhibition was made possible with the help of archivist Gail Davis.

“Every generation always has someone in the Royal family that captures the imagination. William and Kate and the baby are those people, earlier it was Diana and before that the Queen.

“It’s almost like a fairy story, with the characters and the narrative, every now and then it feels a bit wobbly, like when Diana died and how it was handled but they always seem to come back”.

To see the photos go to www.records.nsw.gov.au/news/royal-express-to-central-the-1954-royal-tour-of-nsw.

The actual archives are also open from Monday to Saturday. Details: (02) 9673 1788.

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