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Visit to The Royal Scotsman at Bo'ness - 18 April 2012

The Royal Scotsman is a unique rail experience and features the only open platform observation car in the country. The train accommodates up to 36 guests in absolute luxury and travels around the country on a variety of tours throughout Scotland, and even further afield.

Founded in 1985 by Michael Ryan and Fergus Hobbs of L & R Leisure, The Royal Scotsman set out to offer a "remember forever" experience that would emulate the atmosphere of the 1920s, when charabancs met luxury trains at country stations to convey guests to great estates. Use was made initially of the Queen of Scots carriages until in 1990 its owner stopped chartering them, so a nine-month search was needed to find another fleet.

Operation continued under independent ownership, winning the Queen's Award for Exports, until the combined impact of world events including 9/11 and the Foot & Mouth outbreak collapsed the American market so in 2005 it was purchased by Orient Express to become part of a worldwide network of fifty luxury train and cruise operations.

The Royal Scotsman aims to offer a quintessential Scottish welcome, taking its guests through the heart of Europe's last wilderness and seeing places that only the train can reach. There is no television or radio on board, so the emphasis is on people talking and thus being able to share their experiences.

The interior of dining car one with a range of sandwiches, scones and cakes ready for members and guests.d

The interior of dining car one with a range of sandwiches, scones and cakes ready for members and guests.

© John Fender, 2012

With its observation car and two dining carriages, it can accommodate no more than 36 guests who are looked after by 12 members of on-board crew. All cabins have private showers, and the carriages are finished in mahogany and walnut.

The hospitality is to the standard of a five-star travelling hotel, with all food cooked on board using local produce. The verandah viewing platform is the only one of its kind in the UK.

Boarding the train via the red carpet, members and guests were provided with a glass of champaign to enjoy in the observation car. The observation car was built in 1960 and was originally the Pullman kitchen car and was converted to it's current form in 1989.

Welcoming members and guests on board, the Train Manager, Mr. Michael Andrews provided a brief overview of the train and outlined it's history and features along with a details of the various tours available.

Members and guests were then given the opportunity to have a guided tour of the train and it's facilities, starting with the first dining car, dating from 1962 and the second dining car, dating from 1945.The second dining car was originally a London and North Eastern Railway Director's saloon, but has been completely rebuilt to it's present condition with half of the carriage providing dining accommodation and the other half containing a state of the art kitchen, staffed by skilled chefs.

Scottish Region members and guests enjoying afternoon tea in the observation car.<d

Scottish Region members and guests enjoying afternoon tea in the observation car.

© John Fender, 2012

There are three chefs on board and they prepare all meals from locally sourced produce. The menus are considered to be amongst the finest in the country and the meals are served in the two dining cars, the first having tables laid out in groups of six or eight and the second dining car having tables grouped in twos and fours.

Both dining cars feature mahogany panelling and luxurious fabrics. There is also a bookcase at one end of the first dining car. Moving from the dining cars, we were able to have a look at the accommodation in the sleeping cars and these offer accommodation that is unmatched on the railways.

Each private room has a fixed bed, wardrobe, dressing table, and en-suite shower and toilet, with constant hot and cold running water. Each room also features individually controlled heating. High quality towels are provided daily and there is a range of luxurious toiletries provided.

Then it was time for afternoon tea in the observation car and the quality of the catering was excellent. Sandwiches, scones and cakes were available, along with tea or coffee or for those who wished something a little stronger, more champaign or wine. The food was excellent and it was a most enjoyable afternoon certainly attentive and it a most enjoyable afternoon.

The Scottish region would like to thank Michael Andrews and the staff who looked after us so ably.

Report by John Fender and John Yellowlees. Photographs by John Fender


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