Doncaster engineering took centre stage today as the Queen marked becoming Britain’s longest serving monarch.
The Queen Elizabeth, the Duke of Edinburgh and Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon travel on a steam train, pulled by the Hexthorpe-built locomotive The Union of South Africa, to inaugurate the new £294 million Scottish Borders Railway.
Reflecting on the landmark record, the Queen admitted it was not a milestone she had ever aspired to.
As she opened the £294 million Scottish Borders Railway in Tweedbank, the Queen said: “Prince Philip and I are very grateful for the warmth of your welcome on this occasion.
“Many ,including you First Minister, have also kindly noted another significance attaching to today although it is not one to which I have ever aspired.
“Inevitably a long life can pass by many milestones. My own is no exception. But I thank you all and the many others at home and overseas for your touching messages of great kindness.”
The 89-year-old monarch, with the Duke of Edinburgh at her side, has spent the day travelling 40 miles on the railway with Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, starting at Edinburgh’s Waverley Station, stopping off at Newtongrange in Midlothian before carrying on to the Borders town of Tweedbank.
Later today, the Queen overtakes the record set by her great-great grandmother Queen Victoria to become the nation’s longest reigning sovereign, when she will have been on the throne for 23,226 days, 16 hours and approximately 30 minutes.
The Queen demonstrated her business as usual approach at the end of her short speech by remarking: “So now to the business in hand. It is my very happy duty to declare the Borders Railway open.”
The milestone is tinged with sadness for the Queen as the calculation of the length of her reign is linked to the death of her father, King George VI, and that of Queen Victoria.
There was no mention of Victoria in the Queen’s address but she was wearing her great-great grandmother’s diamond bow brooch, which was handed down to her through the generations.
The Queen began her speech by remarking that she and Philip were delighted to be back in the Borders and to have arrived by train.
“It’s been wonderful to witness the excitement which the return of the railway has brought here,” she said.
Earlier she was greeted by delighted crowds at Edinburgh’s Waverley Station as she stepped onto the polished steam locomotive Union of South Africa with Philip.
The Queen, the Duke and Ms Sturgeon travelled in a ‘’Pegasus’’ Pullman coach that seats 14 in the main lounge area and also has a bar - that was serving tea and coffee.
The trio were seated in a pristine private compartment at the end of the coach’s lounge area with the Queen’s entourage in nearby seats.