This film is part of Free

Royal Train

Detective work reveals… this very early film was shot at Southampton Royal Pier Station. But who’s the VIP on board?

Non-Fiction 1896 Silent


Who’s on board? For many years this was a largely unidentified film. Having survived as a mere 25-foot fragment of cellulose nitrate film, and not having been found mentioned in the film catalogues of the day, it was a difficult one to collate, date or locate. But there’s several clues to go on…

The footage apparently arrived at the BFI as part of a small collection associated with film pioneer RW Paul - so it was presumably shot by Paul’s company. A train arrives at a station, clearly in a port town: there are harbour scenes in the background while visible ‘LS’ insignia suggest the London and South Western Railway. These two pieces information combined mean that we’re almost certainly at Southampton Royal Pier Station. The train's met by a line of police and a large crowd: someone important is on board. Indeed, train markings identify this as Queen Victoria's own conveyance: forelock-tugging train companies often designated ‘royal carriages’ for her. The remaining question is: on this occasion, is it the Queen herself inside or another top Royal?