The Royal Train

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"The Royal Train"
Dad's Army episode
The Royal Train on Dad's Army.jpg
The Home Guard meet what they believe is the Royal Train.
Episode no. Series Six
Episode 056
Directed by David Croft
Story by Jimmy Perry and David Croft
Produced by David Croft
Original air date 14/11/73 8.00pm
(recorded 29 June 1973)
Running time 30 minutes
Episode chronology
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"My British Buddy"
Next →
"We Know Our Onions"

The Royal Train is the third episode of the sixth series of the British comedy series Dad's Army that was originally transmitted on 14 November 1973.

King George VI is set to pass through Walmington by train, and the platoon is to provide the guard of honour. A train duly arrives, but it is the wrong train, and its driver and fireman both fall asleep after drinking tea accidentally sweetened by Mrs Mainwaring's sleeping pills. Now the platoon must move the train to clear the line for the King's train.

Outdoor scenes featuring the train were filmed at the North Norfolk Railway, which runs between Sheringham and Holt in North Norfolk. At the time of filming, both the railway and the station were undergoing restoration, preparatory to the reinstating of passenger services.

Plot[edit]

The episode opens with Jones smartening up Wilson on the office, getting ready to go up to the station for a special parade, at which Mainwaring will open some sealed orders. Mainwaring arrives, having been to the chemist to get some sleeping pills for Mrs Mainwaring, "a very nervous and highly strung woman, Wilson". Jones relates how the only medicines they had in the Sudan were cascara and bicarbonate of soda; good for making you run and making you belch, but little else.

Pike arrives, and insists it is his turn to carry the Tommy gun, but in the process knocks Mainwaring's sleeping tablets onto the floor and breaks the bottle. Jones says the broken shards of glass could be fatal if Mrs Mainwaring ate them, but Mainwaring seems unconcerned. They are put in a bottle labelled 'saccharine'.

At the station, Frazer is making tea - Walker has supplied it and is charging 3d a cup. Pike asks Mainwaring if once he has read the secret orders, he is going to eat them, whereupon Jones volunteers to eat them.

Mainwaring goes into the kitchen and opens the secret orders, in the process leaving the saccharine bottle on the kitchen table. He comes out and gathers the platoon round him, then quietly reveals that King George VI will shortly be passing through the station in the Royal Train. The platoon are to guard the station, and present arms as the train steams through. Mainwaring emphasises the secrecy, then Hodges arrives, shouting "where's the King". The platoon practise presenting arms, then the station master and clerk arrive, flustered, asking if the King is here yet. The platoon practise some more, the vicar, verger and mayor arrive.

A train whistle gets them all rushing out onto the platform, but it is a slow stopping train pulling only one coach. The driver and fireman get off, holding a defective brake wheel, and go to the office to telephone the depot. Whilst there, they make a cup of tea each, and load it with pills from the saccharine bottle.

Mainwaring checks the train politely for the King, then the Station Master reappears and complains that this train is in the way, but the crew are now asleep in the kitchen. Pike tells Mainwaring he can drive it, so whilst the Station Master is on the phone the platoon climb into the cab and set off. The men are enjoying the ride and love the train. The Station Master rushes out after they have gone, clutching the steam brake wheel.

In the engine cab, Pike announces to Mainwaring that he can't stop the train, starting a panic among the men. Frazer spots that the vicar, verger, warden and Mayor are chasing them on a hand powered truck. Mainwaring starts to make his way over the top of the train to retrieve the brake wheel that Hodges is brandishing, and although Jones goes with Mainwaring, as usual Jones is a complete liability, and Mainwaring has to save him from falling off several times. Once they reach the back of the train, Hodges throws the wheel, and Mainwaring catches it, then starts to make his way back to the cab. Whilst he and Jones are on top of the train, Pike has the bright idea of putting the engine into reverse to stop it, and they are nearly thrown off. Once the train has stopped, it of course starts to return to the station, and the others on the little hand cart have to work hard to keep ahead of the train. The Station Master changes the points to put the cart and train into a siding, and they all tumble out just as the Royal Train is heard approaching. They have to parade just where they are by the line, which happens to be in front of a water trough, so when the train goes past they all get soaked.

Location filming[edit]

Outdoor scenes featuring the train were filmed at the North Norfolk Railway which runs between Sheringham and Holt in North Norfolk. The clip of the royal train used stock footage featuring a LNER Class A4 on a section of East Coast mainline near Burnmouth in the Scottish Borders. Cliff Cottage, which is located on the coastal road which leads to Burnmouth Harbour, may be viewed in the background.

The locomotive used for the local train was Kitson 0-6-0 saddle tank "Colwyn", formerly of Stewarts & Lloyds in Corby. The locomotive is currently (as of 2012) based at the Northampton & Lamport Railway and is under restoration by local company T&H Engineering. The station scenes were filmed at Weybourne railway station.

The platoon wrongly think that the King has arrived on a shabby-looking train, which turns out to be a local stopping train. In reality, for reasons of security, the royal family and leading politicians of the wartime era often travelled on non-descript trains to detract attention, as mentioned by the platoon.

Cast[edit]