“Thanks for the escort,” the Queen said
“THANKS for the escort.” It’s a phrase 88-year-old Dubbo resident Fred Bell will never forget.
During the young Queen Elizabeth’s visit to Australia in 1954, she journeyed by train from Bathurst to Central Station on the Governor General’s railway carriage.
Mr Bell was a train driver in Sydney and had been running very excited school children from Blacktown into Sydney where they were waiting to see the Queen.
“We were stationed at Blacktown as a lone engine, which means no carriages, and we had to wait for the Queen’s train to come through and then follow.
“They had an escort engine in front of it, but they pulled it off at Blacktown as there was a problem with it. We were told, ‘Out you go, you’re running escort.”
An escort engine is a front line of defence to the royal train in the event of an accident or deliberate attempt to sabotage the line. Mr Bell didn’t think twice about it.
“We got in front all the way until the Clyde marshalling yards there and her train followed us in, on the line next door, and she was out the back of the train. As it went past, we gave her a wave. She waved back and said, ‘Thanks for the escort.’
“It was just one of those things you never forget,” Mr Bell told Dubbo Photo News.
However, it wasn’t Mr Bell’s first brush with royalty. In 1946, he was standing on a street corner in Sydney, when the visiting Lord Louis Mountbatten’s car was turning there.
“His window was down and he said to his driver, hold it a minute! He said to me, ‘Hello, young fella, how are you? I said, ‘I’m very well sir’. He said, ‘What’s your name?’ I said, ‘My name’s Fred.’
“’My name’s Louis,’ he said, and he put his hand out and shook my hand.
“I went home and told Mum I was never going to wash that hand again. Mum just laughed at me,” Fred said. Fred Bell was a train driver in Sydney in 1954 and drove a lone engine in front of the royal train to protect the Queen from track tampering. PHOTO: DUBBO PHOTO NEWS
PHOTOS: WITH PERMISSION MUSEUM OF APPLIED ARTS AND SCIENCES