CONSERVATION staff at the National Railway Museum are to restore the outside of Queen Victoria’s historic royal carriage for the first time in 50 years - thanks to a private donation.

Set to last 18 months, the project will involve a complete overhaul of the saloon carriage sides and roof and restoring it fit for a queen.

Helen de Saram, conservator and collections manager at the museum, said: “Queen Victoria’s Saloon is loved by visitors from all over the world and is undoubtedly one of the museum’s most popular attractions.

“However, despite being well cared for, the years are beginning to show, and cracks were appearing in the panelling, Shellac is peeling and yellowing, and the paint had faded.

“It is very exciting to be able to restore this royal treasure back to its former glory, using a combination of the latest materials and techniques as well as traditional craft skills.

“We are also very grateful to our generous donors, without whom we would not be able to embark on restoration projects of this scale. We plan to finish the first side in time for the royal wedding which is expected to be in May.”

The project is open for the public to view, and members of the conservation team will be on hand to answer questions, although access to the carriages is not permitted.

The museum has nine royal carriages, many of which are on display in the Station Hall – York’s former goods depot.

Built in 1869, originally as two separate carriages which were linked by a corridor connection, one of the first of its type, the saloon was adapted into one carriage in 1895.

It is the most lavishly decorated of the carriages on display and originally cost £1,800 - the queen personally contributed £800.

The carriage featured the latest onboard comforts including lavatories, although the queen preferred to use the facilities at stations on route. This explains why many railway stations of the day had very grand toilets, in case the queen happened to stop there.

The carriage also features original attendant buttons which she would press to order the train to stop.