Not For Sale: The Royal Train Bath

Manufactured and installed in 1915 for H.M. George V; the first bath on a train in the world.

The L.N.W.R. Royal Train was built in 1902 and as previous royal carriages it was luxuriously appointed, containing modern conveniences such as a W.C. and a washbasin.

In 1915, during the First World War, King George V and Queen Mary began long train tours of Britain in order to boost morale. Due to war shortages and restrictions the King felt he could not expect the aristocracy to provide hospitality (as they had during previous royal ‘progresses’ of the country); instead the royal couple spent many nights on board the train. At their majesties’ request, Thomas Crapper & Co. made a special bath of small dimensions which had feet that were bolted to the floor, to prevent the bath sliding around the carriage!

The existing hardware in the coach was silver plated, including taps, coathooks, switches and lighting, so the taps and ‘plunger’ waste fittings on the bath were provided in the same finish.

This tiny bath (only 55” long by 25” wide) has the taps and waste mounted at the side, presumably to save space. The water emerges from the hemispherical silver boss near the top of the bath and runs smoothly down the enamel. The idea of this arrangement was that it was both silent and steamless!

The Royal Train and its bath saw considerable service through the reigns of George V, Edward VIII and George VI until 1941, during the second world conflict. The bath was replaced with an ordinary square-ended bath at Wolverton Carriage Works during a refurbishment of the whole carriage.

This original bath found its way into Sir William McAlpine’s collection of railwayana until sold by Bonhams in 1996. From then it was on display at Mr. Potter’s ‘Cabinet of Curiosities’ at Jamaica Inn, Cornwall, until the sad dispersal of the collection in 2003.

Re-acquired at that auction by Thomas Crapper & Co., it was then carefully restored. The enamel was in exceptional original condition and has been gently cleaned. Some of the tap parts were missing and so replacements were hand-made and then silver-plated to match the originals. The surviving fittings were not re-plated, but conserved to preserve the patina.

The Royal Train Bath is now a central part of Thos. Crapper & Co’s private archive of antique sanitaryware. The collection is available for inspection but an appointment must be made with the office.

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