Fit to Meet the Queen 

Barry Purdon’s Royal Train Cap

Barry Purdon must have been very excited when Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh visited Bathurst on 12 February 1954. On their whirlwind tour of Australia, the royal couple visited 57 towns and cities in 58 days, but only travelled by train three times.  

On that momentous day, Barry was the ‘fireman’ on the pilot engine that travelled in front of the Royal Train between Bathurst and Sydney. Wearing his black cap and coat issued specially for the occasion, Barry’s job was to ensure the line was safe through tending to the fire, checking water levels, and monitoring the boiler that powered the steam engine. 

There had been major track maintenance along the royal route, but the experts underestimated how much Australians wanted to see the Queen. It was the first time a reigning British monarch had visited the country, so people flocked to her events, even camping overnight to get a glimpse of Her Royal Highness. In Bathurst, 14,500 school children greeted her.  

Big crowds lined the railway tracks along the royal route. But what must have made Barry nervous, was that people also ran beside the train and swarmed over the tracks. It’s a wonder he didn’t throw his new hat at them.