23. July 2006

Article in ByTrafik no. 3

The Crown Prince and Princess visit the Tramway Museum

23 May 2006 was the greatest day in the museum's history and the culmination of 40 years of work
By Søren Johansen

The visit to the Danish Tramway Museum at Skjoldenæsholm by our extremely popular royal couple, HRH Crown Prince Frederik and HRH Crown Princess Mary, was regarded by all, both the museum's staff and guests, as the jewel in the crown of 40 years of work. The feeling that this day was the greatest day in the Tramway Museum's history affected all of the day's participants when the royal cortege finally drove away from the museum and down the flag avenue at around 2.00 pm on Tuesday 23 May 2006. For an hour and a half, Skjoldenæsholm had been the hub of the Kingdom (as Queen Margrethe and Prince Henrik were on an official visit to Athens). The Crown Prince and Princess had received their greatest christening present of all, and all points had been set correctly for the royal tram trip.

Months of preparation

The months, weeks and days before the big event had flown by with all the preparatory work that seemed to grow by the day. The museum's staff are certainly accustomed to major events with many hundreds of guests, but this special royal day was in a class of its own, and all the large and small details, all the separate parts, had to fall into place. Nothing must go wrong – and nothing did. Even the giant project of re-laying and asphalting the path through the turning loop in the forecourt area was completed in record time the day before.

But the weather – alas. May is usually a "merry, merry month", but not this year. The previous night, the weatherman said that some highly unusual weather for the time of year was on its way, with wind and rain, and that it would peak at midday the next day. Two violent thunderstorms passed through Mid-Sealand during the evening and night, and lightning struck 'Bytrafik's garden' in Vipperød with an ear-splitting bang, causing the family to tremble with fear. But this merely a foretaste of the photographic "lightning storm" that would almost certainly break out at the museum next day.

Yes, the weather: on the days leading up to the event, Museum Director Mikael Lund had discussed security matters with the Police Intelligence Service (PET). Mikael Lund agreed with PET that while security was something they could control, you could hardly say the same for the weather. "Never mind," said the police officer. "We have been many places with the Crown Prince and Princess, and we can assure you that they give off such a radiance that the weather won't matter!"

On Monday 22nd, many staff members took the day off from their normal work to scrub and scour the whole museum as never before. The day's most important exercise was to undertake a general rehearsal of the display, the tram trip and make the final calculations. There was even talk of giving one of the staff a grass skirt to represent the Princess, but he refused point-blank to accept this great honour! The mood was good and expectations high, and the sun came out for at least an hour on "the day before the day", so the Frederiksberg double-decker tramcar set could take its general rehearsal trip in front of the royal Melbourne tram.

Expectant atmosphere

Tuesday began with an ominous shower followed by a few minutes of sunshine. The hours leading up to the big event were put to efficient use as the museum's record-high volunteer staff added the final details, hung the festive garlands which marked off the public area, and organised the red carpet and the final tram deployments. The final touches were also added to the canapés – food fit for a princess, supplied by the museum's female staff, which the museum could congratulate itself on being able to provide, as though it were the most natural thing in the world: Royal Court Purveyor for a day!

The museum naturally had special opening hours for the day, and by 11.30 am many hundreds of visitors had already passed through the entrance, and the specially-invited guests had also begun to arrive. People lined up behind the red and white ribbons, the weather stayed dry, and the wind was "only" fresh. Everything was ready for a fairy-tale royal encounter with a broad sample of the Danish people. The museum's visitors included children from the schools and kindergartens, as well as many guests in wheelchairs. Those of the staff who were standing opposite or among the spectators felt how the atmosphere rose to new heights as twelve o’clock approached. A kindergarten had brought along Danish flags, which seemed like good idea to the museum staff – at once, hundreds of Danish and Australian flags appeared. It was quite a festive sight with the blue, white and red colours opposite the shining green tram, young Prince Christian's christening gift. There was a great atmosphere, even though the wind gusted around the corners and kept overturning the music stands of the Bus Company orchestra - and even "sawing" at the red garlands in the sharp "eyes" of the tram-yellow flag holders.

Here they come!

"Here they come!" – the words passed through the crowd, and at exactly 12.30 pm the royal car Krone 8 rolled up to enthusiastic jubilation and cheers right outside the entrance (the royal driver had checked the route the previous day). The car doors opened, and out came the Crown Prince and Princess. HRH Prince Frederik was wearing a practical golden brown jacket with the elbow patches that you naturally need when you're "playing with trains", and grey trousers. HRH Princess Mary was in an elegant dark suit with black pockets, black protective pieces on the sleeves and decorative black flowers along the collar, while a long and chic violet scarf adorned and brightened her shoulders. A lady-in-waiting in a short turquoise coat accompanied the couple.

And what we had been told was quite true: even though the sun refused to come out, a radiant glow spread around the Crown Prince and Princess and reflected from the tracks to the cables, right across the depot street, and across the rush of enthusiasm. The fine Bus Company band immediately struck up with some jolly tunes, including of course the old Danish hit "Another tram and another girl will always come along". "And another princess", you might be tempted to sing to yourself.

After a welcome from the museum's director, Mikael Lund, and the vice-chairman of the Danish Tramway Historical Society, Per Tingman Møller, and after receiving a bouquet in bright colours from bright little Sofie Beck Nørgaard, grandchild of one of the museum's many staff members, the royal couple, to everyone's pleasant surprise, departed from the programme and walked in an incredibly warm and natural manner right along the assembled crowd, shaking hands with young and old: from those in wheelchairs to the amazingly many who had brought along bouquets in the hope of being able to present them. Their hopes were not disappointed, and the waves of enthusiasm between the tram depots made the cables sway from side to side around the couple. From many throats was heard rhythmic shouts of "Mary, Mary!" while Frederik stood proudly by, smiling – for it was after all he who had found such a skilled spouse for himself, and a real princess for the whole Danish people. The cheering was overwhelming along the tram tracks, among the many uniformed personnel, and in the sea of different flags at the Danish Tramway Museum at Skjoldenæsholm. A little more of the hour set aside had gone by, but this was perhaps the best fifteen minutes of all, for now all 600 felt that their large turn-out was fully appreciated, and that they had been regarded as a quite important part of the welcome.

The triumphal progress now turned back towards the entrance to Valby Old Depot. Inside, a crowd of dignitaries were lined up alongside the red carpet, waiting excitedly to greet the Crown Prince, our future King Frederik X, and his beautiful coming queen.

The couple greeted the invited guests, who were individually presented by Mikael Lund. Each guest received a royal handshake with a firm glance and radiant smiles. At the end of the row, as a surprise, Crown Prince Frederik was shown Christian X's fine blue limousine with the number plate K1 and a lion as its bonnet emblem, the finest exhibit of Jystrup Automobile Museum. The Crown Prince, who is something of a car enthusiast, was clearly fascinated by the open-top vehicle that had once belonged to his great-grandfather. Bringing the car had been a good idea.

Say it with a tram!

The royal couple then returned to the middle of the hall and the red carpet to listen to a speech by the museum director, who, with his entire staff behind him, could now officially present the gift from Melbourne. Mikael Lund began:

"Your royal highnesses, honoured guests, ladies and gentlemen! Welcome to the Danish Tramway Museum at Skjoldenæsholm.

In Denmark , we like to 'say it with flowers'. I am sure that this is also usual in Australia, but in connection with Prince Christian's birth and baptism, they certainly showed some special creativity 'down under'. The official Australian gift was the four Tasmanian devils which can now be seen in Copenhagen Zoo – 'look but don't touch' – while the state of Victoria chose to give something of its own soul from the city of Melbourne, namely one of its classic green trams, which enjoy almost iconic status there and are an integrated part of the urban scene. Although new and more modern trams have been introduced in the city over the past twenty years, the classic Melbourne tram, of which around 750 were built in the years 1923 to 1955 – and to which number 965 belongs – can still be seen there, and I am almost certain that the Crown Princess must have travelled on them many times during the years she lived in Melbourne.

And it is precisely a tram of this classic type which now, after completing a voyage of 32,000 kilometres, is here with us today at the Danish Tramway Museum at Skjoldenæsholm, as the official gift of the state of Victoria to the Crown Prince, the Crown Princess and Prince Christian. The Australian gift-givers, represented here today by Agent General Mr. David Buckingham and Mrs. Susan Allen, Australia's First Secretary in Denmark, must be congratulated on their innovative thinking, but it naturally pleases us just as much that the Crown Prince and Princess accepted the gift without, it seems, much concern – at least as far as we know! Though to judge from the cartoons published in the newspapers, there may have been some discussion of exactly how to place a 17-ton, 2.73 metre wide and more than 14-metre long tram in the royal chambers.

Our Australian partners, the corresponding Tramway Museum in Sydney, represented here today by its chairman, Howard Clark, and vice chairman Greg Sutherland, have played a considerable role in developing the gift idea in Australia, just as the shipping company A.P. Møller Maersk – represented today by its Executive Vice President, Lars-Erik Brenøe – have right from the start treated this as a very special transport task which perfectly matched the company's attitude to all its transport work: delivery on time and with "Constant Care". And as a special refinement, they even gave the task of transporting the tram on the final long leg of its voyage from the transhipping port of Yokohama to Aarhus to the vessel the Gudrun Maersk, which the Crown Princess herself named at the Lindø shipyard a year ago.

At the gift-giving ceremony in Melbourne on 10 November 2005, Consul-General Jørgen Møllegaard Kristensen accepted the tram on behalf of the Crown Prince and Princess from Victoria's Minister of Transport, Mr Peter Batchelor. Both are unfortunately unable to attend today, but they send their greetings. Jørgen Møllegaard, in particular, would very much like to have been present to personally transfer the big green baton to its new owners.

Here at the Danish Tramway Museum at Skjoldenæsholm we are naturally proud to be able to give a home to a royal tram, and thereby help to fulfil the wish of the Australian gift-givers for the tram to be used in a way which will benefit the entire Danish people, as a testament to the cordial relations between Australia and Denmark.

The museum is mainly concerned with trams and vintage buses from the three former Danish tramway cities of Copenhagen, Aarhus and Odense, but it has also chosen from the start to have an international focus. The museum is now considered to be among the top five of its type in the world, and enjoys broad national and international recognition. It is a museum which is moreover under continual extension and development, and whose members, on an entirely voluntary, unpaid and idealistic basis, but with great heart and commitment, help to safeguard the cultural history of public transport and present it in a way which ensures that the museum's many visitors are given an exciting experience. For the museum's numerous staff members, it is consequently a particular pleasure that the Crown Prince and Princess have decided to say "yes, thank you" to this unusual Australian gift and store it here at the museum, where we will be able to see it in operation in future.

I also know that Ringsted Municipality, of which both the mayor and a large part of the urban council are here today, value and support the many initiatives that occur here at the museum, and which help to put Skjoldenæsholm and Ringsted on the map.

In a moment we will present the tram and ask the Crown Prince and Princess themselves – in turn – to take the controls and drive it down the museum track. There is no cause for concern – I can assure you that it is not very difficult to drive, and there will be expert assistance on hand. Here I have the special reversing key needed. It is a particularly fine example, embossed with the royal monogram, which we will offer to keep in special storage here at the museum, so that it will always be available, should the Crown Prince and Princess suddenly drop in to take a trip in their own tram!

As a special memento of the day I would also like to present the Crown Prince and Princess with this wooden model of the tram – 'handcrafted in Australia' – which I hope will be a fun toy for Prince Christian and remind him – and his parents – that you don't need to go halfway around the world to experience 'the real thing', but that this can be done just 80 kilometres from Fredensborg Palace. And I might add that we have had good experiences with using the museum and the trams as a venue for children's birthday parties and other special occasions. Here, Prince Christian will have the special privilege of being able to invite his playmates to something as unusual as a birthday party in his own tram!

Here you are! And with that, I suggest we take a closer look at the tram."

A Crown Princess steers the tram

Outside the weather had cleared up, and the large valiant crowd could listen to the speech via the loudspeakers – through the wind, but with some shelter from the depot. What they didn't have the opportunity to see, however, was the unique responsiveness and full attention, indeed warmth, that radiated from the royal couple. They were spontaneously amused by the funnier points in the speech, and sent loving glances to each other in joy over a speech that perfectly presented the gift to their little prince Christian – a parental joy which spread to those around them.

Now the time had come for them to take a closer look at the gift from the other side of the world. Outside the depot, the little prince's tram was inspected from fore to aft, while Mikael Lund pointed out the vehicle's details. Of special interest was the little brass plaque bearing the text "W-class tram 965 proudly presented to Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Mary by the Hon. Peter Batchelor, MP, State Minister for Transport, Victoria, Australia on 10 November 2005 to be operated at the Danish Tramway Museum for the benefit of the Danish people as a witness of the strengthened ties between Australia and Denmark.# At the foremost mid-door the couple greeted their coming tram driving instructors, Jørgen Krog and Morten Storgaard, after which the interior of the tram was inspected before the main characters moved into the somewhat tiny driver's compartment. The other invited guests also entered the tram through the two broad doors while the police carefully filtered the guests. This article's author had to insist: "I must get on!" – a measuring glance and a subtle nod was his admission ticket.

Crown Princess Mary was to drive down the first stretch of track. In front of the Melbourne tram was the museum's Frederiksberg tramcar set (which must have delighted the attending mayor of Frederiksberg), and for once it was the trailer that was backed to the brim – not the double-decker FS 50 itself – with the press and innumerable "cannon photographers" with their telescopic lenses.

But once again, Mary wished to greet the ordinary spectators alongside the depot. She resolutely stuck her head out of the side door and gave them a big smile – thereby also providing many of the photo scoops of the day. Frederik also revealed himself in the doorway, though not to take a picture, but to proudly announce to the whole crowd: "My wife must drive first!" – a remark that met with approval.

There were a few final instructions to the museum's royal tram driver, who then elegantly set the green tram in motion towards the spring-green woods. Along the way there was a short photo stop, at the request of the photographers in the Frederiksberg tram. Mary braked the tram behind the press tramcar set, and at that moment, a veritable storm of camera flashes broke out, causing one of the guests in the royal tram to exclaim, "My God – the thunder and lightning is back!" After a minute the Crown Princess wished to move on, so with her slender hands she waved energetically towards the tram in front in a gesture that clearly said: "Now make room for me and my tram!"

At the Tobaksmarken stop, everyone in Mary's tram was pleasantly surprised to see a long line of golf carts and greenkeepers who had lined up alongside the track (on the golf course) to wave and lift their golf clubs in greeting – a nice gesture from the golf club, who thereby took the opportunity presented by their close proximity to the museum to pay their own tribute to the royal couple. They were naturally still there on the return journey.

Thus encouraged, the Crown Princess continued to drive so well that you would think she had never done anything else. She was now concentrating so much that she several times muttered remarks to herself in her mother tongue: "Shall I brake now ...?!" She thereby quite unconsciously charmed the tram driving instructors completely.

The Skovkanten stop was reached, and it was time for the Crown Prince to take over the controls. Mary stepped into the passenger compartment, and with the biggest and most triumphant smile you ever saw, she sent an electric glance up to her prince and said: "It's your turn, darling!"

Shared first place

Frederik stepped up without hesitation to take on this unfamiliar task, and Prince Christian's "toy" was ready to be stylishly directed by his tall father. You would almost be tempted to think: "Isn’t that typical? Dad buys a train set – supposedly for his son – but of course he wants to try it out himself first...!"

Anyone who has tried starting a tram for the first time knows that it "takes off" with a slight jerk – and that's also what happened for our coming monarch, Prince Frederik, causing a passenger to comment: "It's really rocking for the Crown Prince!" With these positive words, a perfect drive was completed towards the turning loop, and the museum's director was forced to admit that he could not select a winner, but had to proudly award them both a shared and very honourable first place.

Here in the usual shelter of the dense forest around the turning loop, the tram driver couple enjoyed the beautiful waiting room "Fruens Bøge" at Eilers Eg. The old landowner's memorial oak bowed its leaves bashfully at the distinguished visit. Frederik and Mary then braved the steep stairway to the upper deck of the double-decker tram FS 50. From below, there was the opportunity for excellent photographs of a royal couple who were on top of the world in every sense – and completely in tune with the spectators' expectations.

"Shall we? Let's do it!"

They now inspected another of the museum's treasures, KS 100, with its trailer 1253, which due to the weather had at short notice replaced the open-top DKS 17 and its trailer 283, and the Crown Prince and Princess were invited to drive this tramcar set back to the museum. If they had preferred at this point to make the return journey as passengers, it would have been entirely appropriate, but at the offer Mary once again sent Frederik one of her radiant and irresistible glances, and remarked in her excellent Danish: "Shall we? Let's do it!" Once again they shared the driving along the stretch, and on their return an expectant crowd was waiting for them by the red and white half-timbered depot.

MTB 965 drove behind at a suitable distance, ably operated by general manager Lars-Erik Brenøe of the A.P. Møller company – a well-deserved honour for the representative of the shipping company that so safely and quite free of charge had brought the tram on its passage across no less than three of the world's oceans!

Buffet and conclusion in the depot

Safely back in the depot, Frederik and Mary were shown around. Having shown great enthusiasm for their own tram and applying great concentration to drive it, it was with striking interest that they admired the other exhibited items and vehicles. Mary stopped several times to carefully inspect the signs, and also looked up at the roof construction and the wooden-framed windows to take in the whole atmosphere of the century-old depot.

At the fine buffet, crowned by a large version of the very same bouquet that Mary had received on her arrival, the invited guests enjoyed themselves for some time in the company of the Crown Prince and Princess. Mary also talked for a long time with Niels Bruun de Neergaard's three small children.

The hour that had been set aside had now long since been exceeded – actually by an extra half hour, so the stars of the reception had more than compensated for the extra fifteen minutes spent on their arrival. Mary turned to the Crown Prince and hinted that it might be time to go. They said goodbye to the rest of the company, causing some of the guests in the depot to hurry outside so that they could wave goodbye to them there. But now the weather gods had spared us for rather longer than the meteorologists had predicted: a turbulent drizzle had tested the mettle of the loyal museum guests waiting outside, but there were just as many to say farewell as there had been at the welcome. A suitable guard of honour for the departure might have been tram drivers with raised driving keys. Rather more appropriately, however, four staff members with white gloves and white umbrellas accompanied Frederik and Mary right to the car door, so that hardly a drop of rain managed to penetrate the royal aura.

Cheers echoed between the depots as the motorcade set off and away from the museum. The staff and guests stood in silence for a moment, all with the feeling that this was surely the culmination of 40 years of work by the Tramway Historical Society, and the highest honour even the finest society could achieve. The Tramway Museum had almost become royal, and the Danish Tramway Historical Society had been entrusted with looking after the royal tram until the great day when Skjoldenæsholm can invite Prince Christian and his friends to an unforgettable birthday party at the museum. His parents can at any rate rest secure in the knowledge that the Tramway Museum has accumulated great experience in taking special care of the children!