Queen takes train from London to King’s Lynn, to get Sandringham House ready for Royal Christmas party
Passengers on the 10.45am to King's Lynn were joined by the Queen, as she travelled to Norfolk to spend Christmas with her family today.
The trip marks the third occasion that the 85-year-old Monarch - who can also call upon the services of own Royal Train - has caught a scheduled public service between the capital and her country retreat.
Passengers at King's Lynn station were surprised to see her alight from the train.
Among those on the platform ahead of the Royal's arrival were Vernon Hudson and his grand-children Jack, 8, and Amy, 5.
'They love watching trains so I brought them here so they could see them arriving,' said Mr Hudson. 'I had no idea the Queen would be in the train.
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'I can't believe she has got the train up here to get to Sandringham. I think it's very good she has travelled by train rather than helicopter or car - which she probably could - and I respect her for that.'
Janice Long, who boarded the train at Downham Market, said to reporters on the platform: 'Was that the Queen? I can't believe I was sat just one carriage away from her!'
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Meanwhile Maureen Wallace, 67, from King's Lynn, was disappointed not to have caught a glimpse of the Royal.
She said: 'I was only here to pick up my daughter and granddaughter but when I heard the Queen was on their train, I tried to get as close as I could because it's always exciting to see a member of the Royal Family.
'But there were just too many people on the platform and I didn't see her at all which is a shame.'
There was a buzz of excitement around the station before the train arrived. As well as the Queen and her attendants, there were around 50 passengers on board the service.
Wearing a green coat and headscarf, the Queen left the station via a side gate close to Platform Two, which is not usually open to the public. The path had been freshly-salted, while police had carried out a thorough search of the station.
The Queen bought a �47.20 First Class Any Time Single ticket for the 100-mile journey.
'She buys all of her tickets personally,' one source said. 'She pre-books. And all of her security have them as well.'
First Capital Connect, which runs trains between London King's Cross and King's Lynn, said apart from her own compartment, no special arrangements were made.
'It's the same service for everyone else,' a spokesman said. 'All our customers are treated exactly the same.'
There were no major delays today and the train arrived at King's Lynn four minutes late, at 12.24, after stopping at Cambridge, Ely, Littleport, Downham Market and Watlington.
Police and a fleet of Range Rovers were waiting to greet the Monarch, along with a small group of well-wishers and journalists.
Each year, the Queen and members of her immediate family spend Christmas on the Royal Estate. The Duke of Edinburgh arrived at Sandringham yesterday.
Almost 30 members of the Royal Family are expected to join them in Norfolk over the next few days.
They include newlyweds the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, along with Zara Phillips and her husband Mike Tindall.
Other guests will include Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall, the Duke of York, the Earl and Countess of Wessex, and the Priness Royal and her husband, Vice Admiral Sir Timothy Laurence.
Younger members of the party are expected to include Prince Harry, Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, Lady Louise and Viscount Severn.
Also present will be Peter Phillips, his wife Autumn and their daughter Savannah - whose name was first revealed at a service on the estate last Christmas, when the then new-born baby was mentioned in prayers.
Also expected are Viscount Linley, son of the late Princess Margaret, his wife Serena and children the Honourable Charles and Margarita Armstrong-Jones.
His sister Lady Sarah Chatto, her husband Daniel and children Samuel and Arthur Chatto are also understood to be coming to Norfolk.
Crowds are expected to gather outside Sandringham Church on Christmas Day to greet the Royal Family after the service.