The Prince of Wales today celebrated the 75th anniversary of South Yorkshire built speed train The Mallard - but joked about the slow arrival of the royal baby, writes Graham Walker.
Charles, who is to become a grandfather for the first time, told well wishes: “I’m very grateful indeed for the kind wishes for my rather slowly-approaching grandfatherhood.”
He is on a two-day trip to Yorkshire, which began with him arriving at the National Railway Museum in York by steam train, where he stepped off the Royal Carriage, through clouds of steam, to applause and cheers from the crowd.
The carriage was pulled into the museum by Bittern - the sister engine of Mallard, which marked 75 years as the world’s fastest steam train earlier this month.
Prince Charles blew the whistle of the Doncaster-built Mallard, which broke the world record for steam when it nudged 126mph in 1938 and is a permanent exhibit at the museum.
He also met retired Mallard driver Bernard Bell, 89, who once transported the Queen on a royal visit when he was working as a fireman on another locomotive.
Mr Bell, from York, who drove Mallard, Bittern and similar engines for decades, said: “He was very interested in the locomotives and he asked me all sorts of questions about my driving.”
As world-wide interest in the impending new addition to his family focuses on St Mary’s Hospital, in central London, Alex Dickinson and her sons Freddie, five, and Thomas, aged seven, travelled from nearby Church Fenton to catch a glimpse of the royal as he left the museum.
Ms Dickinson wished him well with the birth of his grandchild as her children gave him a picture of a giraffe for the baby.
“He said ‘thank you very much’,” she said.
“Freddie said he thought the baby was coming in six hours and Charles said ‘yes, it may well be’.”
When asked by another bystander whether there was any news from the hospital, the Prince replied: “Absolutely nothing at the moment - we’re waiting.”
Interest in the impending addition to the Royal Family was just as strong at his next visit - York Minster.
Members of the public gathered outside and shouted “congratulations” as he left the glaziers’ workshops.
He walked over to one woman smiling and said: “Do you know something I don’t?”
Another well-wisher, John Dowson, from York, shouted: “It’s triplets”, prompting a chuckling Charles to come over to him for a word.
Mr Dowson said: “I felt like saying ‘congratulations, sir, it’s triplets’. Just for a bit of fun.
“He just laughed. He was really jolly. Everybody’s so excited in the country for him.”
Charles met the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, before walking with him through the magnificent interior of the Gothic cathedral.
Stunned tourists stopped to take photographs as the Prince was given a private tour of a recently opened visitor attraction, Revealing York Minster, in the Undercroft before moving on to the workshops to talk to the craftsmen and apprentices restoring the building.
Charles even had a go with a chisel and a hammer as he talked to the stonemasons.
The Dean of York, the Very Reverend Vivienne Faull, said: “We’re proud and excited that he’s come today - but especially today because, in the life of his family, this is going to be such an important day.”