How Queen Elizabeth II Was Nearly Killed in the ‘Lithgow Plot’ in 1970 While Sitting on a Train

It was April 30, 1970, and Queen Elizabeth II was mingling with excited staff at a white goods factory in central west NSW.

The queen had insisted on visiting the white goods factory of Orange, the city’s largest employer, rather than spending her time admiring the beautiful scenery.

“It was a huge boost for the city,” said local historian Liz Edwards.

The Queen had no idea that just hours earlier, what local police say was an attempted murder targeting her and her husband the Duke of Edinburgh had failed.

The story goes that would-be assassins placed a large wooden block over the train tracks in Lithgow, west of the Blue Mountains, in an attempt to derail the royal locomotive.

The queen in a photo from the 70s shows refrigerators
Historian Liz Edwards said the Queen’s visit to Orange was a huge thrill for the city.(Provided: Orange District Historical Society)

The 44-year-old Queen and Prince Phillip were on their way to Orange, the next stop on their royal tour.

The front train for the Royals locomotive hit the block, but because it was going so slowly, it didn’t derail, and the royal couple was apparently unaware that anything untoward had happened.

In fact, it took nearly 40 years for what has come to be known as the “Lithgow Plot” to come to light.

In 2009, longtime friends, former Detective Inspector Cliff McHardy and ex-Lithgow Mercury police reporter Len Ashworth, decided it was time the public knew the story.

Mr Ashworth, who is now retired, said Mr McHardy and his newspaper’s former editor, Bele Lleyton, had a “closed meeting” in the Mercury office days after the incident.

“Apparently the police had asked for national security not to publish anything.”

The former police secretary said Mr McHardy would tell him all the details later, but agreed not to print anything.

He said “it was certainly frustrating”, as a veteran journalist, to be kept in secrecy over the years.

And the strange teasing of his mate, Mr. McHardy, didn’t make it any easier.

“After Cliff left Lithgow, he kept in touch, and every now and then he dropped a short sentence, ‘you never got that royal train story,'” Mr Ashworth said.

Thirty-nine years later, when Mr. Ashworth was Mercury’s editor-in-chief, the duo agreed to reveal the story they’d kept a secret for so long — and it went global.

“It was probably my biggest first, 30 years after the event.”

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