This article by Roger Highfield was also published on our blog.
The world’s most famous locomotive, the Flying Scotsman, made its inaugural run from London to the National Railway Museum in York today after a £4.2m effort to restore the steam legend to its former glory.
Tens of thousands of people, from fascinated bystanders to train fans and ‘puffer nutters’, lined platforms, crowded tracks and hung over bridges as the venerable locomotive thundered up the East Coast Main Line, pulling 11 carriages crammed with dignitaries, press, paying ticket holders rail engineers and former staff.
Just before it departed from King’s Cross, National Railway Museum Director Paul Kirkman told me:
It has taken years of hard work to get this far and it is incredibly satisfying to see the most famous locomotive in the world back on track, steaming up the East Coast Mainline. We would like to thank all the generous supporters of this complex project – this moment is a vivid testament to their achievement.
— Richard Branson (@richardbranson) February 25, 2016
At around 7.20am, passengers climbed aboard including Scotsman’s former owner Sir William McAlpine; broadcaster Michael Portillo; Secretary of State for Transport rt. Hon Patrick McLoughlin MP; Ian Blatchford, Director of the Science Museum Group, SMG; Dame Mary Archer, Chair of the SMG board; Sir Peter Luff, Chair of HLF, and Fiona Spiers, Head of HLF Yorkshire and the Humber; Trustees Lord Faulkner, Simon Linnett, Anton Valk and Averil Macdonald; former Scotsman firemen and drivers and many of the people involved in the decade-long restoration project to bring the steam legend back to life.
Twenty minutes later the behemoth departed with a piercing whistle through billowing clouds of steam from Platform 1, arriving at Platform 9 in York at around 12.30pm, then moving at a steady der-dum, der-dum next door to come to a halt at around 3pm in the North Yard of the museum, home of the world’s most important rail collection.
Over its lifetime of more than nine decades this magnificent symbol of railway heritage and technology has travelled some 2,500,000 miles and, more like a living creature than museum piece, seen a constant turnover of components and parts, along with enhancements to allow it to operate in the 21st century.
Today’s historic journey between London King’s Cross and York allowed the public to see the restored icon of British engineering in green livery, BR Green 60103, and carrying its iconic nameplates for the first time.
The enthralling feat of engineering was cheered from beginning to end of its two hundred mile inaugural run, spellbinding trainspotters and the public alike: as the tabloids remarked, train fans ‘went loco.’
The first passenger-carrying outing put a firm full stop at the end of a long and thorough testing and commissioning process, showing that the Flying Scotsman is officially back on track after being restored at the Bury engineering works of Riley & Sons (E) Bury.
The 96 ton locomotive was designed by Sir Nigel Gresley and built in the Doncaster railway works. Among the innovations in its design was a corridor to allow the driver and fireman to walk through to the carriages so that crews could swap mid-journey without stopping the train.
Unveiled in February 1923, the Flying Scotsman consolidated its reputation a decade later when it was clocked at 100mph, becoming the first locomotive to have officially reached that speed. During the pre-war years the locomotive came to symbolize all that is speed and style, not least because it was the star of British cinema’s first ‘talkie’ in 1929 and carried innovations such as the cinema car, cocktail bar and hairdressing salon.
Sir Richard Branson and Virgin Group, who helped to save the Scotsman with a £365,000 gift, talked glowingly about how he ‘loved the glamour that the Flying Scotsman brought to travel… I also love the Flying Scotsman’s record breaking history.’
In 1963 the locomotive went out of service and spent 40 years in private ownership touring the world. More than a decade ago the National Railway Museum bought it for £2.3 million, supported by a £1.8 million national lottery grant from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the incredible generosity of the public. The restoration has also been undertaken with the help of a Heritage Lottery Fund grant of £275,000.
The Flying Scotsman was recently confirmed as the world’s most famous locomotive after its name topped a poll commissioned from YouGov, even overtaking the locomotive that had propelled the industrial revolution, Stephenson’s Rocket, that also belongs to the Science Museum Group.
Today’s inaugural run got the Flying Scotsman celebrations off to a flying start during the locomotive’s ‘birthday month’. Among the forthcoming events, one will celebrate when it reached 100mph on a London to Leeds run under the guidance of Driver William Sparshatt. The LNER’s 1905 Dynamometer Car was in tow to record the feat on 30 November 1934 and will once again be reunited with the Flying Scotsman in the Museum’s March-May Stunts, Speed and Style display.
Sir Peter Hendy, Chairman of Network Rail, pointed out that since the heyday of the Flying Scotsman, when it made regular trips from London to Edinburgh, the journey time has halved and frequency quadrupled. “Alongside celebrating the glorious history of the oldest railway in the world we also look forward to investing to continue the huge contribution the railway makes to the future of the UK.”
The historic service still runs: Virgin Trains’ modern day Flying Scotsman-liveried 91101 locomotive was unveiled by First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon at Edinburgh Waverley Station earlier this year. The modern train, which departed at 8.30am today from an adjoining platform, overtook its venerable sister as it raced north in just two hours. David Horne, Managing Director of Virgin Trains on its East Coast route, said: “The Flying Scotsman has an incredible history and we’re proud to be sponsoring a season celebrating its return to the tracks.”
Visitors to the National Railway Museum can immerse themselves in the glamour of the world’s longest-established express train with a ticketed exhibition. Starring Scotsman, the Museum’s exhibition about the engineering icon, is now open to visitors. Service with Style will use sound and archive film on board three carriages to tell its stirring story of speed, innovation, fame and luxury.
For the latest news use hashtag #FlyingScotsman and to give us your recollections of this engineering legend use #MyScotsman or visit http://www.flyingscotsman.org.uk/my-scotsman-story/