Full steam ahead as Flying Scotsman visits Scotland this weekend
Flying Scotsman is the most famous steam locomotive in the world.
Its name evokes poignant memories of adventure, luxury and a lost era of glamour and, for one day only this weekend, the iconic engine is heading north of the border for the first time in 16 years.
On Sunday, avid fans will be able to see Flying Scotsman in all its spectacular glory, when the engine, hauling the Cathedrals Express, treats passengers to two unforgettable excursions from Edinburgh.
The exclusive trips will see the classic locomotive first head from the Scottish capital in the morning along the newly re-opened Borders Railway to Tweedbank.
And in the evening, Flying Scotsman will embark on a circular tour of Fife before heading back to Edinburgh over the Forth Bridge.
Marcus Robertson, chairman of Steam Dreams which is organising this weekend’s Scottish trips, said: “We are really looking forward to bringing Flying Scotsman back to Scotland.
“It will be a very poignant moment when we cross the border as this iconic engine re-traces its steps to Edinburgh Waverley.”
It’s certain to be a triumphant homecoming for Flying Scotsman, which was designed in 1922 by Edinburgh-born Sir Nigel Gresley.
Marcus added: “Since returning to the tracks, following a 10-year refit, Flying Scotsman has really captured the public’s imagination and demand for tickets has been overwhelming.”
So overwhelming in fact that both trips sold out in an hour and a half – with many keen to experience a once-in-a-lifetime journey behind this legendary locomotive.
Flying Scotsman is returning to Scotland after a £4.2m rebuild and a successful pilot run from London King’s Cross to York earlier this year.
It has enthralled generations of steam train lovers and there is much excitement about catching a glimpse of the famous engine running on the main line – as it is a sight many feared they would never see again.
“We’ve been starved of this great locomotive for 10 years,” said Mike Kelly, chairman of the East Lancashire Railway, the heritage line where Flying Scotsman’s been doing test runs.
“There’s so much anticipation to see it back on our rails again.”
Andrew McLean, head curator at the National Railway Museum, has written a book about The Flying Scotsman train service, which also features the locomotive.
He said the classic engine is admired around the globe.
“The public reaction so far has been fantastic,” Andrew said. “When the locomotive did its first run on the mainline on February 25 the crowds that came out showed just how hugely popular Flying Scotsman is.
“The media attention spanned the world – from places as far afield as Burma, Australia, South Africa, America and Canada.”
Originally built in Doncaster in 1923 for £7944, Flying Scotsman became the first locomotive of the newly-formed London and North Eastern Railway (LNER).
A year later, when it was selected to appear at the British Empire Exhibition in London, it was given the name ‘‘Flying Scotsman’’ after the London to Edinburgh rail service which ran daily at 10am in 1862.
In 1928, it was given a new type of tender with a corridor which meant a cab crew could take over without stopping the train.
This allowed the locomotive to haul the first ever non-stop London to Edinburgh service on May 1.
And a few years afterwards, in 1934, Scotsman was clocked at 100mph on a special test run – officially the first locomotive in the UK to have reached that speed.
But it wasn’t just famous for being fast, Flying Scotsman also had a reputation for its stylish travel.
It offered a cinema, book shop, a hair salon, cocktail bar and silver-service dining.
But by 1963, after travelling more than two million miles, the locomotive was decommissioned by British Rail.
Flying Scotsman was destined for the scrapyard, until British businessman Alan Pegler rescued the engine and later showcased it across America.
However, Pegler ran out of money and had to leave the locomotive in San Francisco.
At that point, it seemed Flying Scotsman had reached the end of the line ... until businessman Sir William McAlpine stepped in to bring it home and restore it to its former glory.
In 2006, the engine, owned by the National Railway Museum, underwent the most extensive refit of any steam locomotive – ever.
“People say there is nothing left of the original Flying Scotsman but there is a lot more than people realise,” Andrew added.
“Parts have become worn and safety equipment has had to be installed.
“But 70 per cent of the frames are still there, along with parts of the cab. The boiler was also taken from one of its sister engines.
“I first saw Flying Scotsman when I was five years old. I was just a little boy.
“Now I have the privilege of being able to look after it and making it accessible to future generations.
“It is a cultural icon.”
A source of inspiration ...
Flying Scotsman has also had an impact on popular culture.
It has been an inspiration for film-makers, writers and sportsmen and women.
The locomotive even starred in its own film. ‘‘The Flying Scotsman’’ was a 1929 black and white part-silent film set on the train, featuring the famous class A3 LNER locomotive. The thriller is remembered for its daring stunts performed aboard the travelling train. One of its most famous scenes shows actress Pauline Johnson, wearing a fur coat and heels, walking along the edge of the moving train, transferring from the coaches to the locomotive, while it travels at speed. Flying Scotsman also appeared in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1935 film, ‘‘The 39 Steps’’. Many also believe the engine inspired JK Rowling’s Hogwarts Express train in the Harry Potter books. And the locomotive is due to feature in the forthcoming Thomas the Tank Engine movie – Thomas And Friends: The Great Race. The name Flying Scotsman has also been given to Scottish athlete Eric Liddle, cyclist Graeme Obree and racing drivers Jim Clark and Jackie Stewart – on account of their speed.
Warning ahead of Flying Scotsman’s visit north of the border
Flying Scotsman will be travelling through the Kingdom of Fife this Sunday.
The locomotive will depart Waverley Station in Edinburgh and will go through Queensferry and over the Forth Bridge. It will follow the coastal route to Kirkcaldy before returning via Dunfermline and back over the Forth Bridge to Edinburgh.
Unfortunately, due to concerns over safety, timings for the route are not being publicised.
Access to train platforms will also be restricted to prevent overcrowding.
Only passengers travelling on other trains will be allowed onto platforms at Dalmeny and North Queensferry, with footbridges being kept clear.
Enthusiasts are being asked to stay well away from the tracks and not disrupt the safe running of services.
A statement from the National Railway Museum said: “While we understand interest in Flying Scotsman will be extremely high, we urge those wishing to view it on its tour dates do so from a safe vantage point.
“It is vital that spectators do not venture on to the railway, particularly when it is on the main line as regular services will be running. To avoid incidents of trespass we are not publishing recommended viewing points or the timetable of when the train will be passing through specific locations – this includes positioning moves.
“We are working very closely with Network Rail and the British Transport Police with this approach as Flying Scotsman’s inaugural run was marred by several dangerous incidents of trespass – the public were seen walking along the tracks and taking photographs of Flying Scotsman while other trains continued to pass on opposing lines.”