Doncaster built rail icon Flying Scotsman back on the tracks

The Flying Scotsman in steam
The Flying Scotsman in steam

This week a milestone in railway history was reached when Doncaster-built railway icon Flying Scotsman officially steamed for the first time after the successful completion of a decade-long £4.2m restoration project to bring a legend back to life.

The team at Riley & Son (E) Ltd along with National Railway Museum Rail Operations Manager Noel Hartley saw the fruition of years of work in the York and Bury workshops, when the locomotive steamed down the East Lancashire Railway tracks ahead of its first passenger runs at the weekend.

“These are the first stages of bringing it back to the mainline and despite being self-confessed men of iron we’re really quite emotional to see it move under its own steam at last after years of hard work” said Colin Green, co-director at Riley & Son, the Bury-based firm of steam and diesel engineering specialists appointed in October 2013 to complete the work on the 1923-built locomotive and manage and maintain it during its first two years of operation.

Scotsman fans can ride or dine behind the loco as it does its test runs as part of the commissioning process. Mike Kelly, the new Chairman of the East Lancashire Railway said:

“Our ‘Scotsman in Steam’ events on 8 and 9 January and the following weekend are literally the first ever opportunities to see Scotsman post-restoration. We’re so honoured to host this iconic steam locomotive first in its big return year.”

Once Flying Scotsman has built up its mileage on heritage and main lines with January’s Lancashire test runs it is considered to be ready for its full return to the spotlight. It will then return to the Bury workshop where it was restored to be transformed by the dedicated team at Blackburn-based firm Heritage Painting into its BR Green livery ready for its welcome home event in late February 2016.

The locomotive’s return to the National Railway Museum kicks off the Scotsman season with to a flying start during Flying Scotsman’s ‘birthday’ month – the engine was built at Doncaster and completed in February 1923.

Museum Director Paul Kirkman said: “Along with all our generous supporters for this complex project to bring a 1920s-built cultural icon back to life, we have all been looking forward to the day when Flying Scotsman is once again running on Britain’s tracks. Even though we still have the rest of the commissioning phase to get through, including the mainline test runs, we are so thrilled this historic day has finally come to pass.

“We hope the public will join us to welcome Flying Scotsman home in late February. We will be showing it in light steam in our North Yard and then it will finish off as the centre of attention on our Great Hall turntable. As well as seeing the icon out and about on Britain’s tracks in 2016, the public can experience the essence of Flying Scotsman first-hand at our museum, through a series of innovative and colourful exhibitions and events.”

Heritage Minster, Tracey Crouch, said:

“After a decade of regeneration, the anticipated return of the world famous and much loved Flying Scotsman is almost upon us.

“From early 2016 The ‘Scotsman’ will tour the UK as a working museum exhibit, educating fans of all ages about the wonders of the engineering behind its steam traction. This is a wonderful way to tell the story of this iconic and well-travelled locomotive and will ensure that people now and in the future understand why it is such an important part of Great Britain’s heritage.”

The locomotive is considered by many to be the world’s most famous after its name topped a National Railway Museum poll late last year. On 30th November, the anniversary of Flying Scotsman being the first locomotive to officially reach 100mph in 1934, the Museum announced the results of a YouGov survey carried out online across four continents that put the steam star right at the top of the train league table, beating the Orient Express into third place and Stephenson’s Rocket and Hogwarts Express into 14th and 25th. Respondents in the UK, US, India and Australia were asked to name five trains or locomotives they had heard of.

While a Feb-June “Starring Scotsman” exhibition examines the locomotive’s claims to fame, a six week display in the Great Hall called “Stunts, Speed and Style” from 25 March onwards will tell the story of the renowned luxury service between London and Edinburgh through the eras. Visitors will be able to get on board the cabs of four different locomotives including No. 60103 Flying Scotsman itself, which hauled the famous Flying Scotsman train, which departed at 10am carrying business and leisure travellers from both capital cities.

The flagship Flying Scotsman service is known for on-board innovations like the cinema car, cocktail bar and hairdressing salon and all of this along with continual publicity stunts helped it grab the headlines from the very first mention of the ‘Flying Scotchman’ in The Times in 1875.

Visitors can also immerse themselves in the glamour and allure of the world’s longest–established express train with a ground-breaking ticketed exhibition. “Service with Style” uses binaural sound and archive film on board three carriages of the kind that travelled the historic Flying Scotsman route to tell a story of speed, innovation, fame and luxury right up to the present day with the modern service run by Virgin Trains East Coast.

Throughout the season, there will a family-friendly Scotsman science show on the theme of speed, craft activities during the school holidays, a schedule of photography events and on 28 April, the museum’s first ever ‘Lates’ event on a roaring twenties theme. The season’s finishing flourish will be the chance to see Flying Scotsman in light steam at a sixties-style ‘Shed Bash’ at the National Railway Museum’s Shildon Co. Durham site.

Starring Scotsman runs from late February – 19 June. “Stunts Speed and Style” and “Service with Style” run from 25 March – 8 May 2016. Tickets for “Service with Style” cost £8. For more information about the Flying Scotsman Season and to book tickets please visit www.nrm.org.uk/flyingscotsman . For the latest conversations about the return of Flying Scotsman, use or track #Flying Scotsman.