When is the Flying Scotsman 100th anniversary? Now, that depends, on whether you are enquiring about the service, or the engine famously named after the service! That's right, the non stop, express passenger train service, connecting the capitals of Scotland and England, is known as The Flying Scotsman. The famous steam engine, known as The Flying Scotsman, is named after the service. Read on to discover the history of The Flying Scotsman in its entirety!
The service, between Edinburgh and London, travels along the East Coast Main Line and began 18th June, 1862. The first Special Scotch Express departed simultaneously from London King's Cross and Edinburgh Waverley at 10 am. The journey took 10 ½ hours, with a half hour stop at York, for lunch! Through improvements in the railways, engines and increased competition, the journey time reduced to 8 ½ hours by 1888.
Competition came from rival rail companies. The East coast route, the Special Scotch Express, run by Great Northern Railway (GNR), North British Railway (NBR) and North Eastern Railway (NER), (together they formed the East Coast Joint Stock). The West coast route, run by London and North Western Railway (LNWR) and Caledonian Railway (CR). Each wanted to offer the fastest journey. The press dubbed the unofficial rivalry as the ‘Race To The North’. However, the companies publicly denied they had been racing and official time results never existed.
In 1923, British railways grouped together into the ‘big four’. The East Coast Joint Stock amalgamated into the newly formed L.N.E.R. or London and North Eastern Railway. That same year, a locomotive was built, in Doncaster, for the newly formed L.N.E.R. Designed by Sir Nigel Gresley, it went into service on 24th February. The engine, first numbered 1472, became one of many to run the Special Scotch Express passenger route. In 1924, L.N.E.R. renamed the Special Scotch Express service to the Flying Scotsman (it's unofficial name since the 1870s). So, when is the Flying Scotsman 100th anniversary? Well, the passenger service, at the time of writing, is well over 160 years old! The service changed hands many times in its history. However, it is now run, once again, by L.N.E.R., taking just four hours to travel from Edinburgh Waverley to London's King Cross.
At the same time that L.N.E.R. renamed their service, they also renumbered their engine. Switching from 1472, to 4472, it appeared at the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley, London. Likewise, they fondly named the steam engine after the service it so often ran, The Flying Scotsman. Therefore, the Flying Scotsman Steam Engine is officially 100 on 24th February 2023. Read on to discover the history of the locomotive now fondly known as the Flying Scotsman.
The Flying Scotsman Engine
The A1 class engine cost just under £8,000 to build, the third of 51 in total. The 4472 locomotive became the flagship engine for the London and North Eastern Railway appearing at the British Empire Exhibition not just in 1924, but 1925 too. The Flying Scotsman became the first to sport L.N.E.R's livery apple green paintwork. In 1928, the London and North Eastern Railway made the Flying Scotsman service a non-stop journey between London and Edinburgh. The 4472 received a new style of tender, with a corridor. The alteration ensured that the crews could swap over at Tollerton, near York without needing to stop. On the 1st May, The Flying Scotsman, completed the journey in 8 hours 3 minutes. Four other A1 class engines, receiving the same upgrades, also regularly ran the route, all covering the 392 mile journey without stopping.
In 1946, successor to Sir Nigel Gresley, Edward Thompson assigned a new numbering system for the L.N.E.R. Initially, 4472, became 502, however, after just four months it changed once again, to 103. Just two years later, following the nationalisation of British Railways, almost all the L.N.E.R locomotive numbers increased by 6000. The Flying Scotsman's new number created then, 60103, is the number it still travels with today.
A Record Breaker
In addition to being the first steam locomotive to haul a passenger train from London to Edinburgh without stopping, the Flying Scotsman Engine completed other record breaking achievements. In 1934, Scotsman achieved 100mph. As the first steam engine to officially achieve this speed, the Flying Scotsman became famous. L.N.E.R. made much of the publicity, proof that steam engines could reach great speeds, thereby negating the need for the company to upgrade to diesel trains for its high speed services!
In 1969 the Flying Scotsman toured America, promoting British Exports. The tour broke even in the first year, but ended with massive debts in the second year. In 1988, at the invitation of the Australian Government, the Flying Scotsman arrived to take centre stage of the Aus Steam '88 festival. As a result, Scotsman became the first steam engine to ever navigate the globe!
Whilst in Australia, The Flying Scotsman further added to its record breaking achievements. It travelled 422 miles without stopping! This new, non-stop record for a steam engine enhanced Scotsman's appeal and fame. Finally, after restoration in 2016, The Flying Scotsman became the oldest mainline working locomotive on British rails.
Upgrades And Ownership
During 1928, Sir Nigel Gresley modified the A1 class engines to A3s. The overhaul included a change of boiler, from a 180psi, to a 225psi version. In December 1958, they fitted the Scotsman with a Kylchap chimney, however, whilst this new addition aimed to improve performance, it experienced some side effects. Smoke drift obscured the driver's vision, so in 1961, German style smoke deflectors were fitted to solve the problem.
1963 - 1972
In 1962, British Railways announced the retirement of the Flying Scotsman. It ran its last scheduled service for them on 14th January 1963. A gentleman and railway enthusiast, Alan Pelger bought 60103 that same year and initiated a complete overhaul of the engine. Converting the locomotive back to a single chimney condition, Pelger re-painted the Scotsman back to L.N.E.R. livery (instead of BR green). In addition to this, the tender changed back to the corridor style the engine displayed during its record breaking years of 1928 -1936. The nostalgic image of the train restored, Pelger ran private trips on the iconic engine for fellow enthusiasts. The first run took place from London to Ruabon, Wales on 10th April 1963.
The Flying Scotsman's visit to America occurred under Alan Pelger's ownership too. Unfortunately, as highlighted earlier, the tour ended with Pelger bankrupt. The Great British 60103 engine, having received further modifications to comply with American rail regulations found itself stranded, across the pond!
The future of the Flying Scotsman seemed very bleak indeed. However, yet another rail enthusiast, Alan Bloom, came to its rescue. Bloom spoke with businessman William McAlpine about the situation and McAlpine agreed to help. He bought the engine, paying off creditors, and shipped the Scotsman back home.
The Flying Scotsman travelled from Liverpool docks to Derby, under its own steam, (excuse the pun), where restoration began. For 23 years, William McAlpine owned the prestigious steam train. During this time, is underwent 2 further overhauls. It circumnavigated the globe to Australia and back (setting the new world records as described earlier), and carried countless numbers of passengers both on mainline and heritage tracks. By 1993, in need of some finances, William McAlpine teamed up with music producer and enthusiast Pete Waterman to create a business partnership. Together they formed Flying Scotsman Railways. The partnership lasted just a few years and by 1996 the flying Scotsman changed ownership again.
Tony Marchington, bought the steam engine and a set of pullman coaches for £1.5 million. Over a three year period, with a further £1 million pound spent on restoration, he restored the Flying Scotsman, once again, to its former glory. Be that as it may, he too ran into financial difficulty. In September 2003 Marchington declared himself bankrupt. What future did 60103 have?
2003 - Present
Fortunately, the British public held the iconic steam engine in high esteem. A sealed bid auction, held on 2nd April 2004, saw the National Railway Museum secure the winning bid. The winning amount, £2.3 million! The majority of this came from a grant of 1.8 million though the National Heritage Memorial Fund. However, donations from the public, matched by Sir Richard Branson and £70,000 raised by The Yorkshire Post newspaper, helped to top it up!
From 2006-2016 a detailed and extensive restoration project took place. The £4.2 million overhaul gave the Flying Scotsman its new chapter of history. The 60103 steam engine is now a working museum piece, loved by so many. Although there must be very little left of the original A1 steam engine, built in Doncaster in 1923, thousands will surely thrill at the sight, sound and smell of the Flying Scotsman as it celebrates its 100th birthday. So, when is the Flying Scotsman 100th anniversary? 24th February 2023, although events will be taking place all year, check out the planned programme here.
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