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Back in steam

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60103 Flying Scotsman is back in public view following a decade- long restoration project, easing itself in with a series of test runs on the East Lancashire Railway.

Once commissioning is complete in late February, Flying Scotsman season will begin, but not before a quick stop at the Bury workshop where 60103 has been restored to swap its current wartime black livery for the iconic BR Brunswick Green.

The famous locomotive will be displayed in the National Railway Museum’s North Yard this month before taking its place alongside the likes of 4468 Mallard and City of Truro in the Great Hall at the start of March.

Last of the A3s

The Flying Scotsman service between London and Edinburgh was launched in 1862 – a journey which took 10-and-a-half hours. The A1 and A3 Class locomotives, of which 79 were built, hauled the first non- stop service between the two capitals in 1928. 60103, which turns 93 this month, was one of 51 A1 class locomotives which were rebuilt to the A3 specification and has been renumbered several times since it left the factory in 1923. It is now the lone survivor of Nigel Gresley’s A3 class.

Over its lifetime, Scotsman has travelled more than 2.5 million miles, some of which were clocked during tours of the USA – for which it had to be fitted with a cowcatcher – and Australia – a period when the loco was utilised by the British government to showcase the enterprise of British engineering.

The legendary steam engine has had many owners throughout its lifetime. Originally built for the London and North Eastern Railway (LNER), Scotsman was retired in 1963 and bought by British businessman Alan Pegler. The venture left Pegler deep in debt and in the early 1970s, he sold 60103 to millionaire and railway fanatic Sir William McAlpine.

60103 beginning a series of test runs on the East Lancashire Railway. Photo: Paul Kingston, North News.
60103 beginning a series of test runs on the East Lancashire Railway. Photo: Paul Kingston, North News.

Flying Scotsman eventually returned to public ownership in 2005 – bought for £2.3 million. The bid included £365,000 from Sir Richard Branson, who thankfully didn’t insist on a Virgin red livery.


Now under NRM ownership, Flying Scotsman was withdrawn from service at the end of 2005. What was originally expected to be a fairly short, straightforward overhaul turned into a complete restoration.

The £4.2 million project, which was funded by contributions from the public and the National Heritage Memorial Fund, required engineers to strip the locomotive down to its frame. The A4 boiler, which was fitted in the 1970s, in particular was found to be in bad state of repair and has been replaced by a genuine A3 boiler from Scotsman’s sister locomotive, 60041 Salmon Trout.

It’s a proud moment for Colin Green, co- director at Riley & Son which in 2013 was awarded the contract to restore, manage and maintain the locomotive.

‘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.

Scotsman season

NRM is running a series of exhibitions this spring to celebrate 60103. Between February and June, ’Starring Scotsman’ will focus on the moments and achievements that have made the Flying Scotsman so popular. Another exhibition will look at how the Scotsman helped set new standards in customer service and the Platform 4 Theatre will put on daily performances during the Easter holidays telling the story of the world’s most famous locomotive.

Photo: Peter Byrne, PA.
Photo: Peter Byrne, PA.

From the end of March, Flying Scotsman will begin a tour of the UK. It will, of course, recreate its namesake service between London and Edinburgh, but it will also haul services between London and Bath; Bristol and Taunton; London and Holyhead; and York and Carlisle.

Reflecting on the first test runs in January, 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.’

Lead image: Paul Kingston, North News.