On February 25th, 1923, the Flying Scotsman steam train entered service, marking a significant moment in the history of railways. It quickly gained popularity among railway enthusiasts and the general public due to its impressive record-breaking feats. In 1928, it made history by hauling the first non-stop London to Edinburgh service, and in 1934, it became the UK’s first locomotive to reach 100mph.
The Flying Scotsman is a steam locomotive that was built in Doncaster and went into service in February 1923 as part of the newly formed London and North Eastern Railway (LNER). That means that today, February 25th 2023, marks 100 years of service.
The anniversary has been marked with an event in Edinburgh Waverley, with young dancers from the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society performing a dance named after the Flying Scotsman. Poet laureate Simon Armitage read his poem called “The Making of the Flying Scotsman,” which he wrote on the train and the event ended with a set by rock band the Red Hot Chilli Pipers.
What is the Flying Scotsman
The Flying Scotsman is famous worldwide, having amassed crowds during tours across the United States, Canada, and Australia. It is the only locomotive of its kind to be preserved to the present day, having covered more than two million miles before retiring from regular service.
The Flying Scotsman hauled by 4488 Union of South Africa at London King’s Cross in 1948
The train continues to tour the UK and will be travelling across the country throughout 2023.
- The Flying Scotsman was built in 1923 at Doncaster Works and cost £7,944 to construct.
- It has a weight of 97 tonnes and a length of 70ft.
- The train holds the distinction of being officially the first locomotive to reach 100mph, a feat it accomplished in 1934.
- The Flying Scotsman is also the first locomotive to circumnavigate the globe, having made trips to the United States, Canada, and Australia.
- The train holds the world record for a non-stop run in a steam locomotive, which was set in 1989 with a 422-mile trip.
The history of the Flying Scotsman
The Flying Scotsman is a steam train that was built in Doncaster and went into service in February 1923 as part of the newly formed London and North Eastern Railway (LNER). It was designed by Sir Nigel Gresley as part of the A1 class of locomotives, which were the most powerful at the time.
The train gained fame after it was selected to appear at the British Empire Exhibition in 1924, where it was renumbered 4472 and given the name ‘Flying Scotsman’ after the daily 10.00 London to Edinburgh rail service, which started in 1862.
In 1928, it was given a new type of tender with a corridor, allowing a new crew to take over without stopping the train. This innovation enabled it to haul the first-ever non-stop London to Edinburgh service on May 1st of that year, reducing the journey time to eight hours.
Deltic The Black Watch with the Flying Scotsman and headboard
In 1934, the Flying Scotsman reached a speed of 100mph on a special test run, becoming the first locomotive in the UK to achieve that speed. This feat proved that steam power could provide high speeds, negating plans to use diesel power on high-speed services.
During the Second World War, the Flying Scotsman, like all railway stock, was repainted in wartime black, replacing its usual Apple Green color. After the war, it was rebuilt as an A3 Pacific and painted green again.
In 1948, British Railways was formed, and the Flying Scotsman was numbered 60103, repainted blue for a time, and then painted BR Green. In 1963, it was retired by British Rail after 40 years of pulling trains, as steam engines were becoming outdated.
In January 1963, the Flying Scotsman was bought by Alan Pegler, who negotiated a complete overhaul of the locomotive, converted it back to single-chimney condition, and repainted it in LNER livery. Pegler also exchanged the tender for a corridor type and made an agreement that enabled it to run on the main line.
In 1973, William McAlpine rescued the Flying Scotsman after it was stranded in the USA, restoring and owning it for 23 years. McAlpine had the engine extensively overhauled twice, and even took it to Australia, making it the first steam locomotive to circumnavigate the globe on its voyage there and back.
In 2004, the National Railway Museum spearheaded a campaign to save the Flying Scotsman for the nation, which was supported by thousands of people and confirmed its status as a national treasure. The campaign was successful and resulted in a £1.8 million grant from the National Heritage Memorial Fund, and a Heritage Lottery Fund grant of £275,000 helped complete the restoration.
Today, the Flying Scotsman remains a beloved symbol of innovation and excellence in the railway industry, inspiring and captivating people worldwide. Its remarkable journey and legacy continue to fascinate and inspire future generations.
If you are interested in a more hands-on history of the Flying Scotsman you can visit the National Railway museum in York. The museum is offering a rare chance to see the famous steam locomotive Flying Scotsman up close.
The locomotive will be on display in the Flying Scotsman Story exhibition, with the engine and tender separated for footplate access.
The Flying Scotsman hauled by LNER Class A1 No. 2547 Doncaster in 1928
A new immersive experience called Flying Scotsman VR is available for those who want to explore the locomotive’s history further. A special exhibition, Flying Scotsman: 100 Years, 100 Voices, will also be on display, showcasing new stories from a human perspective. Tickets are free, but limited and must be booked in advance.
Find out more at railwaymuseum.org.uk
- The Flying Scotsman steam train entered service on February 25th, 1923, quickly becoming popular due to its record-breaking feats.
- The steam locomotive was built in Doncaster, went into service in February 1923, and celebrates 100 years of service today.
- The Flying Scotsman has made trips worldwide, circumnavigated the globe and holds the record for the first locomotive to reach 100mph and the world record for a non-stop run in a steam locomotive.
- The Flying Scotsman was designed by Sir Nigel Gresley and gained fame after it was selected to appear at the British Empire Exhibition in 1924.
- A new immersive experience called Flying Scotsman VR is available for those who want to explore the locomotive’s history further, and the National Railway Museum in York offers a hands-on history of the Flying Scotsman.
- The locomotive will be on display in the Flying Scotsman Story exhibition, with the engine and tender separated for footplate access.
- The anniversary of the Flying Scotsman has been marked with an event in Edinburgh Waverley, with young dancers from the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society.