‘The most famous steam locomotive in the world’
The London and North Eastern Railway (LNER) Class A3 Pacific steam locomotive No. 4472 Flying Scotsman was built in 1923 and retired 1963. Scotsman was a flagship locomotive for the LNER, it represented the company at the British Empire Exhibition in 1924 and 1925. In February 1924, it acquired its name and the number 4472; a long-haul express train, it was named after its 10am London to Edinburgh run. It has two records for steam traction: the first steam locomotive to be officially authenticated at reaching 100mph on 30 November 1934; and the longest non-stop run by a steam locomotive when it ran 422 miles in Australia on 8 August 1989.
The Scotsman didn’t only visit Australia but also America and Canada (1969-1973). Its road to preservation post-retirement has been long and at times precarious but from January 2006, the National Railway Museum undertook a major overhaul to return the Scotsman to Nigel Gresley’s original specification. Its triumphal return this year has been marked by jubilation. Its first run was pulling the Winter Cumbrian Mountain Express from Carnforth to Carlisle, this took place on 6th February 2016. It then undertook a journey from London King’s Cross to York on 25th February whilst donning its traditional green livery; no doubt to the delight and bemusement of regular commuters! It will now be making special tours throughout the UK.
Did you see the Scotsman fly again?
Designed by Sir Herbert Nigel Gresley, IMechE past President, construction was started under the auspices of the Great Northern Railway (GNR). It was built as an A1, initially carrying the GNR number 1472, because the LNER had not yet decided on a system-wide numbering scheme. It was one of five Gresley Pacifics that had modified valve gear and ran the London to Edinburgh service, hauling the inaugural train on 1 May 1928. For this, the locomotives ran with a new version of the large eight-wheel tender which held 9 long tons of coal. This and the usual facility for water replenishment from the water trough system enabled them to travel the 392 miles from London to Edinburgh in eight hours non-stop. The tender included a corridor connection and tunnel through the water tank giving access to the locomotive cab from the train so that the driver and fireman could be changed without stopping the train.
The locomotive ran with its corridor tender between April 1928 and October 1936, after which it reverted to the original type; in July 1938, it was paired with a streamlined non-corridor tender and ran with this type until withdrawal. On 22 August 1928 an improved version of this Pacific type, classified A3, appeared; older A1 locomotives were later rebuilt to conform. The Flying Scotsman emerged from Doncaster works on 4 January 1947 as an A3, having received a boiler with the long “banjo” dome of the type it carries today. It became No. 502 in January 1946; in May 1946, it became No. 103. Following nationalisation of the railways on 1 January 1948, almost all of the LNER locomotive numbers were increased by 60000; the Scotsman became No. 60103 in December 1948. All A3 Pacifics were later fitted with a double Kylchap chimney (to improve performance and economy) which in turn led to smoke deflectors being fitted from 1960.
In 1962 British Railways announced that they would scrap the Scotsman and it had its last run on 14 January 1963. The “Save Our Scotsman” group were unable to raise the required £3,000 (the scrap value) and so begun its route to private ownership. In 1961 Alan Pegler bought it outright, he paid for restoration at Doncaster Works with the aim of restoring it as closely as possible to its LNER appearance. It ran enthusiast specials, being the only steam locomotive to run on mainlines. It then went on tour to America and Canada, in support of British exports, but this ceased when the money ran out. The locomotive remained in America at this time.
It was then rescued by William McAlpine who bought the locomotive for £25,000 and shipped it home via the Panama Canal in February 1973. It was then restored at Derby Works. Trial runs took place on the Paignton and Dartmouth Steam Railway in summer 1973, after which it was transferred to Steamtown, Carnforth from where it ran. In December 1977 the Scotsman entered the Vickers Engineering Works for heavy repairs. Then, from October 1988 the locomotive took part in Australia’s bicentenary celebrations. It returned in 1990, first touring on mainline (until 1993) and then on preserved railways. By 1995 it was in pieces at Southall Railway Centre and owned by a consortium that included McAlpine.
The huge cost of restoration and refurbishment necessary to meet the stringent engineering standards required for mainline operation meant that it remained at the Centre until 1996 when Dr Tony Marchington bought the locomotive and had it restored to running condition; it is recognised at the time as the most extensive restoration in the locomotive’s history. The Scotsman was returned to use. However, Marchington faced his own difficulties and after a national campaign to save the Scotsman it was bought in April 2004 by the National Railway Museum who carried interim running repairs, it ran for a while to raise funds for its 10-year restoration. From 2006, it was under restoration until its return this year.
Image: The Morning Rush from King’s Cross to the North [10:15am Leeds Express 10:5am Scotch Express 10:0am Non-Stop ‘Flying Scotsman’ 10:20am Peterborough], scanned by Andy Dingley from Cecil J Allen, The Steel Highway, London: Longmans, Green & Co., pp. p. Frontispiece, 1928. Public Domain.