Flying Scotsman: A trip back in time on the legendary locomotive

The Flying Scotsman steams through Meldreth railway station. Picture: Clive Porter

The Flying Scotsman steams through Meldreth railway station. Picture: Clive Porter - Credit: Archant

The Flying Scotsman passed through North Herts and South Cambs last week, so we’ve taken a special look at this legendary locomotive that strikes such a chord with the community.

The Flying Scotsman on its journey from Watton-at-Stone to Stevenage. Picture: Roy Cholerton

The Flying Scotsman on its journey from Watton-at-Stone to Stevenage. Picture: Roy Cholerton - Credit: Archant

Steam engine-enthusiasts headed out in their droves to see the Scotsman, as it went through Stevenage, North Herts and South Cambs up to Cambridge on Thursday morning – its final destination was up in Lincoln.

The world’s most famous locomotive was built in Doncaster and was the first engine of the newly-formed London and North Eastern Railway in 1923.

It was designed by Sir Nigel Gresley as part of the A1 class and was named the Flying Scotsman after the London-to-Edinburgh rail service which started daily at 10am in 1862.

It left the works on 24 February, 1923, with number 1472. It was designed by Sir Nigel Gresley as part of the A1 class – the most powerful locomotives used by the LNER at that time.

The Flying Scotsman at Hitchin railway station. Picture: James Whittamore

The Flying Scotsman at Hitchin railway station. Picture: James Whittamore


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By 1924, when it was selected to appear at the British Empire Exhibition in London, the loco had been renumbered as 4472 – it wasn’t until 1934 that the name was formally adopted.

The British Empire Exhibition made Flying Scotsman famous, and it went on to feature in many more publicity events for the LNER.

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In 1928, it was given a new type of tender with a corridor, which meant that a new crew could take over without stopping the train. This allowed it to haul the first ever non-stop London to Edinburgh service on May 1, reducing the journey time to eight hours.

In 1934, the Scotsman was clocked at 100mph on a special test run – officially the first locomotive in the UK to have reached that speed.

The Flying Scotsman at Hitchin railway station. Picture: James Whittamore

The Flying Scotsman at Hitchin railway station. Picture: James Whittamore

It was retired by British Rail in 1963, by which point it had been in operation for 40 years.

The Scotsman was bought by railway preservationist and businessman Alan Pegler, and it took tours in the UK, United States and Australia.

Pop music producer Pete Waterman bought a 50 per cent stake in the locomotive in the early 1990s, before it was bought outright by businessman Tony Marchington in 1996 for £1.25 million.

It is now property of the National Railway Museum and, after a £4.5m overhaul, it’s returned to service and takes tours up and down the country.

The Flying Scotsman powers past Royston bypass. Picture: Lance McDonald

The Flying Scotsman powers past Royston bypass. Picture: Lance McDonald - Credit: Archant

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