13 Quick Flying Scotsman Facts You Might Not Know

By Gary Cutlack on at

The most famous steam train of all is back in business today, with a short run from refurbishment shed to tracks that form part of the East Lancashire Railway heritage line marking the return of the Flying Scotsman to active service.

It's been a long journey to get it back into working order. Here are but some of the highs and lows the famous engine has experienced.

1. The Flying Scotsman was built in 1923 for the London and North Eastern Railway, and earned its name from the London to Edinburgh rail service of the day. It was designed by Sir Nigel Gresley, with the British Empire Exhibition of 1924 making it world famous.

2. It was the first train to officially hit 100mph in service, in 1934. HOWEVER, the City of Truro steam engine was claimed to have beat that speed earlier, hitting 102mph in 1904. It was on a slope though, so that's cheating, right?

3. Key stats: The Flying Scotsman is 70 feet long, and weighs 96 tonnes. Over the course of its lifetime, it's travelled roughly 2,500,000 miles.

4. It was taken out of UK operation in 1963, before being saved from the scrapheap by businessman Alan Pegler -- who bought it and pioneered today's heritage rail scene by petitioning the rail operators of the day to let him run niche steam services for the entertainment of enthusiasts.

5. During World War II, the Flying Scotsman was painted black, so as to comply with blackout-blitz measures to foil Luftwaffe bombers.

6. It retired to America. Like a footballer, it made money in the US and Canada at the tail end of its career, ferrying tourists about between 1969 and 1973.

flying scotsman

7. It returned to the UK in 1973 under the new ownership of William McAlpine, who had it refurbished again and set to work on various heritage routes.

8. It retired again in the 1990s, before yet another steam enthusiast businessman -- Dr Tony Marchington -- spent around £1m on refitting it again, this time much closer to original UK spec.

9. Pete Waterman of Stock Aitken Waterman 80s / early 90s pop songwriting fame (yes, him responsible for Rick Astley, Jason Donovan and the early hits of Kylie Minogue) became part-owner of the Flying Scotsman by 1995.

10. In April of 2004 it was bought by the National Railway Museum in York after the previous consortium of owners fell into financial distress, where it pottered around legacy routes to raise money for, yes, another refurbishment.

11. The latest decade-long struggle to get it into condition and certified for modern use has cost a staggering a £4.2m.

12. Its latest form sees it painted in classic BR Green livery and officially known as No. 60103.

13. Today's journey will take the Flying Scotsman from Kings Cross to York, where it will go on display at the National Railway Museum for those that can't brave standing by the tracks, waiting a few second's glimpse of the speedy steam engine. [BBC]

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