Flying Scotsman: Famous engine back on tracks
It's not very often that we're prepared to wait ten years for a train to arrive, but when that train is pulled by a world-famous record-breaking steam locomotive then it becomes another matter entirely!
Yes, this is the welcome news of the much-anticipated return of the LNER Class A3 4472 Flying Scotsman steam engine to mainline passenger-carrying service following a ten-year, £4.2 million restoration.
Such rebuilds (and new builds) are always gratifying but in the case of the Scotsman there is an extra level of excitement at its return, due no doubt to the way it has captured the nation's imagination ever since its unveiling in 1924 at the British Empire Exhibition in Wembley, London. In the intervening 92 years it has cemented its reputation as one of the most well-known steam engines in the world and is rightly celebrated as an ultimate example of British engineering at its best. Having been the first locomotive to travel non-stop from London to Edinburgh in 1928 (hauling the service from which it took its name) and the first to break the 100mph barrier in 1934 the Scotsman earned a place in our island story from almost the beginning of its career.
It was this fame and affection that saved it from the scrapheap in 1963 when it was bought by businessman and railway enthusiast Alan Pegler, restored at Doncaster and then sent on an international tour to the United States and Australia. Subsequent owners William McAlpine and Tony Marchington did their bit to keep the Scotsman in steam and in the hearts and minds of people around the world until 2004 when it was finally acquired by the National Railway Museum in York.
Complete restoration followed in 2006 with the aim of returning Scotsman to as near original condition as possible and at the same time renewing its boiler certification, but unforeseen problems pushed the initial 2010 completion date back to late 2015. Complete with a new boiler - the only original A3 Class boiler in existence, in fact, replacing the later A4 Class type that Scotsman had used since an early 1980s refit - the famous engine finally moved under its own power for the first time in ten years for test runs on the East Lancashire Railway on the 8th January.
In Pictures: Flying Scotsman returns to tracks for tests
Barring a few small issues with the brakes these tests have been largely successful and the Flying Scotsman is due to make its triumphant return to the main line in early February on an inaugural run from London to York, following a spiffing new British Rail green paint job. Understandably tickets for these initial runs have all been snapped up within hours of going on sale but there will of course be the chance to see the Scotsman in all its glory at the NRM and hopefully any later London runs will not be booked up. With any luck she may even embark on another national tour - either way it would certainly be something to travel on such an historic train. Here's hoping, and in the meantime a hearty "welcome back!" to this much-loved engine.