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The History of the Flying Scotsman

The Flying Scotsman is one of the most famous railway locomotives in the whole world. It has just recently been restored as a working locomotive by the National Railway Museum in York, and now it’s finished, it is expected to be one of the museum’s main attractions. Here is some more information about the history of the locomotive.


The locomotive was designed by Sir Nigel Gresley as part of the most powerful class of locomotives operating at the time. It was completed on the 24th February 1923 by a team working for London and North Eastern Railway (LNER) in Doncaster. It was initially given engine number 1472. Due to the trains powerful carriage pulling abilities and its innovate design, the train was chosen to appear as part of London exhibition highlighting the triumphs of the British Empire.

Following the locomotives successful showing at the exhibition, it was renumbered as 4472 and given the moniker the “Flying Scotsman”, after the nickname which was given to the Edinburgh to London route.

Slashing Journey Times

When the route first started running in 1862, the journey time was approximately 10.5 hours from Edinburgh to London, including a 30mins stop at York, where passengers would take lunch. As the locomotives and the dining facilities improved over the years, the journey time was cut to 8.5 hours, with a 15 minute stop in York. By the time the new A1 locomotives were introduced, and the “Flying Scotsman” was pulling the route, journeys were faster than ever.

On the 1st May 1928, the locomotive hauled its first ever non-stop service, clocking in at just 8 hours. In 1934, the Flying Scotsman successfully travelled at 100mph, and became widely known as the fastest train in the world. By this point, the journey between London and Edinburgh took just 7 hours and 20 minutes to complete.

Later Career

During the war, the famous green engine was repainted “wartime black”, in keeping with the majority of other rolling stock in the UK. Locomotives and carriages were given this colouring, as it was thought that this would make them harder targets to hit in an aerial raid. After the war it was re-coloured back to its original green, until the nationalisation of British rail travel in 1948, when it was painted blue for a time. The locomotive was renumbered once again, as 60103.

During the 1950’s, the Scotsman was allocated to the Leicester Central shed, and began pulling passenger carriages on the route from Nottingham to London. By the 1960’s, steam engines had started to fall out of fashion as developments in locomotive technology were producing faster and cleaner trains. The Flying Scotsman was given a retirement date, and it pulled its last scheduled run on 14 January 1963. This marked the end of nearly 40 years of pulling commercial, scheduled trains.

The Flying Scotsman in Retirement

Due to its record breaking history, the Flying Scotsman still gathered a lot of attention, even during retirement. The locomotive was purchased by avid railway enthusiast Alan Pegler who restored the engine back to its 1930s condition, and then took it on a tour of the United States. For this venture, he was forced to fit an American-style cowcatcher to the front of the train. Following financial issues, Pegler sold the train to William McAlpine (businessman), who proceeded to take the train on a tour of Australia.

Even during its retirement, the Scotsman was still breaking records, managing to notch up the longest non-stop run by a steam locomotive by travelling 422 miles (679 km) in one go).

In 2004, the Flying Scotsman was once again purchased by the United Kingdom, and taken to the National Railway Museum in York. It has just recently finished being painstakingly restored, and retains many of its 1930s features, whilst still being considered safe to haul passenger carriages.

If you’d like to find out what events are taking place around the Flying Scotsman then you should visit here.