Owen and I today had a priceless experience – stepping onto the footplate of the world’s most famous railway engine, Flying Scotsman, at York’s magnificent National Railway Museum. The 93 year old engine has just been restored to mainline working after a multi-million pound overhaul.
We have got accustomed to footplate visits to famous LNER engines – we visited all six surviving A4 pacifics during NRM’s unforgettable Great Gathering reunion in 2013. And I confess that Flying Scotsman has never inspired me in the same way as Mallard and her sister A4s. But I didn’t think it was right to spend time at the museum this weekend without queueing to stand on the Scotsman’s footplate. I’m so glad we did.
This, as NRM’s marvellous Return of the Scotsman exhibition explains, was the world’s first superstar locomotive. It was a film star from its earliest days. It was the first engine to exceed 100 miles an hour officially. It began the non-stop London to Edinburgh Flying Scostman service in 1928, beating its own 392 mile achievement by recording the world’s longest non-stop steam run – 429 miles – in Australia in 1989.
I think the engine looks wonderful in its British Railways livery, with smoke defectors. I may be biased – this was how it looked the year I was born, when it was withdrawn from everyday service.
The National Railway Museum is a wonderful place to visit – and it’s free to enter. I first visited in 1979, and now love taking Owen whenever we visit York, one of our favourite cities.
It’s amazing to think that when we first took Owen to the NRM in September 2009, aged one, the Scotsman was in pieces at an early stage of the overhaul. Here are a few photos I took on that visit.