Flying Scotsman — back soon

LNER rebuilt Gresley 4-6-2 ‘A3’ class No 4472 Flying Scotsman at Steamtown Railway Museum at Carnforth
Published Mon, 2015-08-03 11:26

Arguably one of the best-known steam locomotives in the world, Flying Scotsman’s long-drawn out restoration is gradually drawing towards a conclusion. Recent press reports suggest that the 92-year-old locomotive may well be back on the main line at the end of 2015.


LNER rebuilt Gresley 4-6-2 ‘A3’ class No 4472 Flying Scotsman at Steamtown Railway Museum at Carnforth prior to working the 08:30 (Additional) London Euston to Sellafield 'Santa Steam Pullman' charter forward from Carnforth on Tuesday 28th December 1982.

Arguably one of the best-known steam locomotives in the world, Flying Scotsman’s long-drawn out restoration is gradually drawing towards a conclusion. Recent press reports suggest that the 92-year-old locomotive may well be back on the main line at the end of 2015.
Few locomotives have had as adventurous a career as Flying Scotsman has had over the past 90 years; certainly operating on three continents is unusual as is the locomotive’s claim to two world records. Moreover, few locomotives can claim to have generated as much controversy as it has over the past 50 years in preservation.
Designed by Sir Nigel Gresley, Flying Scotsman was originally built by the Great Northern Railway at Doncaster as one of the first Class A1 Pacifics to be completed. Appearing initially as GNR No 1472, as the newly established LNER had not finalised its numbering scheme, the locomotives was soon to be renumbered with the number with which it is perhaps best associated — 4472 — and its world-famous name.
As the pride of the LNER No 4472 was exhibited at the Wembley Empire exhibitions of 1924 and 1925, but sister locomotive No 4474 was to be pitted in 1925 against the star of the Great Western Railway — No 4079 Pendennis Castle — in a series of trials that demonstrated that the GWR design performed better. This resulted in Gresley undertaking some modification work to the designs of the class’s valve gear.
In 1928 No 4472 was — appropriately — one of the LNER locomotives selected to haul the new ‘Flying Scotsman’ non-stop express service from King’s Cross to Edinburgh Waverley. To enable the locomotives to operate over the 392 miles, they were fitted with corridor tenders to permit a crew change en route. Six years later, on 30 November 1934, No 4472 became the first steam locomotive to be officially recorded at travelling at more than 100mph; this was the first of the two world records claimed by the locomotive.
In 1945 the original ‘A1’ No 4470 Great Northern was selected by Edward Thompson, Gresley’s successor, to be the first locomotive to be converted into the prototype of the new ‘A1’ class; the remaining members of the original ‘A1’ class that had not been rebuilt previously as Class A3 (in a programme stretching back to 1927) were reclassified as Class A10 pending their rebuilding as the Class A3; this included No 4472. It has been suggested that Thompson’s antipathy towards his predecessor was one factor in his choice of Gresley’s pioneering locomotive as the prototype for the new locomotives.
In January 1946, as part of Edward Thompson’s renumbering of the LNER’s locomotives, No 4472 was renumbered 502. It operated in this guise briefly, being renumbered 103 in May 1946 as an amendment to the original scheme.
No 103 Flying Scotsman emerged from Doncaster Works on 4 January 1947 as an ‘A3’; it had gained the banjo-shaped dome that it carried for the rest of its career. Nationalisation came in January 1948 and a further renumbering followed in December that year when Flying Scotsman acquired its final main-line number — 60103.
Although associated primarily with services over the East Coast main line, Flying Scotsman spent some time — between June 1950 and July 1954 and between December 1954 and September 1957 — operating on the Great Central main line between London Marylebone and Nottingham Victoria whilst allocated to Leicester Central shed.
Under BR ownership, the ‘A3’ class was to undergo two major alterations. The first of these was the introduction of the double Kylchap chimney. This was a method of improving the efficiency of steam exhaust patented by the French engineer André Chapelon that used a second-stage nozzle designed by the Finnish engineer Kyösti Kylälä. Whilst undoubtedly improving the efficiency of the locomotive, the new chimneys resulted smoke drifting in such a way as to obscure the driver’s vision. The result of this was to see BR undertake the final modification to the class through the introduction of German-style smoke deflectors with which No 61013 and the rest of the class operated through until withdrawal.
Withdrawal of the 78 ‘A3’ Pacifics commenced in 1961 and all bar three had been withdrawn by the end of 1964. The last survivor, No 60052 Prince Palatine, was withdrawn in January 1966. No 60103 was withdrawn in January 1963 and, initially, it looked as though the locomotive would join the rest of the class in making a one-way journey to the scrapyard. However, there was a campaign to try and save it and, spurred on by the sale of a family business, the late Alan Pegler bought it personally for preservation. Restored to its near 1930s condition, with single chimney, in LNER livery No 4472 was a regular performer on the main line, with Pegler having a contract that permitted steam operation even after the official end of BR steam in August 1968.
However, in 1969, with the backing of the then government, Pegler took the fateful decision to take Flying Scotsman across the pond to the USA. However, the change of government in Britain in 1970 saw the financial support withdrawn and, by the end of that year, Pegler was massively in debt and there was a real possibility that the unpaid creditors might seize the locomotive with scrapping as a final resort. (Anybody who has studied the history of steam preservation in the USA will realise how many great locomotives have been cut up over the past few decades as funds have disappeared; British sentiment would have counted for nothing if the creditors had been able to seize the locomotive.)
Fortunately, through the prompting of the late Alan Bloom, William McAlpine stepped in and bought the locomotive, returning it to Britain in 1973 and to Derby Works were it was again overhauled. It returned to the main line, operating a number of specials thereafter.
The next phase in the locomotive’s career saw it travel to Australia in 1988 where it was to achieve the second of its world records — travelling 422 miles from Parkes to Broken Hill, the longest non-stop journey ever undertaken by a steam locomotive. The locomotive returned to Britain in 1990 and continued to operate on the main line until 1993 and the end of its main line certificate. There was then a brief period where Flying Scotsman operated on preserved railways to raise funds for its next overhaul.
By the mid 1990s and now owned by a consortium that included William McAlpine and Pete Waterman, Flying Scotsman was in bits at the Southall Railway Centre but a further salvation was in store when, in 1996, Dr Tony Marchington acquired the locomotive and undertook a three-year restoration project that cost £1 million. However, Marchington’s ambitious plans for the commercial exploitation of the locomotive failed and, following his personal bankruptcy and the collapse of Flying Scotsman plc, there was again a very real threat to the future of the locomotive.
Following a national campaign, in April 2004 the future of the locomotive was secured when it was acquired by the National Railway Museum as part of the National Collection. In January 2006 the locomotive entered the workshops at the start of what was expected to be a four-year overhaul; however, additional problems, resulting in further costs, saw the programme slip. In 2013 the locomotive was transferred to the Bury workshops of Riley & Sons (E) Ltd where work is now scheduled to be completed in late 2015.
Given the modifications that the locomotive underwent during its operational career, any final restoration is unlikely to satisfy all purists. Indeed the history of the locomotive in preservation has been full of debates about what represents its ‘ideal’ state and the locomotives has appeared in a number of guises — including World War 2 black as No 502 with German-style smoke deflectors — that have offended the purists. The NRM has been pragmatic in deciding that the locomotive will be restored as No 60103 with double chimney and smoke deflectors painted in BR green; the museum believes that this late version represents the most historically accurate possible.