FLYING SCOTSMAN is drawing the crowds to Shildon's Locomotion museum, which is visiting until August 1. Here we tell the story of one of the world's most famous steam engines...

February 1922

No 1472 was the third of Sir Nigel Gresley’s A1 class Pacific engines to be built at Doncaster for the Great Northern Railway. It cost £7,944, but almost immediately suffered a fractured central piston and so returned to the works for a major operation.

December 1923

Because it had been out of service, No 1472 was chosen to represent the railway at the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley. The exhibition was a patriotic showcase of British engineering ingenuity.

The engine was now owned by the London North-Eastern Railway and so was given the new number 4472, and it was dressed in the new company’s eye-catching apple green livery.

LNER wanted to promote its London to Edinburgh express service, which had begun in 1862 and which since the 1890s had been nicknamed “the flying Scotsman” no matter what engine pulled it. No 4472 was renamed Flying Scotsman in honour, said the LNER PR company, of “the most famous train in the world”.

Flying Scotsman was the star of the exhibition, in its new colours representing everything that was good about depressed Britain: it was powerful, modern and fast, and very quickly it became famous.

May 1, 1928

LNER launched its first non-stop train from London to Edinburgh: 392 miles in eight hours. A new tender had been designed to carry the nine tons of coal needed, and – crucially – it would have a small corridor through it so that a relief crew could squeeze through to the cab. And it would scoop up water with a special device from troughs installed between the tracks (there was one at Wiske Moor, near Northallerton). These innovations meant there was no need to stop at York to replenish coal and water supplies or to change the crew.

Flying Scotsman – the most famous engine of the day – hauled the first non-stop train and arrived in Edinburgh 12 minutes early.


One of the first British talkie movies was called The Flying Scotsman and it starred the Flying Scotsman. The plot’s a bit thin, but the stunts included an actress walking in high heels along the outside of the speeding train. The LNER’s PR department had turned the Scotsman into a movie star; it was the zeitgeist of the roaring Twenties.

November 30, 1934

The Germans were claiming that the Fliegender Hamburger – or Flying Hamburger – had become the fastest scheduled train in the world, as it dashed from Berlin to Hamburg. So the LNER wheeled out the world’s most famous engine and set it off on the run to Edinburgh where it became the first in the world to be officially recorded doing 100mph. That taught the diesel-powered Flying Hamburger a lesson!

Second World War

By now, Scotsman was old technology, and it was renumbered 103, painted black and became a wartime workhouse. After the war, it was repainted passenger blue and then British railways green, and it was renumbered once more, becoming 60103.


Steam was dying, replaced by diesel, and Flying Scotsman was bought for £3,000 by rail enthusiast Alan Pegler before it could be scrapped. He restored it, and by the mid 1960s, he had it pulling the first steam nostalgia trains.


Pegler sent Scotsman on a three year tour of the United States. It wowed the American audience, but left Pegler bankrupt and Sir William McAlpine, the train-loving British businessman, had to bring it home.


Flying Scotsman was now like a globe-trotting tribute band playing a lament for the lost days of steam. In Australia, it set the world’s non-stop steam record, of 442 miles, and then on its journey back to Britain it became the first locomotive to circumnavigate the globe.


A campaign spearheaded by the National Railway Museum raised £2.2m to buy the Scotsman.

February 6, 2016

After a £2m refit lasting nearly a decade, Flying Scotsman was back on track, dressed in British Rail green and bearing the number 60103. It had become a working museum exhibit, pulling steam tours and wowing visitors to York.


Flying Scotsman is appearing at the Locomotion museum in Shildon until August 1. It is on static display inside the museum until July 27 to 30 when it will be in steam.