Flying Scotsman – the world’s most famous steam locomotive – made its first appearance in a year-long national programme of events to mark its centenary today at London King’s Cross Station. The national treasure, owned by the National Railway Museum, visits London following an overhaul by Riley & Son (E) Ltd in preparation for its anniversary schedule.
February 2023 will mark 100 years since the celebrity locomotive – then simply numbered 1472 – embarked on its first voyage from the sheds at Doncaster Works. A feat of design and engineering, it was the first locomotive of the newly formed LNER (London and North Eastern Railway). It gained its name in 1924, when it was selected to appear at the British Empire Exhibition in London and named after the daily 10:00am London to Edinburgh rail service.
In 2004, a campaign spearheaded by the National Railway Museum to save the locomotive for the nation amassed the support of thousands, confirming its status as a national treasure. The appeal to keep the steam icon in Britain was supported by a £1.8 million grant from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the generosity of the public. Its restoration was also completed with the help of a Heritage Lottery Fund grant of £275,000.
To launch the centenary celebrations, Michael Morpurgo – one of the UK’s best-loved authors – gave a reading from his new children’s book, Flying Scotsman and the Best Birthday Ever, to pupils from Argyle Primary School, Camden, at King’s Cross. The book, written by Morpurgo and illustrated by renowned illustrator and author Michael Foreman, tells the story of a little girl called Iris who dreams of being a train driver when she grows up.
Flying Scotsman will sit in light steam on Platform 8 at the station on Saturday 15th and Sunday 16th October to allow members of the public the opportunity to admire the iconic locomotive. Today’s event coincides with the 170th anniversary of London’s King’s Cross Station, which first opened its doors to rail passengers on 14 October 1852.
The event is sold out and members of the public who purchased platform tickets, could also take part in activities including a train driving simulator from Dovetail Games, where people could experience driving Flying Scotsman out of the station, and screens to watch live footage of Flying Scotsman from the concourse.
Also launched today is a calendar of centenary events supported by lead sponsor Hornby. Families and rail enthusiasts from across the UK can now book tickets to an event near them by visiting the National Railway Museum’s website.
Highlights of the centenary programme include:
- the chance to travel behind Flying Scotsman at several locations across the country, beginning with Swanage Railway in Dorset this October half-term (22nd–26th October 2022) and ending with the Flying Scotsman Centenary Festival at Locomotion in Shildon (20th October-5th November 2023), which will be home to one of the largest collections of historic rail objects on display in the world
- an exciting calendar of mainline tours, with departure points and destinations around Scotland, England and Wales courtesy of our partners at Railway Touring Company and Riley & Son (E) Ltd
- Visits to Heritage Railways around the UK including the East Lancashire Railway, the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway and the Bluebell Railway
- Flying Scotsman visiting three heritage railways, including the Bluebell Railway in Sussex
- an exhibition of Michael Foreman’s original watercolours from Flying Scotsman and the Best Birthday Ever at Danum Gallery, Library, and Museum in Doncaster (11th February–17th June 2023)
- a Centenary Celebration in Flying Scotsman’s home city of York (1st-16th April 2023) which will include family activities at York Station as well as the launch of a cutting-edge VR experience at the National Railway Museum which takes visitors back in time to share the locomotive’s greatest moments in the last 100 years.
The Flying Scotsman Centenary Programme has been generously supported by Hornby (Lead Sponsor) and has also been made possible thanks to the National Heritage Memorial Fund.
Judith McNicol, Director of the National Railway Museum, said:
“Flying Scotsman is one of the jewels in the crown of our world-class collection, so we are delighted to announce its centenary programme at such an iconic location and on such an auspicious date. Flying Scotsman and King’s Cross Station have become associated with the London-Edinburgh route, as beautifully brought to life in Michael Morpurgo’s wonderful story, Flying Scotsman and the Best Birthday Ever. The centenary calendar has a range of events from free static displays to rail tours, to ensure that everyone across the country has the chance to experience Flying Scotsman during this special anniversary.”
Sir Peter Hendy, Chair of Network Rail, Trustee of the Science Museum Group and Chair of the National Railway Museum Advisory Board, adds:
“It’s brilliant to have Flying Scotsman here to help us celebrate King’s Cross station’s 170th birthday and launch its own 100th birthday celebration too. Since it opened all those years ago, King’s Cross has become an iconic London landmark, a backdrop for many historical and cultural events, and, of course, served millions of people travelling up and down the East Coast Main Line. Although an icon of the steam age, today it’s never looked better, and is absolutely fit to serve the railway’s growth and sustainability aims the Government have given us.
“King’s Cross and Flying Scotsman have a glorious history, and it’s important we look back and celebrate that, but we’re also reaching out to the next generation, both to travel by train and to get inspired by engineering and technology.”
Jemima Wade, Headteacher, Argyle Primary School, adds:
“We’re thrilled to be amongst the first to see Flying Scotsman start its centenary year celebrations today. To see the locomotive up close and to hear a special reading from Michael Morpurgo – a favourite author for so many of us – is a once in a lifetime experience. One that is sure to stay with our Year 1 pupils for life, and – who knows – may even inspire future careers in engineering and on the railway!”
Stuart Gray, Operations Manager for Riley & Son (E) Ltd, said:
“Riley & Son (E) Ltd are proud to present ‘Flying Scotsman’ to the nation fresh from a comprehensive overhaul which will see it fit and ready to undertake a range of exciting events across the country in its 100th year. Putting the programme together with our partners at the National Railway Museum and Railway Touring Company has taken a great deal of work and we are excited to share it with you all.”
Lead photo credit: National Railway Museum