Flying Scotsman report published
By: Robin Jones
A report into the £2.7-million restoration of the steam locomotive Flying Scotsman, 4472, commissioned by the National Railway Museum, was published on October 26.
The report by a specialist in heritage rail engineering, assisted by a professor of engineering, was commissioned earlier this year in response to delays and rising costs in restoring the steam locomotive, which was purchased by the museum in April 2004.
Steve Davies, director of the National Railway Museum, commented: “I welcome the report along with its findings and recommendations. The National Railway Museum remains absolutely committed to the restoration of this iconic locomotive and to seeing it running once again on the British mainline. Paul Kirkman, who joins as acting director on November 5, will use the recommendations to guide the final stages of the restoration.”
The locomotive began a major overhaul in January 2006 that was scheduled to last one year and cost around £750,000. Today, the cost of the overhaul has risen to around £2.7 million and it is not yet complete.
The inquiry reviewed all aspects of the restoration with the aim of applying recommendations to the final stages of the project and future projects of this nature.
The report reveals that the purchase of Flying Scotsman by the National Railway Museum would always have gone ahead, regardless of the locomotive’s actual condition, given the aspiration to save it on behalf of the nation.
The National Railway Museum acquired the locomotive in a sealed-bid auction, where there was no opportunity to negotiate on price. The report concludes the museum’s bid price of £2.3m ‘had been reasonable’.
Even though Flying Scotsman had run intermittently until December 2005, the condition of the locomotive on purchase was poor. The report said that ‘it had a large number of owners, several of which failed financially. It had been heavily used and maintenance standards had been neglected.’
The restoration of the iconic historic engine is one of the most complex engineering projects of its type ever undertaken, said the report. The conservation desire to retain as much of the original locomotive as possible and to use British workmanship has also presented challenges, not least because parts have to be individually made.
The report, however, concludes that several issues added to the delays and costs. These include the absence of a detailed investigation either when it was purchased in April 2004 or soon after. This would have highlighted that it was in a much worse state of repair than was believed and identified the serious structural defects that were only recently found.
As a result, a restoration project that was always going to have been complex and taken many years was given an unrealistically short timeframe and budget at the outset.
Other major challenges have been faced relating to the project management and engineering expertise, the fact that the heritage railway engineering sector is ‘a cottage industry’, and disruptions caused by staff changes and illness. There have also been conflicts between the need to balance the requirements of the refurbishment programme with the museum’s commitment to enabling the locomotive to be seen and enjoyed by the public.
The report makes a number of recommendations for how the museum goes about the final stages of the project and any future projects of this nature.
Acting upon these recommendations, the National Railway Museum has appointed the railway engineering consultancy firm, First Class Partnerships, to provide independent advice on the most effective approach to completing the final stage of the restoration project.
The National Railway Museum’s Advisory Board has also set up a working group to look at the future restoration and running of heritage locomotives from the museum’s collection.
The museum’s outgoing director, Steve Davies, and incoming acting director, Paul Kirkman, who joins in early November, both agree that this is the appropriate course of action given the circumstances revealed by the report.
Until the working group and engineering consultants have had more time, the National Railway Museum is not making any further announcements about any return to steam date, although it can confirm it will not be this year.
The museum has reiterated its commitment to returning Flying Scotsman to steam.
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