Flying Scotsman hauls Royal Train for centenary tour


King Charles stands by the nameplate of Flying Scotsman at Pickering station. Steve Morgan / Science Museum Group

This morning, Flying Scotsman, the world’s most famous locomotive, hauled the Royal Train into Pickering Heritage Railway Station as part of its centenary tour of the UK and to mark 50 years of North Yorkshire Moors Railway.

Flying Scotsman, which turned 100 on February 24, was specially prepared for the occasion by Riley & Son (E) Ltd and Heritage Painting: its cab roof painted white and white lamps fitted to the smokebox, in line with the tradition of hauling the Royal Train.

Following a train journey from Grosmont to Pickering along the North Yorkshire Moors Railways heritage line, King Charles III met with Lord Peter Hendy, chairman of Network Rail, and Judith McNicol, director of the National Railway Museum in York, Flying Scotsman’s home. He also greeted long-standing volunteers who help maintain the North Yorkshire Moors Railway and unveiled a plaque to mark 50 years since its official opening in 1973.

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This is not Flying Scotsman’s first encounter with royalty. The locomotive first attracted royal attention on August 12, 1925, when King George V and Queen Mary asked to see inside its cab during the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley Park. The king sat in the driver’s seat as the controls were explained to him.

Flying Scotsman last hauled a Royal Train on November 20, 1984, when it carried the late Queen Mother to North Woolwich station where she opened a small railway museum. On climbing into the cab and hearing when Scotsman had been built, she replied that that was the year she was married.

Judith McNicol said: “To have Flying Scotsman haul the Royal Train in its centenary year and in the first year of His Majesty’s reign is a huge honour. It takes a dedicated team of people, with important heritage skills, to keep this engine running as it is the oldest steam locomotive on the main line. We are deeply appreciative of The King’s interest in and support for our historic railways and the skills needed to maintain them.”  

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Chris Price, chief executive of North Yorkshire Moors Railway, added: “It’s an honour to be able to commemorate our 50th anniversary with a special visit from King Charles III. For all these years, we have preserved our heritage railway and to celebrate this with royalty is such a privilege. It gives us the enthusiasm and joy to continue for generations to come.”

Renowned as a feat of British design and engineering, Flying Scotsman was designed by Sir Nigel Gresley and built in Doncaster in February 1923. The first locomotive of the newly formed LNER (London and North Eastern Railway), it was originally numbered 1472 before gaining its name in 1924 after the daily 10am London King’s Cross to Edinburgh Waverley rail service.

Flying Scotsman was officially the first steam locomotive to reach 100mph, and the first to circumnavigate the globe, with tours of the USA, Canada and Australia. In 1989, it set a world record for a non-stop run in a steam locomotive with a 422-mile trip. It was saved for the nation in 2004, after a campaign spearheaded by the National Railway Museum amassed the support of thousands, confirming its status as a national treasure.

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After its visit to Pickering, Flying Scotsman’s next public outing will be on June 17 when it hauls the Portsmouth Flyer on the next stop of its centenary programme. Those unable to see the locomotive on tour also have the opportunity to experience Flying Scotsman through exhibitions at the National Railway Museum including Flying Scotsman: 100 Years, 100 Voices and Flying Scotsman VR, and with collectible memorabilia available from the National Railway Museum  shop. Highlights include a Flying Scotsman centenary train set, a £2 coin from The Royal Mint, featuring Flying Scotsman in vivid colour – a rarity on £2 coins, with the last coloured £2 coin released over 20 years ago – and a new children’s book by bestselling author Michael Morpurgo. Flying Scotsman and the Best Birthday Ever, which tells the story of a little girl called Iris who dreams of being a train driver when she grows up.

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