From the Archive: Didcot’s LNER double act!

Flying Scotsman’s first appearance at Didcot Railway Centre since 2005 and a guest appearance by another Gresley masterpiece,
A4 No. 60009 Union of South Africa, brought in 6000 visitors over the August bank holiday weekend, writes Robin Jones.

TWO LNER icons took rival Great Western Railway territory by storm over the August bank holiday weekend.

More than 6000 people from across the country decided to forego a trip to the beach
on the sunny, summer bank holiday weekend and instead turned up to Didcot Railway Centre to see A3 Pacific No. 60103 Flying Scotsman and A4 No. 60009 Union of South Africa in steam.

LNER A3 Pacific No. 60103 Flying Scotsman and A4 No. 60009 Union of South Africa at the Didcot Steam Centre. EDWARD DYER

After a private VIP preview day on Friday, August 25, Flying Scotsman hauled public trains on the centre’s main demonstration line over the three days of the bank holiday weekend.

The crowds were also entertained with live music and a Spitfire flypast.

Meanwhile, on the branch line, services were headed by Port Talbot Railway/GWR 0-6-0ST No. 813, on loan from the Severn Valley Railway.

Nos. 60103 and 60009 alongside Didcot’s coaling stage after dark. FRANK DUMBLETON/GWS

The Sunday and Monday saw the pair joined by Union of South Africa.

It may have been the last chance these LNER giants had to meet in steam, for ‘Number Nine’s’ owner John Cameron has indicated that it may be retired to a museum in Scotland for static display once its boiler ticket expires.

Among the guests were Sir William McAlpine who bought and repatriated Flying Scotsman from the USA in 1973 after its disastrous tour of North America in 1969/70 went pear-shaped.

Former Flying Scotsman owner Sir William McAlpine (far right) and his wife Judy talk to BBC4 Trainspotting Live presenter Tim Dunn on one of the A3’s Didcot trips. FRANK DUMBLETON/GWS

On Wednesday, August 30, Union of South Africa hauled trains on the main demonstration
line, with No. 813 again hard at work on the branch line.

The following day, No. 60009 was used for driver experience courses.

Coun Reg Waite, chairman of the Vale of White Horse District Council, said: “This is a tremendous occasion for Didcot. We are lucky to have the railway centre here – it is one of the finest in the country.”

Reviving memories of ‘Top Shed’ at King’s Cross, Flying Scotsman and Union of South Africa side-by-side in Didcot shed. FRANK DUMBLETON/GWS

After the gala, Flying Scotsman ran to the West Somerset Railway for its eagerly-anticipated late summer visit.

Read more News and Features in Heritage Railway – on sale now!

Archive enquiries to: Jane Skayman on 01507 529423 –

Enjoy more Heritage Railway reading in the four-weekly magazine. Click here to subscribe.