After a successful and busy centenary year in 2023, Flying Scotsman‘s immediate future was unclear at the start of this year. Now we have more news.
Flying Scotsman is owned by the National Railway Museum (NRM). Up until last month (Dec 2023) when the contract ended, she was operated and maintained by Riley & Son (E) Ltd.
In early December, the National Railway Museum issued a rather unrevealing statement saying that they were carefully considering Flying Scotsman’s future. Now we have some more concrete news to work on.
The NRM says that Flying Scotsman, which most recently had been on static display at the Locomotion museum in Shildon, will go on static display at the National Railway Museum in York from Friday 26 January until the summer, where visitors will be able to see the locomotive for free and access the footplate via an accessible ramp.
Then she will return to Locomotion in Shildon where she will go on public display again.
Meanwhile, a competitive tender to appoint the next custodian for Flying Scotsman to operate and maintain the locomotive will launch with an Invitation to Tender (ITT) published online in the coming weeks. The tender is expected to be awarded in late spring 2024.
Once the custodian is appointed, Flying Scotsman will resume a programme of rail tours in the autumn. “It is expected that the locomotive will visit heritage railways and will remain main line operational,” says the NRM.
“It is expected.” Read into that, less than firm undertaking, what you will.
You have to wonder why all this wasn’t done before
It was well known that the contract with Riley & Son (E) Ltd would run out in Dec 2023 and that the last time the contract was put out to tender, it took 5 months to process. So why was this left so late?
Train excursions pulled by Flying Scotsman on the main line have, in the past, been organised by two companies in particular: The Railway Touring Company and Steam Dreams. They will now have to operate their 2024 programme using other locomotives* and maybe hope to replace them with Flying Scotsman in the autumn if/when she becomes available.
Watch this space.
The public’s enthusiasm and interest in Flying Scotsman remains unabated. NRM says that 51,751 people visited the NRM to see her during October half term and more than 37,500 came to see Flying Scotsman in light steam at Locomotion over Christmas. Everyone will be anticipating her return to the main line as soon as possible.
As soon as a schedule is published, I’ll post it, with updates, here as usual.
Flying Scotsman – the historic locomotive
Built in 1923 for the London and North Eastern Railway (LNER) at Doncaster Works, Flying Scotsman was designed by Sir Nigel Gresley as part of the A1 class – the most powerful locomotives used by the railway. She was quickly used by LNER for their long-distance express services, notably on the long-running (62 yrs) daily 10.00am London to Edinburgh ‘Flying Scotsman’ train service after which she was named.
She still holds two world records: the longest non-stop run at 441 miles (8 Aug 1989 in Australia), and the first steam locomotive officially authenticated at reaching 100 miles per hour (30 Nov 1934 in the UK).
The Flying Scotsman numbers game…
It’s easy to get confused over the identity of the ‘Flying Scotsman’ because she is sometimes referred to by different engine numbers.
When she came out of the Doncaster Works on 24th Feb 1923, she was Engine No. 1472.
Within a year she was re-numbered No. 4472, given the name ‘Flying Scotsman’, and introduced to the public at the 1924 British Empire Exhibition.
Then, in 1948, when the independent rail companies were nationalised and merged into British Railways, ‘Flying Scotsman’ became No. 60103.
* RTC are operating over 50 mainline steam journeys between now and October 2024 using other historic steam locomotives.
For example: the 1927-built 46115 Scots Guardsmen often hauls RTC trains across the Settle & Carlisle Line. At 96 years old, Scots Guardsman is only a few years behind Flying Scotsman and has its own unique history as the star of the 1936 GPO film ‘Night Mail’.
The 1938-built locomotive Princess Coronation Class Pacific 46233 Duchess of Sutherland will also work a number of RTC’s trains, as will 34067 Tangmere, 35028 Clan Line, 35018 British India Line and the Black 5 No. 44932.