Saved! Flying Scotsman Makes Triumphant Entrance To Railfest

By Jon Pratty | 01 June 2004
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photo shows the Flying Scotsman steam loco arriving at Railfest site, York, surrounded by Scots pipe band.

As the band played on, the Flying Scotsman opened Railfest, one of the biggest railfairs ever held. © 24 Hour Museum

24 Hour Museum editor Jon Pratty goes trainspotting in York

The Flying Scotsman arrived at the National Railway Museum in York on Saturday May 29 to officially open Railfest, which celebrates 200 years of steam transport, on until June 6, 2004.

Thousands of onlookers cheered as the historic loco pulled into the festival site, breaking a banner across the track as she did so. The City of York pipe band marched alongside the 'Scotsman as dozens of locos blew a welcoming chorus on their whistles.

Railfest, adjacent to the NRM, celebrates the bicentenary of the world's first steam loco - Richard Trevithick's Pennydarren, built in 1804. A working replica of Trevithick's extraordinary contraption can be seen at the festival.

photo shows the brass nameplate of the City of Truro steam loco. The plate is semi circular, and sits above the giant driving wheel of City of Truro.

City of Truro, another record breaker, is at the show. © 24 Hour Museum

There's a host of other record breakers on show too - the GWR's City of Truro unofficially broke the 100 mph mark as far back as 1904 - and she's in steam at York. Modern record breakers are present too, with the Eurostar driving unit that recently broke the UK rail speed record at 208mph (334 kmh) on the new Channel Tunnel rail link in Kent.

Engines and rolling stock representing 200 years of rail progress in the UK can be seen, as well as a traditional fun fair, live theatre and music, historic film shows and a Great Railway Bazaar.

Steam engines arouse lots of passion and nostalgia, and there were some emotional moments as the Flying Scotsman halted and the footplate crew climbed down.

Shows a smiling elderly man in a wheel chair in front of the wheel of the Flying Scotsman. He is wearing a tartan scarf and a bobble cap.

It was Alan Pegler who stepped in in 1963 to save No 4472 from the scrapman's torch. "Who on earth agreed it should be scrapped - I don't know. It's the last of its kind." © 24 Hour Museum

Famous from the moment she was built in 1923, the Flying Scotsman was the first steam locomotive in the world to officially break the 100 miles per hour barrier in 1934.

"The Flying Scotsman was the centrepiece of the Wembley exhibition in 1924," said Andrew Scott, Director of the National Railway Museum. "She was the Concorde of her day. We're delighted, obviously, to have her here now."

Amazingly, however, when British Railways started scrapping steam in favour of diesel locos in the 1950's and '60's, the Flying Scotsman wasn't considered for preservation.

Luckily businessman Alan Pegler (also on hand at the celebrations) stepped in to save the loco from the scrapyard. Since then, she's been pulling trains of delighted enthusiasts all over America, Australia and more recently in the UK.

Several owners kept her fire burning, but recently moves to sell the loco on might have resulted in the A3 class 4-6-2 being sold to an American owner.

A national campaign was quickly started to buy No 4472 and save her for the nation at the National Railway Museum in York. The campaign united young and old, rich and not so rich. The public campaign raised over £400,000 and the National Heritage Memorial Fund added £1.8 million.

photo shows the kid who helped save the Flying Scotsman - James Spencer of York, who wrote to Tony Blair to ask him not to allow it's export.

James Spencer, aged eight from York, was so upset about losing the Flying Scotsman so he organised a petition at school and even wrote to Tony Blair. That's worth a certificate at school, we think! © 24 Hour Museum

Richard Branson, recently unsuccessful in saving Concorde, was delighted to contribute £365,000 to the fund and he was present with driver Roland Kennington and fireman Colin Crisp as the loco drew in to York.

"It's fantastic - she's got lots of history, she's a record breaker, she's travelled round the world and now she's back here where she rightfully belongs," said Sir Richard.

Amongst those keen to stop the loco steaming off over the horizon were lots of schoolchildren. Kids from all over the UK raised funds in whatever way they could, and some went even further - James Spencer, aged 8, of York, wrote to Prime Minister Tony Blair.

The PM couldn't help, but his assistant wrote back to James all the same. James, who undergoes a daily treatment regime for diabetes, was one of 500 VIPs who travelled to Railfest from Doncaster on a special train pulled by Olton Hall - the engine that usually pulls the Hogwarts Express!

photo shows the speedo of the Flying Scotsman, which on one journey in 1934 crept round to 100 miles per hour.

Driver Roland Kennington shows us the speedometer - it must have gone round the clock on that day in 1934 when they did 100 mph. © 24 Hour Museum

"It's what should have happened 40 years ago," agreed Alan Pegler, the man who saved her from the scrapyard. "I think it would have been an absolute tragedy if it had been cut up. Who on earth agreed it should be scrapped, I don't know."

"She's better than ever these days," said Roland Kennington, driver of the Flying Scotsman, though the great engine was off sick at the weekend with some boiler trouble. "She'll reach 75 mph quite easily."

Now the NRM have secured the thoroughbred express loco, they intend to allow her out to exercise on a regular basis. Regular runs throughout the summer months are planned, though museum Director Andrew Scott concedes the institution will be busy fundraising 'on a continuous basis' to keep the loco well maintained.

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