Photo: Flying Scotsman, No 4472, on April 20 1963 hauling a special train from Paddington to Portmadoc, Wales, for the Ffestiniog Railway Society. Photo: T E Williams.
The National Railway Museum in York has launched a campaign to keep the world’s most famous steam locomotive, Flying Scotsman, in the UK.
Built in 1923 by the London and North Eastern Railway’s Doncaster works, Flying Scotsman completed the first non-stop London to Edinburgh run in 1928 and became the first locomotive to pass the 100 mph mark in 1934.
Since it was sold by British Rail in 1963, it has passed through the hands of a number of private owners and its current owner, Flying Scotsman plc, announced last week its decision to put it back on the market.
National Railway Museum staff are now calling on the nation to help them secure the future of perhaps the most potent symbol of British railway engineering.
"We believe that a National Railway Museum bid represents the best opportunity to ensure that this icon of the steam age is preserved in the UK for future generations and is seen by the greatest possible number of people," said Andrew Scott, Head of the NRM.
Photo: Flying Scotsman on July 24 1933 at King's Cross station, London. Photo: CCB Herbert.
"But, even if we are able to obtain the backing of national funding agencies, we need the support of the British public to put in place a fighting fund to secure this national treasure."
The Museum has until April 2 to put together a funding package and submit a bid as part of the sealed tender process set up by property agents acting on behalf of Flying Scotsman plc.
Describing the public appeal as "adding cash to the war chest" the museum’s Jon Ingham told the 24 Hour Museum why it needed the public’s help.
"The more support we get at this stage the more that will impress the public funding bodies that we are not just on our own in saying it is important."
They are certainly not alone. The Flying Scotsman is one of the most cherished artefacts of our transport heritage and many people are desperate to see it kept in this country and made accessible to the public.
Photo: in 1928, the Flying Scotsman completed its first non stop run to Edinburgh, a journey of 392 miles.
"It’s high time it was saved for the nation," said Nick Pigott, Editor of The Railway Magazine. "it should have been back in 1963."
However, he explained his concern at the fact that a bid could come from anyone, anywhere and for any amount of money.
"We just simply don’t know who’s going to put a bid in," he added. "It might be an unknown with spare cash who has always wanted to own the world’s most famous locomotive. If you get a silly bid like that no-one can compete with it."
While Peter Butler, CEO at current owner Flying Scotsman plc, agreed that the UK is the best place for the engine, he told the 24 Hour Museum that it was a business decision.
"I would rather see it in the UK and I would rather see it working as a mainline locomotive but it isn’t for me to decide where it goes," he said. "That’s for the market to decide."
Photo: London and North Eastern Railway poster, 1925 produced to promote a book on the Flying Scotsman locomotive. Printed by Haycock Press.
Peter went on to explain that the company is selling the Flying Scotsman because of the time it has taken to put its plans, to create an Edinburgh-based visitor centre, into effect.
"Our business plan was predicated on opening a visitor centre, which in our original plan would have been open now. That hasn’t been possible, the timetables have failed and we can no longer wait. Therefore, to preserve the locomotive, we took the view that we had to put it on the market."
However, as Peter explained, the National Railway Museum has as good a chance as anyone else to purchase the historic engine.
"I think it’s the locomotive most people think they are going to see if they go there. Clearly it’s the world’s most famous locomotive and it would be a treasure for the National Railway Museum, but that’s up to them, they have the opportunity."
Anyone wanting to contribute to the National Railway Museum’s appeal or who wants to find out more about it should contact Jon Ingham on 01904 686277 or firstname.lastname@example.org.