Why is Flying Scotsman famous?

The story of the London-Edinburgh service.


Weekdays at 10.00 the Flying Scotsman leaves London's King's Cross station for Edinburgh, as it has done almost without a break since 1862. But what has this got to do with the large green steam locomotive, also called Flying Scotsman?

In 1929 it starred in The Flying Scotsman, Britain's first cinema release with sound.

Back in 1924 a new railway company, the London & North Eastern, sought to revitalise interest in its flagship service at the biggest show of the decade, the British Empire Exhibition. This huge promotion for the glories of British-controlled lands, and the power of its industry, was expected to attract millions of visitors. Number 4472 (then in the works awaiting parts) had already been in service for a year (as No. 1472). It was given a special ‘exhibition’ finish and specially named Flying Scotsman to help promote the train and sent to the show.

In 1928 No. 4472 Flying Scotsman was the natural choice to haul the headline-grabbing first non-stop Flying Scotsman service from London to Edinburgh. In 1929 it starred in The Flying Scotsman, Britain's first cinema release with sound. By this stage 4472 had become a symbol of express travel and featured on 'Just Arrived At' postcards sold in bustling resorts and holiday towns the length and breadth of Britain (often far beyond its normal operations). When it hauled Britain’s first recorded 100 mph (161 km/h) train in 1934, the distinction between the engine and train blurred further.

From 1935 onwards the LNER's streamlined (and profitable) trains took the shine off the Flying Scotsman service, and attention away from 4472. The war years saw the train soldiering on, overcrowded and slower than before, and the engine painted wartime black, running mostly on the route to Manchester.

After the war a modernising British Railways wanted to promote its new, clean, diesel-hauled express trains and planned to send 4472 to the scrapyard. Bought by businessman Alan Pegler in 1963 and promoted as 'the World's most famous locomotive', the engine regained its star status by hauling trips for enthusiasts all over Britain. Subsequent owners have made sure it remained in the public eye, with journeys to America and Australia only adding to its mystique.

Meanwhile, every weekday at 10.00 a train branded as the Flying Scotsman leaves King's Cross Station for Edinburgh, as it has done almost without a break since 1862.

Background: Class 87