Flying Scotsman: from 1862 to today

The race for speed.


The Flying Scotsman service began in 1862 with the introduction of 10.00 am departures from King’s Cross and Edinburgh Waverley stations. The journey time was 10½ hours, inclusive of a 30-minute lunch stop at York.

In August 1888 a series of railway races ended with an agreed new running timetable for all trains between London and Scotland. The Special Scotch Express timings were fixed at 8½ hours.

From 1900 passengers could eat a meal aboard the specially built East Coast Joint Stock. To the great relief of passengers, 1900 also saw the provision of on-board toilets. Luxury and convenience now became the hallmarks of the Flying Scotsman.

Luxury and convenience now became the hallmarks of the Flying Scotsman.

The quest for speed returned in the 1930s as the Flying Scotsman cut its journey times from 8¼ hours to 7 hours 20 minutes. Passenger luxury levels reached new heights, with the provision of an on-board hairdressing service, cocktail bar and one of the finest restaurant services in Britain.

All this ended in 1939 with the outbreak of the Second World War. Overcrowding be came endemic; often passengers felt lucky just to find space in the corridors. Fine dining was suspended and the buffet meal service was expanded, its simple, cheap food being more in tune with the democratic sentiments of the people’s war. Post-war austerity failed to stop the Flying Scotsman reaching a 7-hour timing, despite its relegation from non-stop status.

The 1960s saw rapid progress as track was relaid and bottlenecks smoothed out. By 1967 the Deltic-powered Flying Scotsman covered the 392-mile (631-kilometre) journey in 5 hours 50 minutes. In 1970 air-conditioned carriages were introduced and by 1977 further track renewal had cut the running time to 5 hours 27 minutes.

The High Speed Train went into service in 1978. It provided new levels of passenger comfort and 125 mph (201 km/h) operating speeds. Journey times came tumbling down to 4 hours 35 minutes. East Coast Main Line electrification was completed in 1991 and the Intercity 225 took to the rails. Today the Flying Scotsman still runs, using HSTs or 225s to complete the journey in 4 hours 30 minutes.

Background: Class 87