Nation celebrates 100 years of Flying Scotsman, world’s most famous steam locomotive


Friday, February 24 marked 100 years since Flying Scotsman set off on its first journey from the sheds at Doncaster Works.

Flying Scotsman at Kings Cross

Now a national treasure, Flying Scotsman is a star attraction in the collection of the National Railway Museum (part of the Science Museum Group) in York, where it is a working museum exhibit.

Designed by Sir Nigel Gresley, Flying Scotsman was the first locomotive of the newly formed LNER (London and North Eastern Railway) and originally numbered 1472. It was given its name in 1924 after the daily 10am London King’s Cross to Edinburgh Waverley rail service. The locomotive went on to operate in service until 1963 and later in preservation, which included tours of the USA, Canada and Australia, where it captured the hearts of millions.

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In 2004, a campaign spearheaded by the National Railway Museum to save the locomotive for the nation amassed the support of thousands, confirming its status as a national treasure. The appeal to keep the steam icon in Britain was supported by a £1.8 million grant from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the generosity of the public. Its restoration was also completed with the help of a Heritage Lottery Fund grant of £275,000.

In a new poem released on Friday – The Making of Flying Scotsman – UK Poet Laureate Simon Armitage has paid homage to the celebrity engine, a feat of British design and engineering which has inspired a love of rail in generations of families and become synonymous with the golden-age of rail travel. Commenting on the inspiration behind his new work, Simon Armitage said: “Flying Scotsman is a poem. I just had to write it down.”

The Making of Flying Scotsman is now on display as part of Flying Scotsman: 100 Years, 100 Voices, a new exhibition at the National Railway Museum, which launched on 10th February 2023 and showcases the legacy of the locomotive through the lives it has touched.

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In its latest excursion – following a new lick of paint – Flying Scotsman surprised travellers at Edinburgh Waverley station where it made a fleeting appearance. To mark the occasion, Simon Armitage read The Making of Flying Scotsman whilst dancers from the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society performed ‘The Flying Scotsman’, devised by Hugh Thurston in 1966. The event was rounded off with a performance from Celtic rock band, the Red Hot Chilli Pipers.

Also announced were a series of new Scottish events, including two main line excursions and a heritage railway visit. Details of these and all centenary events can be found here. The Flying Scotsman centenary programme has been generously supported by Hornby Hobbies (Lead Sponsor) and has also been made possible thanks to the National Heritage Memorial Fund.

Those unable to see the locomotive on its centenary tour have the opportunity to experience Flying Scotsman through exhibitions including Flying Scotsman: 100 Years, 100 Voices, Flying Scotsman VR and with collectible memorabilia available from the Science Museum shop.

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Highlights include a Flying Scotsman centenary train set, a £2 coin from The Royal Mint, featuring Flying Scotsman in vivid colour – a rarity on £2 coins, with the last coloured £2 coin released over 20 years ago and a new children’s book by bestselling author Michael Morpurgo: Flying Scotsman and the Best Birthday Ever, which tells the story of a little girl called Iris who dreams of being a train driver when she grows up.

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