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100 Years of Flying Scotsman

Wednesday 13 December 2023

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Flying Scotsman travels along a viaduct bridge in the Yorkshire Dales, with steam trailing from the engine.

At CrossCountry, we’re excited about trains every day. But today, there’s something extra special to share. The iconic Flying Scotsman is celebrating an astonishing 100 years on the rails! This beloved locomotive has done some amazing things over the years; from being the first train to travel non-stop from London to Edinburgh, to being the first steam engine to travel the world.


To recognise this awesome piece of engineering and rail history, the National Railway Museum  is hosting an exclusive exhibition, of which CrossCountry are proud sponsors. The exhibition is completely free to visitors and will include lots of fun activities for all the family, including the opportunity to climb aboard Flying Scotsman. The museum is running the Centenary Programme  until the 7th January, so it makes for a fabulous family activity.

How to get to the National Rail Museum by train:

The main National Railway Museum location is in York, but the Flying Scotsman centenary event is taking place at Locomotion in Shildon. The nearest CrossCountry station is Darlington, and you can get to Shildon station with a short connecting service. Other nearby stations include Durham and Newcastle.

Facts about Flying Scotsman

Before we set off on an adventure with Flying Scotsman, here are a few facts to help prepare you for your visit. 

  1. Flying Scotsman has travelled approximately 2.5 million miles over the years. To put that into perspective, most cars usually run around 200,000 miles. 
  2.  Flying Scotsman was the first locomotive ever to reach its top speed of 100mph - imagine how fast that must have felt in the 1930s! Today, our Voyager trains have a maximum speed of 125mph but the Shanghai Maglev currently holds the title of the fastest passenger train in the world, reaching a top speed of 285mph.
  3. Flying Scotsman was built in 1923 in Doncaster and cost less than £8000 to build. That amounts to nearly £600,000 today.
  4.  In 2004, the National Railway Museum purchased Flying Scotsman for £2.3m to restore it to its former glory. The train returned to the tracks in 2016, looking better than ever
  5. .Flying Scotsman is painted in a shade known as Brunswick Green. This particular colour is designed to blend in with the British countryside as the train hurtles past

Flying Scotsman travels along a viaduct bridge in the Yorkshire Dales, with steam trailing from the engine.

Flying Scotsman’s Greatest Journey’s

1928: The first ever non-stop journey from London to Edinburgh

The rail route from London to Edinburgh has been open since 1862, with the journey taking more than ten hours. These first journeys included a short break at York station for passengers to enjoy a meal. With the advent of Flying Scotsman, this journey could be cut down by multiple hours. Flying Scotsman was able to reach Edinburgh in just 7 hours and 20 minutes without requiring any stops.

1934: The first steam locomotive to reach 100mph

On a special test run from London to Leeds, Flying Scotsman reached the never-before-achieved speed of 100mph. This was somewhat controversial, as thirty years before, Great Western Railway’s City of Truro claimed to reach 100mph - but with no evidence to support it, Flying Scotsman officially holds the title!

1939-45: Flying Scotsman helps with the war effort

Like all trains during the Second World War, Flying Scotsman was painted wartime black, likely due to economic reasons. During the war, the railway was crucial to keep the country running. Trains were used to transport over a million evacuees to the countryside and aided in the rescue of 10,000 Jewish children during the Kindertransport mission. Additionally, in 1940, trains aided in the evacuation of over 300,000 Allied troops from Dunkirk. Not only is Flying Scotsman a national treasure; it is also a war hero!

1969-73: Flying Scotsman visits North America

As part of a campaign to promote British exports, Flying Scotsman began running in the United States and Canada. Its first journey started in Boston, Massachusetts and took the train all the way to Slaton, Texas. Although this journey was eventually successful, Flying Scotsman ran into multiple obstacles along the way, including, issues with anti-steam laws and restrictions on foreign trains. In 1970, Flying Scotsman travelled 15,400 miles from Texas to Montreal, then back down again to San Francisco. Three years later, after multiple US journeys, Flying Scotsman was shipped back to the UK to undergo essential restoration work.

1988-89: Flying Scotsman’s Australian Tour

In 1989, Flying Scotsman set yet another record by travelling 442 miles across Australia without stopping. This became the longest run by a steam locomotive ever recorded. The train was in Australia to celebrate the country’s bicentenary as a central attraction in a steam train festival. 

2004: Save our Scotsman Campaign

After changing hands multiple times due to financial issues, Flying Scotsman went up for auction in 2004. The National Railway Museum was very keen to acquire the locomotive, so they launched a fundraising campaign which would allow them to place a bid. With the help of the public and some donors, they successfully purchased the train for £2.3 million, and Flying Scotsman became part of NRM’s permanent collection.

2006-2016: Flying Scotsman’s Restoration

In 2006, it became clear that Flying Scotsman required some extensive repairs. As a result, the steam engine entered NRM’s workshops and, over the course of ten years, underwent a full restoration. In January 2016, Flying Scotsman finally left the workshop, clad in gleaming Brunswick Green, ready to embark on its first journey since 2005. With its reintroduction to the tracks, Flying Scotsman managed to break one more record by officially being the oldest mainline working locomotive in Britain.

If you’re planning to take part in Flying Scotsman’s Centenary Celebrations, don’t forget to book an Advance ticket via our website or the CrossCountry app. If you need more information, you can contact us here.

Written by Julia

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