Flying Scotsman (train)

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This article is about the railway passenger service. For the locomotive, see LNER Class A3 4472 Flying Scotsman.
British Railways Poster celebrating the centenary of the Flying Scotsman. The locomotives shown are a GNR Sturrock Single and a Class 55 'Deltic'.

The Flying Scotsman is an express passenger train service that has been running between Edinburgh and London—the capitals of Scotland and England respectively—since 1862. It is currently operated by Virgin Trains East Coast.


The East Coast Main Line over which the Flying Scotsman runs was built in the 19th century by many small railway companies, but mergers and acquisitions led to only three companies controlling the route; the North British Railway (NBR), the North Eastern Railway (NER) and the Great Northern Railway (GNR). In 1860 the three companies established the East Coast Joint Stock for through services using common vehicles, and it is from this agreement that the Flying Scotsman came about.


The first Special Scotch Express ran in 1862, with simultaneous departures at 10:00 from the GNR's London King's Cross and the NBR's Edinburgh Waverley. The original journey took 10 12 hours, including a half-hour stop at York for lunch; however, increasing competition and improvements in railway technology saw this time reduced to 8 12 hours by the time of the Race to the North in 1888.

From 1896, the train was dramatically modernised, introducing such features as corridors between carriages, heating, and dining cars. As passengers could now take luncheon on the train, the York stop was reduced to 15 minutes, but the end-to-end journey time remained 8 12 hours. Like the earlier carriages built for the service, this rolling stock was jointly owned by the three operating companies, and formed part of the pool known as the East Coast Joint Stock.

London and North Eastern Railway[edit]

The Flying Scotsman express train in 1928, here hauled by class A1 no. 2547 Doncaster
A coach from one of the LNER's Flying Scotsman trains, now preserved at the Great Central Railway

In 1923, the railways of Britain were 'grouped' into the so-called 'Big Four'. Consequently, all three members of the East Coast Joint Stock became part of the newly formed London and North Eastern Railway (LNER).

It was the LNER which, in 1924, officially renamed the 10:00 Special Scotch Express linking Edinburgh and London in both directions as the Flying Scotsman, its unofficial name since the 1870s. To further publicise the train, a recently built Gresley A1 Class locomotive was named after the service, and put on display at the 1924 British Empire Exhibition.

Due to a long-standing agreement between the competing West and East coast routes since the famous railway races of 1888 and 1895, speeds of the Scotch expresses were limited, the time for the 392 miles (631 km) between the capitals being a pedestrian 8 hours 15 minutes. However, following valve gear modifications, the A1 locomotive's coal consumption was drastically reduced and it was thus found possible to run the service non-stop with a heavy train on one tender full of coal. Ten locomotives of classes A1 and A3, which were to be used on the service, were provided with corridor tenders; these avoided engine crew fatigue by enabling a replacement driver and fireman to take over halfway without stopping the train.

The A1 class locomotive number 4472, "Flying Scotsman" was used to haul the inaugural train from London on 1 May 1928, and it successfully ran the 392 miles between Edinburgh and London without stopping, a record at the time for a scheduled service (although the London Midland and Scottish Railway had four days earlier staged a one-off publicity coup by running the "Royal Scot's" Edinburgh section non-stop from Euston - 399.7 miles). The 1928 non-stop Flying Scotsman had improved catering and other on-board services - even a barber's shop.[1] With the end of the limited speed agreement in 1932, journey time came down to 7 hours 30 minutes, and by 1938 to 7 hours 20 minutes.

Corridor tenders[edit]

Main article: Corridor tender
LNER Class A1 no. 4472 Flying Scotsman with corridor tender

For the introduction of the non-stop Flying Scotsman service on 1 May 1928, ten special tenders were built with a coal capacity of 9 tons instead of the usual 8; means were also given to access the locomotive from the train through a narrow passageway inside the tender tank plus a flexible bellows connection linking it with the leading coach. The passageway, which ran along the right-hand side of the tender, was 5 feet (1.52 m) high and 18 inches (0.46 m) wide. Further corridor tenders were built at intervals until 1938, and eventually there were 22; at various times, they were coupled to engines of classes A1, A3, A4 and W1, but by the end of 1948, all were running with class A4 locomotives.[2][3] Use of the corridor tender for changing crews on the move in an A4 loco is shown in the 1953 British Transport film Elizabethan Express, the name of another London-Edinburgh non-stop train.

British Railways[edit]

The Flying Scotsman hauled by LNER Class A4 'Union of South Africa' entering King's Cross in 1948

In the late 1950s, British Railways (BR) was committed to dieselisation, and began devising a replacement for the Gresley Pacifics on the East Coast Main Line. The result in 1962 was the Class 55 'Deltic', and the Deltic-hauled Flying Scotsman became a centrepiece of BR advertising, as the steam-hauled one had been for the LNER.

Under BR, the Flying Scotsman ceased to be a non-stop train, calling at Newcastle upon Tyne, York and Peterborough.[citation needed]


The Flying Scotsman name has been maintained by the operators of Anglo-Scottish trains on the East Coast Main Line since the privatisation of British Rail; the former Great North Eastern Railway even subtitled itself The Route of the Flying Scotsman. The Flying Scotsman was operated by GNER from 1996 to November 2007, and then by National Express East Coast until November 2009.

From 23 May 2011 the Flying Scotsman brand was relaunched for a special daily fast service operated by East Coast departing Edinburgh at 05.40 and reaching London in exactly four hours, calling only at Newcastle. It is operated by an InterCity 225 'Mallard' set. Class 91 locomotive 91101 was turned out in a special "Flying Scotsman" livery for the opening day of the service.[4] East Coast claims that this is part of a policy to bring back named trains to restore "a touch of glamour and romance". However, for the first time in its history, it runs in one direction only: there is no northbound equivalent service.[5] Northbound, the fastest timetabled London-to-Edinburgh service now takes 4 hours 19 minutes.

The Flying Scotsman is the only passenger service to run non-stop through York (where the train is forced to slow down to around 25 mph (40 km/h) owing to the sharp curve on which the station in built)[citation needed] and Darlington (which the train passes at high speed, as it completely avoids the station roof by running on the adjacent tracks).


The Flying Scotsman locomotive at the Doncaster Works Open Day 2003, the 150th anniversary of the plant works where it was built.
91101 painted in a promotional Flying Scotsman livery at Edinburgh Waverley in May 2011.

As a major link between the capital cities of England and Scotland, the Flying Scotsman was an extremely long and heavy train, especially in the days before road and air transport became common. As such, it has required very powerful locomotives. Locomotives used to haul (and in some cases, specifically designed to haul) the Flying Scotsman have included:


  1. ^ Brown, F.A.S. (1961). Nigel Gresley, Locomotive engineer. London: Ian Allan. pp. 85, 86, 120. OCLC 11434112. 
  2. ^ Boddy, M.G.; Fry, E.V.; Hennigan, W.; Proud, P.; Yeadon, W.B. (July 1963). Fry, E.V., ed. Part 1: Preliminary Survey. Locomotives of the L.N.E.R. Potters Bar: RCTS. pp. 64–65. 
  3. ^ Boddy, M.G.; Neve, E.; Yeadon, W.B. (April 1973). Fry, E.V., ed. Part 2A: Tender Engines - Classes A1 to A10. Locomotives of the L.N.E.R. Kenilworth: RCTS. p. 68. ISBN 0-901115-25-8. 
  4. ^ "East Coast launches fast 'Flying Scotsman'". Rail (Peterborough). 1 June 2011. p. 14. 
  5. ^ "New 'Flying Scotsman' express service and locomotive" (Press release). East Coast. 23 May 2011. 

External links[edit]

  • Winchester, Clarence, ed. (8 March 1935), "The Flying Scotsman", Railway Wonders of the World, pp. 183–188 , description of the train in the 1930s