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.
Flying Scotsman
Flying Scotsman - Nicola Sturgeon and David Horne.jpg
91101 at Edinburgh Waverley in October 2015
Service type Passenger train
First service 1862 (service)
1924 (name)
Current operator(s) Virgin Trains East Coast
Former operator(s) East Coast
National Express East Coast
InterCity East Coast
British Rail
London & North Eastern Railway
Start London King's Cross
End Edinburgh
Distance travelled 392 miles
Average journey time 4 hours
Service frequency Daily
Train number(s) 1E01
Line used East Coast
Rolling stock InterCity 225
Operating speed 125 mph

The Flying Scotsman is an express passenger train service that has operated between Edinburgh and London, the capitals of Scotland and England via the East Coast Main Line. The service began in 1862, but it wasn't until 1924 that the name was officially adopted. It is currently operated by Virgin Trains East Coast.


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 hauled by 2547 Doncaster in 1928
A carriage from one of the LNER's Flying Scotsman trains, now preserved at the Great Central Railway
The Flying Scotsman hauled by 4488 Union of South Africa at King's Cross in 1948
91101 in Flying Scotsman livery at Edinburgh Waverley in May 2011

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 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 & North Eastern Railway[edit]

In 1923, the railways of Britain were grouped into the Big Four. Consequently, all three members of the East Coast Joint Stock became part of the newly formed London & 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 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 Coast and East Coast Main Line 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.[1][2]

During the General Strike on 11 May 1926, the Flying Scotsman was derailed by strikers near Newcastle.[3]

The A1 class locomotive 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 & 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.[4] 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]

For the introduction of the non-stop Flying Scotsman service on 1 May 1928, ten special corridor 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.[5][6] Use of the corridor tender for changing crews on the move in an A4 loco is shown in the 1953 British Transport Films' Elizabethan Express, the name of another London to Edinburgh non-stop train.

British Rail[edit]

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. On 6 October 1958, it commenced to be hauled by Class 40s.[7] In 1962 Class 55 Deltic took over, 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, York and Peterborough.


The Flying Scotsman name has been maintained by the operators of the InterCity East Coast franchise since 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 April 1996 until November 2007, then by National Express East Coast until November 2009, East Coast until April 2015 and since by Virgin Trains East Coast.

On 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. 91 class locomotive 91101 and Driving Van Trailer 82205 were turned out in a special maroon livery for the launch of the service.[8][9] East Coast claimed that this was 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 ran in one direction only: there is no northbound equivalent service.[10] This schedule is maintained today[11] Northbound, the fastest timetabled London to Edinburgh service now takes 4 hours 20 minutes. In October 2015, 91101 and 82205 were revinyled in a new Flying Scotsman livery.[12]

The Flying Scotsman is the only passenger service to run non-stop through Darlington and York.


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. ^ "Locomotive Tender with Side Corridor" Railway Gazette 14 March 1928 pages 514-516
  2. ^ "London and Edinburgh Non-Stop" Locomotive, Railway Carriage & Wagon Review June 1928 pages 176/177
  3. ^ Patrick, Renshaw (1975). Nine days in May: the general strike. Taylor & Francis. 
  4. ^ Brown, F.A.S. (1961). Nigel Gresley, Locomotive engineer. London: Ian Allan. pp. 85, 86, 120. OCLC 11434112. 
  5. ^ 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. 
  6. ^ 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. 
  7. ^ "Down Flying Scotsman Diesel Hauled" Railway Gazette 10 October 1958 page 460
  8. ^ "East Coast launches fast 'Flying Scotsman" Rail Magazine 1 June 2011 page 14
  9. ^ "EC launches new timetable with 4h Edinburgh-London Flying Scotsman" Today's Railways issue 115 July 2011 page 12
  10. ^ "New 'Flying Scotsman' express service and locomotive" (Press release). East Coast. 23 May 2011. 
  11. ^ Timetable 15 May 2016 Virgin Trains East Coast
  12. ^ New look Flying Scotsman train unveiled The Scotsman 28 October 2015

External links[edit]

Media related to Flying Scotsman (train) at Wikimedia Commons