What became of the golden age of rail?

Our current railway system comes under a significant amount of criticism and often with good reason.

Seemingly overpriced and almost always overcrowded during peak commuting hours, the railway franchise operators find themselves carrying more passengers than ever before and are stepping up services to help meet demand.

This is of little consolation to the commuters who squeeze into the aisles and vestibule areas of rail carriages on a daily basis and are paying more in 2016 for the privilege.

Despite a high-profile and well-executed public awareness campaign there were grumbles aplenty when Network Rail embarked on its Christmas and New Year improvement works, with many worried that overruns would hamper the return to work in 2016.

Whilst our modern railway system sometimes struggles to satisfy its millions of customers, hardware from the steam age continues to endure and no more so than with the Flying Scotsman, which made it back onto the news schedules earlier this month following a 10-year restoration and successful run out on the East Lancashire Railway.


According to the National Railway Museum in York, the Flying Scotsman is now scheduled to undergo a mainline test from Manchester to Carlisle over the Ribblehead viaduct followed by its first run between London Kings Cross and York in late February.

Built in Doncaster for the London and North Eastern Railway (LNER) and entering service in 1923, the locomotive made the first non-stop London to Edinburgh service in 1928 and is credited with being the first vehicle of its kind to officially reach 100mph. British Rail retired the locomotive in 1963.

Sir Nigel Gresley’s steam age locomotive isn’t alone in being brought back to life, with the B17 Steam Locomotive Trust bringing modern manufacturing techniques and a fresh look at an old design to recreate a brand new B17 class steam locomotive.

As reported in MWP Advanced Manufacturing, Spirit of Sandringham will incorporate the same basic design of the original LNER class B17 4-6-0 locomotive but will include modifications to make a positive impact on the locomotive’s performance, reliability, maintenance and safety.

A year earlier, The Engineer reported on how a P2, another of Sir Nigel’s innovations for LNER, was being brought back to life by the P2 Steam Locomotive Company that was set up to build the locomotive. The full story is available at: http://www.theengineer.co.uk/raising-steam/

The Flying Scotsman is to be the centrepiece of a range of events this year, notably from March to September when a series of nationwide track events are planned. From February to June, York hosts an exhibition devoted to the locomotive that asks:

  • Why is the Flying Scotsman so well known and how has that fame manifested itself?
  • What is it about this particular engine that has captured the imagination?
  • Is its ‘media darling’ status deserved or is it merely a case of right place, right time?

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