Full steam ahead as Flying Scotsman back on track after $8m restoration

Britain's Flying Scotsman was the first steam locomotive to reach 100 miles per hour (160kmh).
Britain's Flying Scotsman was the first steam locomotive to reach 100 miles per hour (160kmh). PHOTO: AFP

BURY, United Kingdom (AFP) - Britain's Flying Scotsman, the first steam locomotive to hit 100 miles an hour (160kmh), returned to the tracks on Friday following a decade-long project to restore the world-famous engine.

Steaming and whistling, the legendary locomotive made its first test run after a £4.2 million (S$8.8 million) full-scale restoration.

"It will be back hauling mainline rail tours, steaming proudly into the 21st century," said its owners, the National Railway Museum (NRM) in York, northern England.

The locomotive, built 93 years ago, successfully completed the test run on the East Lancashire Railway in north-west England, following restoration at the nearby Riley and Son workshop in Bury.

Rail enthusiasts gathered on the platforms at Bury's Bolton Street station to see the locomotive, some with tears in their eyes.

"It's such a spine-tingling moment. It's thrilling," said Tina Bywater, 67.

"I have always said if you could bottle steam, oil and coal, I would wear it as a perfume."

David Flood, 68, a former railway guard, said it was "a national symbol".

"It's on a par with stately homes," he said.

The Flying Scotsman will make a run from London's King's Cross terminal and York next month ahead of a programme of public services and events throughout 2016.

Built in 1923 in the northern town of Doncaster for the London and North Eastern Railway, the A1 class locomotive became famous when displayed at the British Empire Exhibition in the capital the following year.

It hauled the first ever non-stop London to Edinburgh service in 1928, reducing the journey time to eight hours.

In 1934, the Flying Scotsman became the first locomotive to be officially clocked at 100mph (160km).

British Rail retired the locomotive in 1963 and sold it to private owners, under whom it went on tours to Australia and the United States.

In Australia, it recorded the longest ever non-stop run by a steam locomotive, travelling 679km from Melbourne to Alice Springs.

A fundraising campaign brought the Flying Scotsman back into public ownership in 2004 for £2.3 million.

Some 22m long and with a tender capacity of eight tonnes of coal and 5,000 gallons of water, Scotsman is estimated to have travelled around four million kilometres.

During the painstaking restoration, Scotsman was carefully dismantled and each of the thousands of components checked for wear, with many needing replacement.

It was also fitted with equipment needed to comply with 21st-century regulations: a train monitoring recorder and a train protection and warning system.

"I'm near speechless. It feels like all the frustration and hard work is justified," said NRM engineer manager Simon Holyroyd as he watched Scotsman in action.

"It's always been known as the world's most famous steam locomotive and hopefully we will get it back up there in its rightful place."