After a 10-year overhaul, Flying Scotsman eases away from ‘The Cross’ on her 393-mile
journey to Edinburgh. It wasn’t smooth running though. (Image: Reuters)
It’s not all about cars you know. Here, at AROnline, we love all modes of transport in general and, within a few weeks of the celebration of Concorde’s 40th anniversary of its maiden passenger flights which took off at exactly the same time from Paris and Heathrow, another transport legend has made the news. I’m referring, of course, to LNER Class A3 4472 Flying Scotsman returning to all of her 29,500lb ft tractive effort steam glory after one of the most extensive and longest overhauls ever undertaken on a preserved locomotive.
Purchased by the National Railway Museum (NRM) with the aid of a £300,000 donation from Virgin Trains in 2006, Scotty didn’t exactly get off to a flying – or, rather, steaming start when she finally found a stable environment to live in. Previous entrepreneurs had owned her in the past – all of them running into financial or operational difficulties in one form or another.
The last time I viewed her, she was undergoing a boiler certification and specification overhaul at York shortly after purchase and, on that occasion, a retired British Rail Engineering Engineer with a loose tongue whispered some facts into my ear that made my heart sink.
It transpired that, once the Engineering Team at the NRM had done an in-depth inspection, they realised that the Flying Scotsman was, in the aforementioned chap’s words, ‘pretty knackered’. The NRM had been so keen to purchase the arguably most famous steam engine in the world that not enough time had been devoted to really checking the loco over beforehand.
The Flying Scotsman had, in fact, received a detailed and extensive overhaul work previously but this turned out to be inferior in almost every aspect – one of the most serious worries being an extensively cracked chassis frame. The engine was in such a condition that she was eventually moved to specialist engineer’s in Lancashire for attention.
Anyway, to the present – it’s brilliant news that she’s now back doing her best and plying her trade by pounding the almost 400 route miles from London’s Kings Cross to Edinburgh Waverly. Sadly, this lovely event was spoilt by so-called train enthusiasts trespassing on private property and Network Rail (NR) sites.
I spoke to a contact who’s brother-in-law owns a property that’s literally a few feet away from the four-track racing stretch between York and Darlington and very close to the old water troughs at South Otterington. Being a rail fan himself, he expected a handful of people to access his land to grab that perfect steam snap but drew the line (no pun intended) when the eventual tally came to about three dozen.
When he confronted them, he was met with either being ignored or treated to verbal abuse so the police were called. Network Rail had, of course, forecast that there would be huge public interest and had therefore dispatched dozens of marshals and security staff to strategic points but, as is often the case, a minority spoil things for others.
It got so serious that ECML drivers were reporting to signallers and operational control about members of the public trespassing in places literally inches away from certain death or serious injury. The situation was so bad that the train was stopped and the line shut down for almost 20 minutes as it made its way across the Fenlands of Cambridgeshire because 60 or more people were actually standing in the cess (the trackside gravel) all in the name of photography.
Scotty at North Road works Darlington prior to her tour of the United States of America.
I’m proud to say that both my late Father (before leaving his BR apprenticeship for a long
career in the Army) and Grandfather both worked on her in the early 1960s at both the
North Road assembly shops and Shildon fabrication works. (Image: BR Eastern region)
The train’s arrival at Edinburgh was over an hour late owing to a NR instruction to operate at a much lower speed which meant that NR was forced to cause delays to some scheduled high-speed services. What annoys me more than anything else is the sometimes selfish behaviour of these so-called rail fanatics. We are talking of people who often claim to have an above average understanding and empathy for the railway industry and infrastructure.
Sadly some, but not all, are nothing short of a pain in the @rse. I personally recall a visit which another preserved loco, LMS Princess Coronation Class 6233 Duchess of Sutherland, made to Darlington’s Bank Top station – its driver refused to acknowledge the right to depart signal until spectators were moved from the bottom of the platform ramp.
Now I and many of you good readers adore both old diesel and steam locomotive traction. Indeed, had previous life events been different, I would have certainly entered into a career on the railway, but it saddens me to hear and read about grown adults behaving like nothing more than spoilt children.
I know for a fact that some key people within Network Rail would like nothing more than a total ban on preserved rail operating on the network – any repetition of situations like this will make it harder for Rail Tour Operators to obtain permission to access and use the lines for the benefit of enthusiasts like you and I who are blessed with a bit more common sense and a desire for self-preservation.
Be a fan by all means but, for crying out loud, play safe and respect the safety of yourself, the railway operating companies and employees – not to mention the travelling public!