Back at the end of 2005, it was estimated by the National Railway Museum (NRM) – its current owners – that its overhaul would take one year to complete at a cost of £750,000. In reality it took ten years and cost £4.5 million.
The dateline was 7 January 2016 and the venue, Bury Bolton Street Station on the East Lancashire Heritage Railway. The station was the centre of much media attention, complete with journalists, ‘sat-trucks’, cameras and lots of mobile recording machines. The reason? Flying Scotsman was due to move for the first time under its own power since the completion of its multimillion pound overhaul.
I had been invited to attend the assembled gathering by the NRM Press Office as an interviewee for the assembled throng for several reasons. First, I had just sent to the NRM, York, several items of historical interest connected with Flying Scotsman when it visited North America during its tour of 1969-1972, for display at a forthcoming exhibition to celebrate Flying Scotsman’s illustrious history. The items were namely: the bell, the headlamp and the cowcatcher, which it was obliged to carry stateside. The next reason for being invited was that I had produced the NRM’s Official FLYING SCOTSMAN DVD COLLECTION boxed set, about Flying Scotsman's history. Finally, as I have had several books about the history of this icon of steam published – the last two of which, are currently available from The History Press – I was therefore considered to be an expert on the history of Flying Scotsman and so it was thought that it would be useful for me to be attend to be available for interview.
After much waiting, anticipation and excitement by the waiting throng, the much waited moment arrived. With extreme noise, volcanic plumes of steam and much rushing about of cameramen and reporters, Flying Scotsman duly gracefully – but with attitude slide into the platform. This really was a sight for sore eyes. There was much smiling and certainly a tear or two in quite a few people’s eyes and this was not only due to smuts from the engine.
This was the cue for much interviewing and frenzied activity. As well as chatting with the journalists generally, giving them a background to this ‘front page story’, I personally, was interviewed by the Guardian newspaper, two radio stations, ITN, a TV crew making a documentary for ITV – to be aired in March and performed a live interview for Sky News. Flying Scotsman departed with its train to much activity by film makers and journalists, but in no time at all the station was completely deserted – quite extraordinary.
This had been the official ‘soft’ launch, who knows what activities will prevail at the main launch of Flying Scotsman, when in a couple of months it enters regular service again, and starts working special charters all around the country.
So, towards the end of February Flying Scotsman is due to work a special train from King’s Cross to York, amid much acclaim and publicity to then go on display at the NRM, York! This will allow an opportunity for members of the public to get ‘up close and personal’ with this living icon of railway history – Flying Scotsman.
By James S. Baldwin