Don’t Miss The Flying Scotsman

Photo Credit: Richard Benson The Flying Scotsman – Photo taken at the Doncaster Works Open Day 2003 where this Scotsman was built eighty years prior.

The thing about home exchange is that you get to see and do things that you otherwise don’t have time to see or do. Railway fans how about a trip to England? The Flying Scotsman made the news in 2016 by returning to work transporting travelers from London to Edinburgh after ten years and £4.2m worth of restoration.

A National Treasure

The Scotsman began its story in 1862 as the “Special Scotch Express”. A comfortable service linking the capital cities of England and Scotland. Weekdays at 10:00 a.m. a train departed London King’s Cross and Edinburgh Waverly simultaneously, crossing paths in York with a half an hour stop for lunch the Scotsman ten and a half hours after departure. A day’s trip to be sure, but a thrilling one compared to other ways of travel.

By 1888 the trip time had been reduced to eight hours.

The current Scotsman, the one you can see today was built in 1923, is 21 meters long and nearly 4 meters tall. It’s maximum speed is 100 mph (161 km/h) and was officially named The Flying Scotsman in 1924 after the Times started calling it “The Flying Scotchman” in 1875.

In the 1930’s travel on the Flying Scotsman had taken to the opulence and style of the time. The fine ladies onboard could “retire” to a room away from the gentlemen for quieter pursuits, a hairdressing salon provided haircuts and shaves and a newsstand the latest newspapers. There was a luxurious restaurant car in the style of Louis XVI and in the bar awaited The Flying Scotsman’s very own cocktail.

The Flying Scotsman Cocktail
1 1/2 ounces / 60 ml Scotch whisky
1 1/2 ounces / 60 ml sweet vermouth
2 dashes Angostura bitters
1/2 teaspoon superfine sugar
3 or 4 ice cubes

The Flying Scotsman – The Film

Icon that it is, the Scotsman is also a film star. Here the film Trailer from the 1929 film starring Moore Marriott who apparently “had no teeth in real life and took four different sets of false teeth with him in order to achieve variety in his characters”, Pauline JohnsonRay Milland – Academy Award winner for his role in The Lost Weekend directed by Billy Wilder, and the otherwise forgotten Alec Hurley,

That really was “back in the day” and the actors and Miss Johnson herself did their own stunts on the moving locomotive. Have a look, that is Pauline Johnson you see walking along the edge of the moving train wearing high heels.

First Film with a Warning Label?

According to the article at

Allegedly Sir Nigel Gresley, chief engineer of the LNER, was so concerned at the unsafe practices shown in the film, such as the decoupling of the locomotive from the train while in motion, he insisted that a disclaimer was placed in the opening credits explaining that such things could not happen on the LNER.[7] The notice stated “For the purposes of the film dramatic licence has been taken in regard to the safety equipment used on The Flying Scotsman”.[8] Film historian John Huntley claimed that Gresley subsequently forbade any further filming on the LNER until after his retirement.[9]

Over at The Arts Desk they have a nice clip of the restored version (DVD) of the movie which was shown in Glasgow in 2011. If anyone knows where I could buy a copy, I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

Off To America!

And so, you’d think that after all that glitz and glamour the Scotsman would settle down to a routine, but you’d be wrong. In 1969, the famous locomotive did what all famous folk do and went to America for a tour. Then to Australia. Then back to America where, this time, sponsorship fell through and the Scotsman was stranded.

I was about eight years old and remember my father, at the breakfast table, reading in the paper about how Alan Pegler, then owner of the locomotive had gone bankrupt and William McAlpine stepped in to save it and ship the Scotsman back to Britain. It was 1973 when the Scotsman made it back home again – and after a little relaxing on Britain’s rails – another overhaul – another trip, this time to Australia, it became clear that owning an iconic locomotive is hard on the wallet. In 2004 came the last in a line of “new owners”. This time British Railways, bought it with money donated by locomotive lovers all over Britain and a little help from Sir Richard Branson put them over the top.

See the Scotsman

After its happy return, the Flying Scotsman will continue to delight railroad locomotive fans as a working museum exhibit and the oldest mainline working locomotive on Britain’s tracks.

Travel with the Scotsman

Today to travel via Flying Scotsman will send you off from Edinburgh at 5:40 am and deliver you precisely four hours later at King’s Cross. You will have stopped just once at Newcastle and enjoyed all the conveniences expected today; Wi-Fi, device charging points and a variety of catering options.

For You Trivia Lovers

The book: Murder on the Flying Scotsman by Carola Dunn takes place on the Scotsman of 1923

Other Famous Flying Scotsmen

Eric Liddell was also known as the Flying Scotsman. His life and story are the basis of the film Chariots of Fire.

And then there’s The Flying Scotsman a 2006 German/British film about the Scotish bicyclist who broke the world’s 1 hour record on a bicycle he designed and made himself out of scrap metal. An old washing machine, I think…

Steam Locomotive Daytrips

Finally, wherever your home exchange in Great Britain takes you this year Steam Dreams can fix you up with the Flying Scotsman or you can take your pick of historic steam locomotives with daytrips and destinations all over Britain. Their new brocheure is due out in April.

Happy Home Exchanging and if you see the Scotsman, leave me a comment. I’d love to hear about your trip!