We saw on the local SW news programme Spotlight which we watch even when we are not in Cornwall, that the Flying Scotsman steam locomotive was doing a trip through Devon and Cornwall the weekend just gone. It has never been to Cornwall before so this was quite something. We saw it on the TV doing part of the Devon trip and were a bit surprised to see that there were two locomotive engines pulling the carriages. But apparently the gradients in Devon and Cornwall require a second locomotive.
A company called Steam Dreams with the help of Rileys (a railway locomotive engineering and refurbishment company who undertook the restoration of the Flying Scotsman from 2004 to 2016) and the National Railway Museum (the owner of the Flying Scotsman) have worked together to bring this about. It is part of a national tour of heritage railways and scenic main line routes in the UK.
The trip through Cornwall happened this Saturday with the Flying Scotsman leaving Plymouth at 9am and heading to Penzance to arrive there around 11am. Then it returned to Plymouth in the afternoon although the train had to go backwards with a diesel engine pulling it as there is no where to turn round. The 475 tickets to be on the train as it went through Cornwall sold out like hot cakes. They must have had a great experience. Plus just seeing the train must have been fantastic. Marcus Robertson of Steam Dreams said “the reception we’ve had in Cornwall is the best we have had in the UK after Scotland.” Thousands turned out in force to stand in a field, by the side of the road or on platforms along the route to catch a flitting glimpse of the famous train.
The Flying Scotsman has had an interesting history. It was built in 1923 for the London North Eastern Railway (LNER) and was employed notably on the London to Edinburgh Flying Scotsman train service after which it was named. It became the first steam locomotive to be officially authenticated at reaching 100 miles per hour on 30 November in 1934. Quite something in those days! After doing just over 2 million miles! it was retired in 1963.
Alan Pegler a British businessman, entrepreneur, railway preservationist, bought Flying Scotsman with the political support of Harold Wilson. As part of the deal, Pegler negotiated a complete overhaul of the locomotive. The British Railways Board let him run enthusiasts’ specials and at that time The Flying Scotsman was the only steam locomotive running on mainline British Railways.
In 1969, Harold Wilson agreed to support Pegler via the Trade Department to run the locomotive in US and Canada to support British exports. The train ran from Boston to NY, Washington and Dallas in the first year; from Texas to Wisconsin and finishing in Montreal in 1970; and from Toronto to San Francisco in 1971 — a total of 15,400 miles.
However, in 1970 Ted Heath’s Conservatives took power, and withdrew financial support from the tour. However, Pegler decided to continue but by the end of the next tour, Pegler was seriously in debt. The locomotive was put into storage in an US army depot to keep it away from unpaid creditors!
In 1973 Sir Bill McAlpine heard about this situation and promptly put together a rescue plan and returned it to the UK. Under his ownership it was taken to Australia in 1988 where it had a successful tour and whilst there in 1989 it set the record for the longest non-stop run by a steam locomotive when it did 422 miles non stop. I guess Australia is a good place to attempt such a record!
It then did tours around Britain and in 1993 pop manager Pete Waterman bought a 50% stake. In February 1996 another businessman Tony Marchington bought the Flying Scotsman for £1.25 million. But in 2004 there was another crisis over its ownership. A campaign spearheaded by National Railway Museum saved the locomotive for the nation by amassing the support of thousands. Flying Scotsman then underwent an extensive restoration costing £4.2m. It is now a working museum exhibit and is the oldest mainline working locomotive on Britain’s tracks. It is fantastic it has survived all these years and is still in operation.
In 2015 in a global poll the Flying Scotsman was ranked as the most famous locomotive. I guess helped by its tours in the US, Canada and Australia. Fantastic that it finally came to Cornwall.
Sources: Wikapedia and Cornwalllive web sites