Published 19th March 2012
The National Railway Museum (NRM) announced on March 16 that their £5m locomotive, No. 103 Flying Scotsman will not now be carrying the Olympic Torch on June 20 from York to Thirsk. The engine cost roughly £2m to purchase and the rest is in overhaul costs, roughly the same amount as it cost to build the new A1 class locomotive No. 60163 Tornado.
Flying Scotsman has been subject to a protracted overhaul at the NRM’s workshops and at Ian Riley’s Locomotive workshops at Bury in Lancashire. The engine was steamed a year ago and presented as ready for action but cracks in the frames were found at the last minute necessitating a full strip down again.
The replacement locomotive is the West Coast Railways owned LMS Royal Scot No. 46115 Scots Guardsman. This has always been the reserve engine and is itself a large part of railway history, starring in the iconic 1936 film, Night Mail.
Flying Scotsman’s unavailability is due to further essential remedial work required that has been identified in the past week and which involves the manufacture of new parts. Whilst technically unchallenging, the work will be time consuming to undertake and will not be completed until July at the earliest.
The task of repairing any historic vehicle as old as Flying Scotsman is always difficult, with many similar projects having been fraught with difficulties and the six year restoration of the iconic locomotive has been affected by problems that have resulted in increasing project timescales and costs.
During the restoration, the locomotive has been completely disassembled, every component inspected and the engine entirely rebuilt. Old parts have been repaired and new parts have been made – all of them individually because parts for old locomotives are not of a standard size.
It’s this level of detail that makes the process so long winded, but this also ensures that Flying Scotsman will be fit to operate for many years to come. Delivering a restoration of this quality, rather than compromising by providing quick fix solutions, has led to the difficult decision to accept further delays.
Although many of these setbacks could not have been foreseen and are part of the nature of a project of this kind, the Director of the National Railway Museum has launched an internal investigation that is currently underway to examine all engineering aspects of the project and to identify any lessons that can be learnt for future projects.
Steve Davies, Director of the National Railway Museum, said:
“Whilst we share the public’s huge disappointment that Flying Scotsman is unable to carry the Olympic Flame, Scots Guardsman is a suitably prestigious locomotive and we are certain it will rise to the occasion of these Olympic duties.
“Flying Scotsman is almost 90 years old and is the sole survivor of its class. Its restoration is one of the most complex engineering projects of its kind ever undertaken in Britain and there have been a number of points like this where unforeseen issues have arisen that have caused delays and we share the public’s frustration that the locomotive is not yet in steam.
“A project of this complexity was always going to take many years to complete to ensure a high quality locomotive that is fit to run for many more years. We are absolutely committed to seeing Flying Scotsman back in steam and I look forward to being able to announce some good news about its return once the restoration is finally complete.”
It is unclear whether the engine will miss the NRM’s Railfest event in early June, but rail.co.uk will keep you informed.