Will Flying Scotsman ever run again?

Published 29th January 2013

The National Railway Museum stonewalls enquiries concerning the overhaul of their iconic locomotive.

The National Railway Museum (NRM) will not confirm that yet another engineering problem has been discovered with the world famous Flying Scotsman steam locomotive. The silence has raised suspicions that more problems have indeed been identified.

Since publication of the independent report into the continued delays and spiralling cost of the work, questions concerning the problem-strewn overhaul of the iconic locomotive owned by the nation have been met with the response that no comment will be provided. That is until until engineering consultancy firm First Class Partnerships have delivered their advice on how the overhaul should be completed. The NRM is taxpayer funded and falls under the auspices of The Science Museum in London.

Is there a cylinder alignment problem and if so, how serious is it?

Inevitably, the news blackout has generated intense speculation, especially concerning a supposed problem with the middle cylinder. Our sources indicate there may indeed be an issue in relation to the alignment of the cylinder, but conjecture Flying Scotsman will have to be totally stripped – again - to deal with the problem could be overstated. Our understanding is the issue might be soluble with the cylinder in situ by use of a sleeve and adjustment of the piston rod angle. The use of a cylinder sleeve is widespread so not a huge problem, but the deafening official silence is rapidly creating one!

Removal of the front running plate in the NRM’s ‘Works’ seems to have been interpreted in some quarters as significant in relation to the centre cylinder, which is somewhat further back between the frames than the outer cylinders on an A3. However, work being undertaken pending the consultants’ report is known to include installation of the bogie stretcher and overhaul of the bogie centre casting and side check brackets, which could explain removal of the running plates.

No comment, no denial

Attempts to report factually and avoid speculation become difficult when an official wall of silence has descended over a project involving large sums of public money. NRM press officer, Catherine Farrell, would not make any comment to www.rail.co.uk in relation to the centre cylinder and specifically declined an invitation to deny that a potentially major new problem had been uncovered. Sadly, this steadfast ‘no comment’ policy tends to fuel supposition that another shock revelation in this ill-fated overhaul saga is on the cards.

Asked when the First Class Partnerships report would be delivered, Ms Farrell replied, “later this year”. However, she did confirm the report, which she said was in the process of being drafted, would be published when delivered.

The engine last steamed on a trip from Carnforth to York for the overhaul 7 years ago and was pronounced as being ready for service 18 months ago before different recurring problems have emerged.

The overhaul cost has spiralled to around £3million and has overtaken the cost of building a new engine such as Tornado!

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