Published: 29th July 2015
The taxpayer owned Flying Scotsman steam locomotive has been the subject of some controversy since the end of 2005 when it was withdrawn from service requiring a heavy overhaul.
Three years ago the engine was declared pretty much ready and displayed on the turntable at its National Railway Museum (NRM) base in York. But although it looked like an engine, it was found to have some serious faults. The NRM management and engineering team were also said to have had some faults in the way the overhaul had been managed.
Since the engine was unveiled and more faults found, there have been staff changes at York and First Class Partnerships employed as consulting engineers to complete the project. Two former Wolverton Works managers have been involved in supervising the restoration bringing their engineering and project management skills to the NRM.
The NRM says that the overhaul has been one of the most complex (debatable) and lengthy (correct!) overhauls for a steam locomotive ever undertaken and as they say, the job has been a rollercoaster for arguably the world’s most famous steam celebrity locomotive. Fans of Hogwarts Castle and Thomas The Tank Engine may have a different view on this of course!
The lengthy overhaul has brought some benefits in that it should be steaming for its centenary in 2023 rather than awaiting another overhaul as is required every ten years. The engine was a modern marvel at the 1924 Wembley British Empire Exhibition and cleverly named after the world’s oldest–established long distance express train of the same name which ran between London and Edinburgh. When the engine returns to the main line operating at up to 75mph, it will become the oldest steam locomotive working on the national network.
The overhaul has been carried out in Bury, Lancashire at Riley & Son (E) Ltd workshops for what seems an eternity. The overhaul has cost over £4million so far – probably more than the cost of building a new one but that would be to miss the point completely!
Colin Green from Riley & Son said; “We have come through all the critical milestones for a locomotive restoration and although there is a lot of work still to get through and parts to fit, there is nothing significant standing in the way of Scotsman coming back to steam.”
The company won the contract to overhaul Flying Scotsman’s boiler and own, maintain and operate their own fleet of main line approved steam locomotives and diesels. They were awarded the contract to carry out remedial work to the rest of the locomotive in October 2013 to complete the expensive and high profile restoration project.
The locomotive has carried several numbers in its history and its last guise was as the LNER No. 4472 but it will now carry its British Rail (BR) allocated number 60103 and carry a BR green livery. In North Eastern days, the engine carried No. 502 for a brief period. British Railways had no plans to preserve the engine despite its history so Doncaster businessman Alan Pegler purchased it in 1963 and he took it all over the World on tour (carrying a cow catcher), but ultimately it nearly bankrupted him.
The latest restoration has seen the engine taken apart to its constituent components and the NRM reckons it will be in the best condition since its 1963 overhaul at Doncaster Works where it was built.
The final problem was when the frames were found to be out of alignment with the cylinders and new frame plates were manufactured at Arthur Stephenson’s Engineers Ltd, Greater Manchester and welded to the original frame.
Many various components of the engine were on display at the NRM until a few months ago but now these have all gone to Bury for fitting back on the engine. The engine has also been fitted with the modern electronic safety equipment required on today’s railway and once some routine maintenance on the wheel bearings has been completed the project will near completion.
Bob Gwynne, Curator of Collections and Research at the National Railway Museum said: “The fitting of the equipment for the mainline really makes its return a reality. We still anticipate that the restoration work to return Flying Scotsman to steam will be completed in late 2015.
This will be followed by a full programme of running in tests on heritage lines. Once it has built up sufficient mileage on the mainline - 1000 miles under its belt – and it’s resplendent in its new BR green livery it will be ready for its long-anticipated inaugural run between London and York – a triumphant return home at long last.”
The inaugural run will take place in February and form the opening event for the NRM’s Flying Scotsman Season, a celebration of the fame and celebrity of the locomotive legend.
When the return to service has taken place, a commercial partnership agreement will be activated under which Riley & Son (E) Ltd will manage the operation of the locomotive for a period of two years.
The NRM bought the engine in 2004 for £2.3 million assisted by a £1.8 million grant from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and public donations. The restoration will cost around £4.2million helped by a Heritage Lottery Fund grant of £275,000. The engine was last steamed in 2005 on a series of York to Scarborough ‘Ride the Legend’ services.