Posts Tagged ‘Flying Scotsman’

The Flying Scotsman

Friday, 11 July 2008

The Flying Scotsman’s first run with the double tender installed by Alan Pegler that allowed it to run non-stop from London to Edinburgh in 1968 when water troughs to allow steam engines to pick up water while running were no longer available. Video Tou Tube, Novawheels

The Flying Scotsman ended service with British Railways in 1963. It was one of the first UK main line express steam locomotives to be privately preserved, being bought by businessman Alan Pegler who had it restored as closely as possible to its original LNER external condition. During Pegler’s ownership the locomotive worked a number of railtours, including a non-stop London–Edinburgh run in 1968 – the year steam traction of service trains ended on BR. Following the end of steam haulage on BR, steam specials using privately owned steam locomotives were also banned for several years and Pegler who already had an agreement to operate Flying Scotsman on BR tracks until 1971, could have capitalised on his monopoly position.

Instead he shipped Flying Scotsman to the USA for a number of tours promoting British businesses. The tour was to be financed by the UK government’s Department of Trade and Industry and several business sponors. Part of the promised funding from the Department of Trade and Industry never materialised and with the tour no longer backed by the DTI several businesses also withdrew. Pegler became personally bankrupt, and if not for a last minute intervention by Sir William McAlpine, the locomotive might well have been cut up in the USA.

Flying Scotsman continued to have an eventful life visiting Australia in 1988, The locomotive continued to be a costly investment both for Sir William and its subsequent owner, Tony Marchington. In 2004 Marchington put the locomotive for sale and it was bought for £2 million plus by the National Railway Museum in York.

A Pole journeys to the Bluebell

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Part 1 – Getting there

Awaiting the “right away”, Kingscote Station, Bluebell Railway

Like many other Poles, I came to England to top up my savings. However, unlike the majority of my compatriots, I am also interested in railways and, after three months living and working in Hertford, I decided it was time to return to my hobby. Where to go? I had heard about the Welsh narrow gauge railways and the ‘Steam’ railway museum in Swindon, but the Bluebell Railway came highly recommended and could easily be accommodated in a day’s outing. So the Bluebell it would have to be.

My journey started at 7 am on 4 May, outside Hertford North Railway Station. My morning ‘train’ was a bus provided by First Capital Connect. Apparently up to 8.30 a.m. all the morning trains are substituted by buses as an economy measure. One and a half hours later I’m at Alexander Palace. The train would have done the journey in one third of the time. Here a real train takes me into Kings Cross. Soon I am walking on a platform steeped in the history of the LNER. I think of the exploits of Mallard and the Flying Scotsman.

I walk across the road and find myself under the glass roof of St Pancras Station. The restored station is breathtaking and I’m sure that British people must be very proud to have such a gateway to the outside world. I take an escalator to the Victoria line platform. Every time I travel on the London Underground, I am conscious of the enormous amount of work that must have gone into its construction. I am also impressed by the efficiency of the whole enterprise.

Victoria Station seems enormous. The 19 platforms make quite an impression. I have 20 minutes before the departure of my train to explore the station. I notice the third rail electrification and wonder about the lack of standardisation on Britain’s electric railways. The hour-long journey to East Grinstead is interesting. There are numerous junctions along the route and the hilly landscape beyond London necessitates a couple of tunnels. East Grinstead, once an important railway junction, is now a terminus. Sadly, as in the case of many British railway stations, the time of its zenith has long passed. A few hundred metres separate the end of the railway from the start of the Bluebell Railway’s tracks. Unfortunately, to reach the first station on the Bluebell Railway I will have to go by bus. There doesn’t seem to be any coordination between the train timetable and the bus timetable and I waste an hour walking around East Grinstead.

11.10 a.m. approaches, and so does my bus. There are not many passengers on board, but from their conversations I deduce that most of them, like me, are on it in order to visit the Bluebell. We climb and descend some sharp gradients, dive under a railway viaduct and turn into Kingscote Station. The small station has a red-brick building, green cast iron lamp standards, and is very attractive. Inside, it is as if time has stood still. The fire in the fireplace looks ready to light, the walls are covered in old posters, every inch of wall is correct in period detail. Outside, the impression of having travelled back in time, is reinforced. Two old goods wagons stand in a siding, there is a traditional signal box and all the staff are dressed in the correct period uniforms. On the Bluebell Railway – the Beatles are yet to sing, man has not yet landed on the Moon, and most importantly of all, no trains are hauled by diesels – it is still the 1950s.

(to be continued)