The Flying Scotsman steam engine leaves East Lancashire Railway in Bury

World-famous steam loco back after decade-long refit

The renowned steam locomotive Flying Scotsman has returned to the tracks today after a ten-year overhaul.

Enthusiastic crowds cheered on the locomotive along the East Lancashire Railway tracks as it made its maiden journey. The engine is now set for a month of test runs on heritage lines, ahead of a programme of heritage rail tours on British main lines that will start in February.

The locomotive, built in 1923, used to cover the first eight-hour non-stop service between London and Edinburgh. In 1934, it became the first steam engine to reach 100mph. Retired from service with British Railways in the early 1960s, Flying Scotsman passed through several private owners in the following decades and was used for publicity tours in the US and Australia.

The UK National Railway Museum bought the engine in 2004 and invested £4.2m into a restoration, which commenced in 2006.

"These are the first stages of bringing it back to the main line and, despite being self-confessed men of iron, we're really quite emotional to see it move under its own steam at last after years of hard work," said Colin Green, director of diesel engine firm Riley & Son, which was appointed in October 2013 to complete the restoration work and maintain the locomotive during the first two years of its operations.

The restoration is now almost complete. Before its return to the main line, the engine will receive its traditional green livery. 

“It's been quite a day,” said Simon Holyroyd, the engineer manager for the National Railway Museum, who was involved with the project from the start. “It feels like all the frustration and hard work is justified. At times it's been very, very hard, frustrating, very expensive.”

Some of those gathered to welcome to loco at Bury station in northern England remembered the day of its glory with nostalgia. "It's iconic really, the Flying Scotsman,” said 71-year old Robert Mawdsley. “My dad brought me here, same train station."

The first main-line test run is expected to be from Manchester to Carlisle, over the scenic Ribblehead Viaduct, on 23 January. Next month the Scotsman will run from London’s Kings Cross station to the National Railway Museum in York, where it will be based. 

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