The enduring magic of steam engines attracted crowds of photographers, railway enthusiasts and historians to viewing points around Wellington on Thursday 4 October to watch the Flying Scotsman pass by on its West Country tour to Plymouth. It will then travel on to Cornwall for the first time in its history.
Following a ten-year restoration programme, the engine left Taunton at 16.55 and arrived at the Whiteball Tunnel exactly on schedule at 17.08. Its carriages were packed with travellers dining in old-world style, their menu including champagne and canapés to mark the occasion.
Built in 1923 for the London and North Eastern Railway, Flying Scotsman set two world records for steam engines: it was the first to be officially recorded as reaching 100 miles an hour in November 1934 and then recorded the longest non-stop journey by a steam locomotive when it ran 422 miles in 1989 in Australia. The unofficial record for steam engines was set in 1904 by The City of Truro travelling from Plymouth to London through the Whiteball Tunnel, along the same length of track Flying Scotsman travelled today.
Marcus Robertson, founder of Steam Dreams, which is running the excursions, said: “It really should be the most fantastic celebration of an icon of British engineering. Wherever the locomotive has been, the crowds have come out in amazing numbers.”
Jim Lowe, head of operations at the National Railway Museum, said: “In the past two years, Flying Scotsman has been seen by thousands of people as we embarked on a national tour of heritage railways and scenic main line routes across the UK.”