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The many guises of Flying Scotsman

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Of all the locomotives in the National Collection Flying Scotsman excites the most comment. For many she is the “most famous locomotive in the World” and should be resplendent in London and North Eastern Railway (LNER) apple green paint with the iconic number 4472. The question of what colour to present her in and what number she should carry is, therefore, a deeply emotive one and the National Railway Museum’s recent announcement that the locomotive will return in her final British Railways guise (as far as practicable) has prompted much debate.

For all of Flying Scotsman’s fame and celebrity there seems to be an equal amount of misunderstanding and myth. Some of the fame of the locomotive is due partly to it being confused with the famous London-Edinburgh Flying Scotsman train from which the engine took its name its name. By the 1920s the LNER were marketing the Flying Scotsman service as “The Most Famous Train in the World” and it may not be entirely co-incidental that the locomotive of the same name came to be known as “The Most Famous Locomotive in the World” in the 1960s, for the line between locomotive and train has often been blurred.

Flying Scotsman in 1924

Flying Scotsman in 1924

....spot the difference - Flying Scotsman now as an A3 thirty years later in 1957

….spot the difference – Flying Scotsman now as an A3 thirty years later in 1957

Arguably, it is Alan Pegler’s restoration of Flying Scotsman to single chimney form, LNER colours and the number 4472 in 1963 that has perhaps most deeply ingrained the image of the locomotive on the national consciousness. But not was all as it seemed. Pegler himself said that to restore the engine to her original condition was “out of the question” so he settled for a compromise appearance of what he called “a typical LNER A3 of the 1930s”. However, Flying Scotsman, built as an example of the A1 class in 1923, was only converted to the more powerful A3 form in 1947 by which time she had lost her iconic 4472 number and was then numbered 103 (with a short period as number 502 in between). Therefore, Flying Scotsman was not an A3 in the 1930s and never ran for the LNER in that form with the number 4472.

Moreover, it wasn’t until 1954, well into the British Railways era, that the locomotive itself took on the full A3 shape: this was because the engine was converted to left hand drive at that time which necessitated the vacuum exhaust ejector pipe and the reversing rod to be placed on the left hand side of the locomotive rather than the right. This change made a noticeable difference to the locomotive’s appearance as did the replacement of the rounded steam collector dome with the more elongated “banjo dome” (so called because it resembled the shape of a banjo).

For many this is the classic appearance of Flying Scotsman from circa 1932. Although there is a belief amongst many that this is the appearance to which the locomotive was restored in the 1960s Flying Scotsman was last seen in this form in 1936.

For many this is the classic appearance of Flying Scotsman from circa 1932. Although there is a belief amongst many that this is the appearance to which the locomotive was restored in the 1960s Flying Scotsman was last seen in this form in 1936.

With Alan Pegler retaining left hand drive the locomotive, although numbered 4472 and in LNER colours, showed noticeable differences in appearance from its classic LNER look (when it was still an A1). Indeed, there would be some debate about what is its classic LNER appearance: when it first appeared in 1923 it was numbered 1472 with a much smaller tender emblazoned with the letters “L&NER”. Soon afterwards, to allow, the engine to access routes north of Newcastle the cab, dome and chimney were cut down in size and she was renumbered 4472. In 1928, to facilitate non-stop running, a new tender was added – high sided with a connecting corridor – so again the appearance changed. In 1936 Flying Scotsman lost her corridor tender as the A1s and A3s were then handing over operation of the non-stop services to the new A4 class.

Once converted to an A3 in 1947 (confusingly after a spell as an A10) Flying Scotsman was – after a period in wartime black – back in apple green but shorn of corridor tender and her 4472 number. With rail nationalisation in 1948 British Railways originally ran her in apple green and the number E103 but in 1949 she was repainted in BR Express Blue and carried the new number of 60103. In 1954, she was converted to left hand drive and painted in BR green (often called “Brunswick Green”). In 1959 her single chimney was converted to the double Kylchap style chimney that had been so successful on her A4 cousins such as world speed record holder Mallard. Due to the soft blast from the double chimney causing smoke to drift into the driver’s eye line the final significant change was made when the German style smoke deflectors were added to the engine early in 1961 and at the same time the smoke box design was altered too with the top handrail being split to accommodate a dropped lamp bracket.

When Alan Pegler converted the loco back into single chimney form in February 1963 she conducted her test runs still in BR green and numbered 60103. But by this stage she had acquired a corridor tender again – originally from an A1/A3 sister engine Harvester but latterly running with A4 60034 Lord Farringdon. Another myth of Flying Scotsman is that she never ran with a corridor tender in BR green across BR metals – those two runs in February 1963, albeit in private ownership, demonstrate that was not the case.

January 1963 – when Flying Scotsman returns she will look, as far as possible, like this.

January 1963 – when Flying Scotsman returns she will look, as far as possible, like this.

There is a whole other story about changes in appearance during private ownership: red backed painted nameplates, green cylinder covers, double tenders, LNER coats of arms cab side, cowcatchers, bells, different identities for the film Agatha (1978), the A3 boiler being replaced with an A4 example, and the locomotive appearing in a hybrid BR-LNER form with smoke deflectors and double chimney. In her lifetime Flying Scotsman has had three classes (A1, A10 and A3), four colours, six numbers, nine different tenders and at least fifteen different boilers. So while the locomotive will return to steam in an appearance as close as possible to how she looked in January 1963 who knows whether this most chameleon of engines will once again undergo a change of appearance in future.

Read more about Flying Scotsman history and the latest restoration updates.

Written by Andrew McLean

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  1. Richard Awde

    The colour photo with the BR blue coach (former King’s Cross suburban coach) shows the train hauled by class 9F no. 92220
    Evening Star NOT Flying Scotsman. The photo was taken when 92220 was working on the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway.

  2. MATTHEWDUFFIN

    THE DESIGNER OF THE FLYING SCOTSMAN IS SIR NIGEL GRESLEY

  3. Brian

    I used to go train spotting in the 1940’s. If memory serves me right, the colour was not the BR green they have used today. Also, why was it considered necessary to change the number? And, again, I do not remember those “wings” on the front of the boiler cylinder. I wonder what Sir Nigel Gresley woulds have to say about it if he was here to day?

    1. Cole

      The original colour was LNER green. The change of number was part of the British Rail numbering scheme. The wings are smoke deflectors. The Flying Scotsman has gone through so many changes that the closest livery to it’s current design would be British Rail green. Once in a while the livery does change. Some time ago it was painted in wartime black.

  4. Bill Bower

    A very interesting blog and opened up my eyes to the history of the locomotive, I have a few pictures somewhere of the Scotsman when it made a call into Dunfermline Upper Station in the early 60’s and was fortunate to get a look on the footplate . It was 4472 then I am sure , but I was but a mere young lad at the time, if I find the pictures I will forward to you.

  5. Andrew McLean

    Thanks for your comments. Flying Scotsman was painted in wartime black in 1943 and was restored to apple green livery after the war had finished. Gresley died in 1941 and his successor Edward Thompson renumbered the LNER locomotives and Flying Scotsman became number 103 (after a short spell as 502). On nationalisation Flying Scotsman carried the number E103 for a while before becoming 60103 (the number she carried until her last run for BR in January 1963). Under BR ownership Flying Scotsman’s colour changed firstly to express passenger blue and then to BR green (sometimes called Brunswick Green). Gresley had trialled double chimneys on his A3 class before the war and BR seeing the advantage these brought in terms of efficiency fitted them to all of the A3 class. As these caused smoke to drift into the eye line of the driver deflectors were fitted to Flying Scotsman and her sister locomotives. We can only guess what Gresley would have made of his A3 class with double chimney and deflectors but we do know that he saw the advantages of the class having a double chimney. He also recognised that fitting these meant that some form of smoke deflection was required and he experimented with a double chimney and different types of deflectors on a sister locomotive of Flying Scotsman before his death. It is not often realised but given that Flying Scotsman was only converted from an A1 into an A3 six years after Gresley’s death he never actually saw Flying Scotsman as an A3. I hope this answers your questions.

  6. John Parsons

    Flying Scotsman obviously had a change of smokebox door as I have a photo of it in Kings Cross shed January 1962 with a complete handrail above the hinge bracket and the numberplate above that. A case of the original not being replace in its last overhaul before preservation.

  7. Dave King

    It has been very interesting reading all the comments and history.I have just returned from North Yorkshire,having spent a week looking at this wonderful locomotive along with thousands of others.I have been more enlightened by what I have read but for myself,I would love to see 4472 Flying Scotsman in Apple Green,which I am sure a lot of fans would also love.Thankfully we have lots of archive of this locomotive and who knows,one day we may see it in Apple Green!

  8. Tim Smith

    I am going to see FS at nrm for a photo shoot.
    Very disappointing to hear it will not be taking on 4472 the only number I have ever known.
    All models and journals use 4472.

  9. Dave Ashcroft

    When I was a kid we use to climb the railway embankments and put the old pennies on the line and wait until the next steam train passed, my mum use to go beserk ! Often we would jump up onto the bridge parapet and hang on as the train passed, engulfed in hot steam and coal smoke. I would get home and my mum used to ask me if I had been playing near to the trains, but of course she knew I had cos I smelt of sulphur !! Happy days, train spotting and being a normal boy.

  10. A gaunt

    Let’s have the number back to 4472 has it should be.

  11. Steve White

    In the last photo – Jan 1963, does anyone know what the two panels are for that protrude at the front. High up on both the left and right side.

  12. R. Smith

    I’ve seen the Scotsman recently, but very upset about the colour and running number. It’s like over painting a track suit on the Mona Lisa.
    The loco should have been restored “as close as practically possible” to her guise when she was manufactured, not to a point in history after a vandal had taken a can of the most revolting paint I have ever seen and covered her in it.
    So disappointed I’m choked. And please, lose the smoke deflectors.

  13. john francis&ms nora jones (future wife)

    we think that flying Scotsman should be put back to her l n e r apple green livery and carry the number 4472 once again and you will actually find that flying Scotsman in her l n e r with number 4472 will attract a lot more attention in our eyes and all her fans eyes and the people who drove and fired this locomotive and restored it too please bring bacl her l n e r apple green livery and her 4472

  14. john francis&ms nora jones (future wife)

    please bring back flying scotsmans l n e r apple green livery and number 4472 as we that the locomotive looks a whole lot better in her apple green livery with 4472 on her please bring back the apple green livery as this is how flying Scotsman will always be remembered and loved and cherished by lots and lots of people

  15. Mike

    11th March (my birthday) appears a time or two in connection with this !
    Apple Green and 4472 is essential The least NRM can do at the moment is open surveys – on line and in the museum offering ‘us’ options and let us choose colour & number (etc.) although pointless as it’ll be obvious everyone will go for 4472 and Apple Green. The double chimney and smoke detectors (LOL) _deflectors_ would be better reverted although I can tolerate them. The choice of restoring to 1963 has been a wrong one – and it should be appeared to be restored to its LNER livery as it was at its height of fame – although I do like the white tyres – I guess on green wheels!

    As for alleged confusion with the train what was/is the name of the train:
    Flying Scotsman (same as loco) or
    The Flying Scotsman – as seen on carried name plates ?

    Subtle but clear difference.

  16. Nigel Norrington

    Come NRM wake up and put the Flying Scotsman back to LNER 4472 and not this awful BR livery. Who in NRM thought that one up ????

  17. Pete

    It is very,very nice to see FS in Brunswick Green after many years of Apple Green. And also with the German Witte deflectors – without these, the engine takes on an ‘unbalanced’ look – don’t forget they are there for important smoke clearing properties. I, and an awful lot of other people the same age and older than me remember this livery in the 50’s and 60’s at places like Grantham. Let us enjoy our memories before it is returned to Apple Green (which is historically incorrect for a double chimneyed engine with deflectors!).

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