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By Anthony Coulls on

How much of Flying Scotsman is original?

As the locomotive's overhaul nears completion, you might be wondering how much of this rail icon has been there since it was first built.

This is a perennial question asked of us, and really, the answer is ‘not much’. Over the course of its 90 plus year history as a working locomotive, parts have been replaced at every overhaul – plus of course the locomotive was rebuilt from A1 to A3 specification. It is more of an assemblage of parts bearing the name and taking the familiar outline that is known and loved by so many.

Flying Scotsman just after refurbishment in April 1928 at Doncaster Works (Image from National Railway Museum Collection)
Flying Scotsman just after refurbishment in April 1928 at Doncaster Works
(Image from National Railway Museum Collection)

Working locomotives are often compared to Grandad’s hammer – which has had three new heads and two new handles – but it’s still Grandad’s hammer. Even locomotives which have been part of the museum for over a century are not original to how they came out of the works: our history files are full of recorded and some unrecorded alterations. For example in the 1950s and 60s when the National Collection was being drawn up, the policy was to ‘build back’ locos to the condition as close as was possible to when they were new. That is how some of the locos came to acquire wooden fittings and other compromises were made to try and fit the requirement of making the exhibit appear as it did on the day it came out of the works.

This is why the Midland Compound has a Somerset & Dorset Railway class 7F loco tender and its history file refers mystically to ‘numerous cosmetic changes’ without actually specifying what those changes were! Ironically, famously the former Highland Railway locomotive Ben Alder, set aside for preservation in the 1953 was sent for scrap in 1966 as it was felt to be insufficiently original to allow a sympathetic restoration to take place.

Scotsman looking quite different in wartime black in 2011at the museum
Scotsman looking quite different in wartime black in 2011 at the museum

Over Flying Scotsman’s working life, it has had several changes of boiler, wheels, cylinders and tenders. Many components were interchangeable, not just between the A3 class, but also the V2s such as Green Arrow and so it is with our two locomotives in the collection. There are A3 parts on the V2 certainly. In addition, when Alan Pegler bought Flying Scotsman for preservation in 1962, he had it overhauled and some parts were put on the engine from other A3s. In 1966 Pegler bought the boiler off sister engine Salmon Trout, and the latter’s cylinders were also acquired for spares and eventual use on Flying Scotsman. A photograph of a very sorry looking Salmon Trout exists showing it after stripping and it is basically wheels, frames and a tender – everything else was taken off it.

To make Flying Scotsman more useful for heritage use, Pegler also had the tender swapped for one from a sister A3 named Harvester, as this was one fitted with a corridor to allow for crew changes – and footplate guests on occasions. As initially preserved, the locomotive was already not as it had been when new in 1923 through a combination of use, overhaul and restoration. Changes of number and colour have followed the machine throughout its working life and are well documented in the history books.

Scotsman being worked on in Bury just last month.
Scotsman being worked on in Bury just last month.

In the ensuing 50 years of Flying Scotsman’s life as a heritage item, more pieces have been repaired or replaced and even the nameplates are not the ones it first carried when new. The story goes that when Alan Pegler hit financial difficulties during the locomotive’s sojourn in the USA, the nameplates were sold to provide much needed assistance in a difficult time.

The most recent overhaul is probably the most comprehensive ever undertaken on a steam locomotive outside British Railways service and more worn components found to need renewal, including the bufferbeam, which had not been off the engine in five decades.

So the question of much of Flying Scotsman is original? Well, it mainly consists of the rear two thirds of the frames, part of the cab sides and some parts of the motion and possibly the driving wheel splashers.

Perhaps most importantly there’s name itself. With the same basic outline and the associations that it has built up over nearly a century, and the history which it continues to write.

Scotsman is coming backfind out more about our 2016 season.


57 comments on “How much of Flying Scotsman is original?

  1. Hi, I like the statement and answer to the question of originality but why have Blinkers been fitted? I cannot recall the Flying Scotsman having them fitted whilst running in the UK.

    Tanks, Malcolm.

    1. Thanks Malcolm, the smoke deflectors were fitted in the early 1960s and carried until 1963. They were then re-instated in 1999 and have been carried until now and are correct for the British Railways green livery which the loco will initially carry next year.

      1. The smoke deflectors may be technically accurate but they really are an eyesore and would be much better left off.

        1. Hello Mark, we ran Scotsman without the smoke deflectors for a week in 2005. With the double chimney fitted, there was real trouble with drifting steam and smoke and we ended the runs at Scarborough with filthy faces and eyes streaming. The deflectors lift the exhaust and make visibility better, also keeping the cab a much cleaner and nicer place to be.

          1. Don’t get me wrong I can completely understand why they were fitted and why you’ll keep them. I think the main problem is that I grew up with a Hornby model that didn’t have them, and when I saw here at Steam Town she didn’t have them either. Childhood memories are always so hard to shake.

          2. About.The second tender tank was cut up but not the frames a new tank was made.

    2. I saw the Flying Scotman many times when I was young, flying through Darlington. I cannot recall any of this class ever wear blinking blinkers. They look awful.

    3. The Blinkers aka Smoke Deflectors are installed for deflecting drifting smoke from the double chimney.

    4. Personally, I think the museum needs to get rid of them and the double chimney. They physically hurt to look at and the livery is also an issue. No one wants it in BR green, especially not for its 100th.

      1. Yes, Really like the ‘German-style’ type smoke deflectors & the BR Green Livery. Really suits this engine well (10/10). Clearly everyone to their own… Steve.

    5. How much more money going to be spent on this dame machine. Greatly over rated locomotive. Better stuff out there. Since heard a nother locomotive is been pulled to bits. King Arthur class. About time they but then in the museum. Surely got better things to spend money on than worn out bits metal.

  2. Hi,
    This is extremely interesting, and hopefully will put to bed some of the comments made by some enthusiasts. Just what is original?
    Just a couple of further questions.
    Where is the second tender which 4472 used extensively in the 70s when the locomotive was the only steam locomotive allowed on BR, due to Alan Peglers condition of purchase.
    What happens to the spare boiler now?
    If the original nameplates were sold to finance the disastrous trip to the USA, who bought them, and do we/you know where they are?

    1. Hello Mark

      The second tender was sold by a previous owner with the idea of it being used by Tornado – which didn’t happen. It’s now a water carrier and used behind Bittern on the main line.

      The spare boiler is actually that which is now on the loco, the A4 boiler carried by the loco in recent years was sold to another main line loco

      As for the original plates, we’d love to know!.

  3. Do we know where Allan Pegler sold the original plates? It may be an interesting search, they are probably in someone’s basement gathering dust in a box left by granddad!

    1. I am pretty sure that if somebody is in possession of the original FS plates they are not going to be advertising the fact on the internet.

  4. Hi there, think we have an old original franking machine from the flying Scotsman. Do u know if anything like this has any value?

  5. Is this one of the reasons that ‘Mallard’ will not be returning to steam again? Because any heavy overhaul may potentially strip her of historical parts that could be originals from the record breaking run?

    1. Hi Stephen,
      While I’m not 100% sure this is true, but I saw on a BBC documentary on this locomotive, And it said that 2/3 of the frame, parts of the cab, the wheels and side rods are all original.
      I hope this answered your question.

  6. I have always believed that any preserved classic locomotive should be preserved in the manner in which it was first introduced.

    I would hate to see Patrick Sterling single in BR green with the Br logo on the tender. So, please return “flying Scotsman ” to

    the way Nigel Gresley designed it.

  7. just seen the Flying Scotsman on Anglesey today, and was so disappointed that she is not yet back in Apple Green with 4472 number. Even though she was beautifully finished she looked rather nondescript. Will she be repainted soon ?

  8. Thank you for the article. I was just thinking about trains the other day while messing with my son’s model train. Does the Scotsman have the same traction motor as it did when first constructed? I would think not, but I am interested to know! Thank you for sharing again!

    1. Steam does not have motors. It has firebox, boiler, regulator, reverser/cutoff, 3 cylinders and pistons that push and pull the connecting rods thence wheels and coupling rods. No electricity, no motors, just coal, water and sweat.

  9. Wondered about the smoke deflectors. They don’t look bad to me, possibly because many good North American locomotives had them, including UP’a 4-8-4’s and Challengers, the New York Central’s Niagras, and nearly all Delaware and Hudson steam except Camelbacks in the 20th Century, I am glad the history is cleared up. I would never present any suggestion to you on how this locomotive should look, because you are the experts to weigh all important historical and operating conditions. Thanks for all you do to preserve Brittish steam.

  10. So if I was to build the Flying Scotsman today from original plans, I would own the Flying Scotsman then would I not?

  11. With regard to the original name plates, I have just bought at auction, what is said to be one of the original nameplates ( ‘flying Scotsman ‘) from the train.

    1. Original Flying Scotsman Nameplates sorry but I don’t think you bought at auction An original anything yet Original Nameplate from such great piece of history that would command high level of media attention and extreme deep pockets But wouldnt it be nice see them once more back on FS Auction price would go through roof FS is art

  12. Is it at all possible to maybe with the right funding and support to allow the Flying Scotsman to be restored back to its Apple Green LNER Livery and original Running number 4472 for a year to generate public interest? Similar to Tornado spending a year in the rare blue livery

  13. Why has this originally graceful locomotive been desecrated by the addition of a double chimney ? To quote Prince Charles, this is a carbuncle on the face of an old friend.

  14. Having read the many comments on this thread about the smoke deflectors on Flying Scotsman, I feel I ought to say that I have always thought that the locomotive looks vastly improved by their addition. For me, they give it a much more powerful and striking appearance. As a working locomotive in the museum’s fleet, it must also be important to make it as safe as possible for the crews who operate it and this is clearly achieved with the smoke deflectors in place. As for the livery, I am also very happy to see the loco in BR green, as I think it suits it very well. To my eyes, the apple green of the LNER livery has always struck me as being a little too bright and almost toy-like in appearance. But then again, I am an LMS man at heart, born after the end of steam and currently living in GWR territory!

  15. I have a question, will flying scotsman ever run with a second tender again? And if yes, I have an idea for the design.

    The tender would have the Alan Pegler crest, like it did on the cab in the 60s. I feel like it would be a nice tribute to the man who saved scotsman and underneath the crest, it would say

    “Alan Pegler,
    The man who
    saved scotsman”.

    I hope to hear back from you, and I hope you like the (not so inevitable and will probably never happen) idea.

  16. Tell me I am wrong but I have a very vague memory of seeing FS on shed at Leicester Central yonks ago ; also Woolwinder & Blink Bonney !! When living at H . Wycombe , I used to see them come thro’. They had a big Prob. when pulling away northwards , greasy rails , on a bend and probably up hill . Drivers struggled .
    Anybody else any memory’s similar to mine ?

  17. Are there any plans to return the engine to LNER apple green?.Also this was a great read

  18. I recently had to visit Carlisle, by rail, for a series of hospital appointments. On one of my visits, the station was alive with rail enthusiasts. I asked what was the happening and of course it was the Flying Scotsman. As an engineer and steam enthusiast, it made my day, and I’m sure it psychologically boosted my treatment no end. Its not just a machine – which brings in the questions around originality, its much more than that. Keep up the good work, everyone involved. God Speed

  19. There appears to be a dilemma or conflict at the NRM between repairing and keeping “original parts” that should be replaced and keeping non original modifications such as the double chimney.
    Since most of the original parts of 4472 aren’t, isn’t it better to replace worn out parts with new and display some of the worn out parts as exhibits in the museum? Additionally returning the livery to apple green, fitting the single chimney and then being able to get rid of those smoke deflectors with the stronger exhaust would return the original look of the locomotive.

  20. When I was a teenager growing up At Sharpe Army Depot, I saw the Flying Scotsman all the time , was parked on base in 72 or so. So happy to see it is still above ground!

  21. Re Alan Pegler selling FS’s nameplates when he got into financial difficulties in the US: there’s lots of pics/cine film of FS on the dockside in California/on the ship/being offloaded at Liverpool with her nameplates clearly showing….

  22. was the flying Scotsman painted in br express passenger blue at any point in its life? i am led to believe it was because of a br blue hornby model

  23. Do not waste emotion on this originality thing. Alfred Lord Tennyson is long gone, but his memory and poetry are forever. So it is with the ‘Flying Scotsman’ – what people call a brand, it is part of our glorious history, and like “Grandad’s hammer” is forever. Be proud.

  24. A small, rather pedantic point and a confusing one but it’s best to refer to Flying Scotsman with the ‘the’. Including it makes it the whole train which runs daily from London to Edinburgh. Any old loco or train has worked this over more than a century. There are comments here which could be either, and one which seems to be the train, not the loco.

  25. The most significant principle in antiquity is originality according to many experts.
    I would like to see FS in its Apple Green livery, with its original LNER number, a single blast-pipe and chimney and no hideous German-designed deflectors.

    What I must also point out is that GWR’s City of Truro most certainly achieved 100mph long before FS. Accurate observations and timings were made between mileposts on Wellington Bank by several enthusiasts.

  26. Thanks for this fascinating article.
    I finally saw The Flying Scotsman in Norwich these and it was well worth the wait for me and the other assembled enthusiasts. What a beautiful sight it was. I loved to colour, the smoke deflectors and everything about her.
    As for the amount that is original, it would be naive to not realise that parts are changed regularly. Happens on any machine.
    Long may this beautiful engine continue to run, and thanks for the great pleasure it gives to so many people.

  27. Quite a number of people on here are asking that Flying Scotsman be returned to Apple Green, how many people are there that actually saw Scotsman in Apple Green.i saw Scotsman loads of times before Peglar bought her from BR but she was in BR green not Apple Green, I like the way she looks now even with the German type smoke deflectors. Quite a few of the A3 were fitted with them in the early 1960’s One thing I do miss is her running at speed on the mainline, she could possibly reach 90 mph think they tend to restrict her to 75 which is a big shame. By the way I was a BR fireman in the early 1960’s and I knew David Court who was the fireman that went to the USA with Scotsman, he gave name a medallion that had been made in the States and I still have that.

  28. I kinda think FS is the most publicised steam loco….which perhaps is not the same quite as fameous ……notorius would describe it from a dark sense of humour… but hey a steam engine frequently on the mainline is to be congratulated for all the workers behind that and appreciated. Thank you guys

  29. It’s great to see that the Flying Scotsman is still running, and indeed is passing through Worcester on the day that I am writing this. We must preserve our heritage for future generations and keeping this locomotive running is part of that. As to originality, it’s a machine so parts will wear out and have to be replaced, but there is no choice in this, otherwise you will have a rusting wreck in a siding. I had an old Morris Minor once which had a replacement engine, suspension, and brakes, and was on it’s third gearbox after 200,000 miles, but to us was still the same car and was still on the road after many years of use.

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