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By Andrew McLean on

The many guises of Flying Scotsman

One famous locomotive, many different get-ups—how should Flying Scotsman look?

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 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.

46 comments on “The many guises of Flying Scotsman

  1. 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.

    1. no, the designer was Herbert Nigel Gresley.

      the loco’s initial design was finalized in 1922.

      Gresley got knighted much later in 1936.

  2. 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. 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.

  3. 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.

    1. It didn’t get to Dunfermline upper station, but did visit the nearby engine shed. It was serviced there after doing the last non stop run from Kings Cross to Waverley on May 1st 1968, and again after hauling a railtour to Inverkeithing on May 25th the same year

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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!

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

    1. They are smoke deflectors, By deflecting the slipstream upwards as it passes over the loco, it helps lift the exhaust steam ans stops it obscuring the driver;s forward vision. This became more a problem with the A3s once they were fitted with a double chimney, which resulted in a softer exhaust.

  10. 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.

    1. Didn’t you actually read the accompanying text? The ‘Flying Scotsman’ we see now is a completely different locomotive from the one built in 1923. In order to return it “as close as practically possible to her guise when she was manufactured”, as you suggest, it would have been necessary to completely rebuild the locomotive, removing fundamental and historical modifications which were made when it was converted to an A3. It would probably have been easier and more cost-effective to make a new one from scratch. The original version didn’t carry the number 4472, so that part of your statement is flawed. While most people recognise the ‘apple green’ 4472 version of this locomotive from the 1960s and 70s, it never actually ran like that historically. As an A3 it was never that colour. Alan Pegler had it painted that colour in private ownership as an homage to the loco he remembered seeing as a child. You can do things like that when you own your own steam locomotive. Perhaps you should buy one then you can paint it whatever colour you like. The current BR restoration is actually the only one of its many guises which is authentic. Whether you like it or not, that is how the locomotive looked when in service. If anything, painting the current locomotive apple green and putting the number 4427 on it is like “painting a track suit on the Mona Lisa”.

      1. “It probably would have been easier…” good wise words, hence Jupiter. I love both these locos, one because it is an unbroken attachment with the past and the other because it is a faithful recreation of the past. And Jupiter shows what being English is all about. Who would imagine a bunch of crazy nostalgic nerds would actually do such a thing?

  11. 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

  12. 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

  13. 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.

  14. 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 ????

  15. 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!).

  16. I would love to see her in Apple Green livery and numbered 4472. I don’t care that the smoke deflectors and other changes were later BR-era additions. I grew up as a child in the 70s and will always think of LNER 4472 in Apple Green and not BR 60103 in Brunswick Green as the iconic “Flying Scotsman”. Please consider doing this NRM! The BR-era numbering and livery just doesn’t work!

  17. Like so many others – I think the wrong colour has been chosen, and the ghastly smoke deflectors ruin the look 🙁

  18. My dear ladies & gentlemen,,, a simple point has been overlooked,,, and that is ,,, all should be thankful that the Flying Scotsman still actually exists today,,, and not been scrapped and therefore lost forever ..
    As for what colour & running number the Flying Scotsman should be dressed in,,, I can only put it to you all
    as this,,, would one be clothed in the same clothing every single day,,,, ta ta for now,,,
    Enjoy the days of your lives

    1. I so agree with you michael, but in my opinion i still think it should be restored as close as possible to its original form and not being mislead. We all know the Flying Scotsman for what it is and thats a true iconic locomotive.

  19. My Grandfather had the privilege of driving The Flying Scotsman on two separate occasions, in both colours… green being his preferred as he didn’t support Rangers😉

  20. I remember the excitement that buzzed among my friends and I when we would cross Fowler’s Park, Wolverhampton, heading for the sheds. We often saw engines that would not normally be seen in our neck of the woods. I have no idea what they were doing there, perhaps running maintenance or something, but it was a buzz to ‘scratch them off the list’ in our ‘I-spy railway locomotives’ or some such book. I only once saw Flying Scotsman ‘in the flesh’, it was when traveling in my Dad’s truck coming back from London and it flew past us, we were on the A5, (our truck was an Atkinson 8 wheeler which screamed along at 29mph – FLAT OUT!) I think we were in the Daventry/Rugby area. I was but a very young lad at the time. Happy days.
    I agree with earlier posts – Flying Scotsman feels right in Apple Green and numbered 4472. A lot of people would love to see it ‘back as they remember it’ – never mind right or fanciful, give the fans what they want, myth and legend!

  21. To me the question to resolve is: is the loco to be a preserved relic of the past, or is it still a living, breathing entity? If it is the latter, then don’t worry about what the configuration was in 1948 or 1963 or blah, blah, blah. Choose whatever colour, number etc is preferred now and that will be its true configuration for the next chapter.

  22. I’ve got used to the renovated FC – perhaps many more will get used to it, and the demand for 4472 and LNER green will fade away,,,? I’ve just bought a lovely oil painting based on the January 1963 picture (60103, BR green, double chimney, smoke deflectors, leaving Kings Cross).

  23. I have a question about livery please, in particular, 4472’s wheels…when did she lose the polished rims? From what I can see she never had fully lined wheels while an LNER loco..would I be correct in thinking that she gained the black and white lining onlt when Pegler took her into private ownership? did she have polished rims up to this point or did she have green rims with perhaps white lining but no black around the rim, only on the axle end with black and white line? I’ve seen photo’s that show polished rims in the mid 30’s, however a late 30’s looks like it may have painted rims…no black though…it’s impossible to see in the photo whether it had a fine white line around the rim..
    Can any one help please and if so give the source….

    kind regards


  24. I commute by train every day so I’m not a huge rail enthusiast. I accept begrudgingly it’s here to stay. BUT look, I do go soft when watching tv documentaries on the Flying Scotsman. Yes we should keep the old girl going in whatever incarnation it’s best served in. The important thing is the DNA behind the name plate. So long as it officially carries the Flying Scotsman name plate its DNA is protected for ever. Just like different hair styles, tattoos, face-lifts etc., our look may be different, but DNA cannot be changed. It is simple as that. let the Flying Scotsman live on to wow us again and again – however that may be. Keep and love your pictures/prints of it’s magnificent past as they surely are never to be repeated. You may argue on this basis, that they are more important to preserve than the desire to have it rebuilt in whatever period you find more appropriate. Personally, I prefer its 1924 apple green 4472 appearance. But I love it’s story far more.

  25. I recently traveled to England to trace some of my lineage, and found that the Flying Scotsman was going to be making runs northeast of Manchester, so I had to see it. My dad took me out of school to see it, when it was touring the U.S. forty years ago, because it was so famous. When I saw it a few months ago, it brought tears to my eyes. It was the living, breathing work of art, that I remembered (except the new number- I remember it as 4472). You have something very special, cherish the the FS, no matter the number. 🙂

  26. OK, here’s a question for all those who want the locomotive ‘returned’ to a livery that it never actually wore in service. If the RAF Museum purchased a Spitfire from a private owner who had been displaying it in a civilian ‘fantasy’ livery for ten years (yes, this happens), what colour would you expect it to be painted after restoration? I bet everyone would say it should be camouflaged. It’s a Spitfire, obviously. But since it was built it’s been modified extensively, so what livery should you choose? The livery it first wore? If you painted a Battle of Britain livery on a Mk.IX that had been converted from a Mk.V, every aircraft historian and aircraft spotter would ridicule you, as the aircraft is fundamentally and obviously different in appearance. The only realistic option would be to choose a livery appropriate to the configuration of the aircraft – probably the last Service livery it wore. And nobody would ever criticise that decision. Where is the difference?

    The Flying Scotsman was never ‘apple green’ as an A3. It never carried the number 4472 as an A3. A private owner painted it ‘apple green’ because he liked it that way, but even he admitted that it was historically inaccurate. Personal preference is not a reason to overwrite history.

    I applaud the museum’s decision to restore the locomotive to its BR configuration. It is the only historically accurate option. The reversion to a single chimney, deletion of the smoke deflectors and ‘apple green’ livery was a personal whim and not representative of the locomotive at any time during its long service life. When somebody builds a Gresley A1 locomotive of their own, then they can paint it whatever colour they like – and perhaps they could choose the Doncaster work’s interpretation of LNER Locomotive Green.

    1. Which bit of history is proper and which is not? Private ownership and a non service livery are part of the FS fame and it’s story. It’s ability to stir mass appeal and tour the world is important to the stream narrative.
      If you discovered the decommissioned FS in a scrap yard today, different choices would be made. As they will in another 50 years.. but the story would be different if LNER 4472 never happened. For a start enthusiasm for public subscription would be less..

    2. I’m writing this sitting next to Flying Scotsman in light steam at Corfe Castle while she is on her highly successful tour on the Swanage Railway.

      While I appreciate the reasoning, I can’t help thinking how much better she would look in iconic LNER Apple Green and without the Witte Smoke Deflectors.

      It would make her so much more recognisable to the casual observer and particularly all those children of all ages with a Hornby Flying Scotsman. it would alsobe a fitting tribute to Alan Peglar.

  27. I have a ‘Flying Scotsman’ name plate which has gold letters on a green background. Can anyone suggest where, when or why this colour combination was used.

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