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Flying Scotsman steams into Edinburgh to mark centenary

The Flying Scotsman surprised travellers as it pulled into the Scottish capital to celebrate 100 years in service.

The world-famous steam locomotive entered service on February 24, 1923 as it set off on its first journey from the sheds at Doncaster Works.

One hundred years later to the day on Friday, and following a lick of paint, it arrived at Edinburgh Waverley station where celebrations took place to mark the centenary.

Poet Laureate Simon Armitage read out a poem called The Making Of The Flying Scotsman to mark the event.

Flying Scotsman anniversary
Poet Laureate Simon Armitage rode the locomotive to find inspiration for his poem (Andrew Milligan/PA)

He rode on the locomotive as part of the process of writing the poem, in which he describes how the world famous steam engine “coughed into life” and features “vast steel circumferences” and “rippling bodywork pouring with sweat”.

He said he was struck by “this incredible coming together of both mechanics and metaphysics”.

Dancers from the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society performed The Flying Scotsman, devised by Hugh Thurston in 1966, and the event was rounded off with a set by Celtic rock band the Red Hot Chilli Pipers.

The world’s oldest floral clock of its kind, in Princes Street Gardens across the road from Waverley, will see a familiar Flying Scotsman theme when the flowers bloom later this year.

Flying Scotsman was designed by Sir Nigel Gresley and built in Doncaster.

Its achievements include hauling the inaugural non-stop London to Edinburgh train service in 1928, and becoming the UK’s first locomotive to reach 100mph six years later.

The National Railway Museum in York, where Flying Scotsman is a working exhibit, has organised a centenary programme featuring events and displays.

Pipe beside Flying Scotsman
Kevin MacDonald from the Red Hot Chilli Pipers performed beside the famous locomotive (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Judith McNicol, director of the museum, said: “Edinburgh Waverley is a fitting location to mark the centenary of the world’s most famous express passenger locomotive.

“It was here that Flying Scotsman completed its record-breaking, non-stop journey between London and Edinburgh in 1928, and Edinburgh is also the birthplace of Sir Nigel Gresley, Flying Scotsman’s designer.”

She said the locomotive will spend the rest of 2023 travelling across the country to allow as many people as possible to see it in its 100th anniversary year.

Speaking about the Flying Scotsman, Mr Armitage told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “There’s something very dreamlike about the whole contraption and the experience of standing next to it.

Flying Scotsman
Flying Scotsman entered service on February 24, 1923 (Andrew Milligan/PA)

“There’s just something absolutely incredible when you’re up close and personal with it.”

He said he wanted to celebrate the “analogue world”, when people had “an actual relationship with physical objects”.

He continued: “I think in the digital world it’s often a very detached and dispassionate experience.”

Flying Scotsman is “an emblem of when we could have pride” about the railways, he said.