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On This Day: Flying Scotsman becomes first train to exceed 100mph

The train, which is often said to be the most famous in the world, officially clocked the speed while travelling between Edinburgh and London

NOVEMBER 30, 1934: The Flying Scotsman became the first steam locomotive exceed 100mph on this day in 1934 – becoming the fastest in the world.

The train, which is often said to be the most famous in the world, officially clocked the speed while travelling between Edinburgh and London.

The A3 Gresley Pacific - the first locomotive to acquire the Flying Scotsman service name for itself - steamed its way into the record books ten years after it was built.

Prior to operators of several trains dating back to 1905 claimed they had broken the 100mph barrier – although until that point none had been authenticated.

But the Flying Scotsman – named after a 10am service in both directions that had been running between London and Edinburgh since 1862 - was truly revolutionary.

Starting its journey with nine tons of coal to heat its boiler, in 1928 it was the first train to complete the
392-mile route without stopping.

This enabled it to reduce the journey time by 30 minutes to eight hours between the English capital and its Scottish counterpart along the East Coast Main Line.

By 1932, the Flying Scotsman – one of ten A3 and A1 steam engines used by the London and North East Railway – had cut the time down to seven and a half hours.

Other faster trains served the route – including the Gresley A4 Pacific 4468 Mallard, which in 1938 set the standing world steam speed record after hitting 125.88mph.

But it was the A3 Flying Scotsman – which started life in LNER green livery, was black during the war and blue with British Rail – that would become the most iconic.

It served for 39 years before being decommissioned from scheduled service in 1963 after it had clocked up more than two million miles.

Since then it has had various owners and even toured the world.


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In 1989 it set a record it set a record for the longest non-stop run of any steam engine after travelling 422 across Australia without refuelling.

But by 1996 it was lying in bits at a stockyard in Southall, west London when Dr Tony Marchington bought it.

He spent three years and £1million restoring it before finally going bust in 2003 after Edinburgh Council turned down his plans to open a Flying Scotsman Village.


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The A3 was later bought by the National Railway Museum in York a year later following a high-profile fund-raising campaign.

Between 2006 and 2012, it was painstakingly restored to its original mechanical specifications, although controversially painted wartime black rather than green.

The Flying Scotsman service has continued – albeit with different trains – since the original eponymous locomotive was decommissioned.

By the mid 1970s, the Class 55 Deltic diesel replacements introduced by British Rail had cut the time down to five and a half hours, including a stop in Newcastle.

The 1976 electric InterCity 125 reduced the journey to four hours and 30 minutes – and in 1990 the time was cut again to four hours by the InterCity 225.

Since rail privatisation in 1994, the same rolling stock has continued to travel between the English and Scottish capitals.

But since 2009, when the failing line was bought by the Government, only one daily four-hour service is available between Edinburgh Waverley and London Kings Cross.

Services in the other direction take 20 min longer.