Making tacks to catch legendary loco
You can’t beat the smell, the sound or the sight of a steam engine, especially when it’s the Flying Scotsman.
As a bit of a train buff myself, I was pretty delighted to be asked to go on the great steam locomotive itself when she visited the Nene Valley Railway over the weekend.
Memories of seeing it flying through my hometown of Warwick around 20 years ago came flooding back as 60103 - resplendent British Rail green - majestically steamed into Wansford Station.
Railway enthusiasts from far and wide craned their necks to get the perfect snap of the world-famous record-breaking steam locomotive, the smell of burnt coal lingering in the air.
“It’s fantastic” exclaimed one woman as she disembarked.
It was then all aboard as I clambered into my carriage and into a cosy compartment (why aren’t these on modern trains?)
We were soon chugging out of Wansford and into the autumnal sun-baked North Cambridgeshire countryside on our 23-minute journey to Peterborough.
In my compartment were James and Leanne Wiltshire from Histon in Cambridgeshire and their train-mad son, Arthur, aged three.
“It feels like every childhood dream come true,” said James.
“It’s quite amazing really.
“The Flying Scotsman appeals to everybody.”
Leanne added: “In this world were everything is digital, it’s very exciting to be on a steam train.”
And she’s right.
Modern trains get the job done and are probably more efficient but they just can’t match a steam train for beauty and grace as you travel through the open countryside.
Simple pleasures are everything and as your carriage is going clickety-click over the rails and being pulled along by one of the most famous steam locomotives in the world, there aren’t many better nostalgic feelings.
It’s probably for this reason the Scotsman is so popular.
“It’s very special,” said Rosalind Willmin, from Milton Keynes.
“We are of an age where we have been on steam trains.
“There’s just something special about the Flying Scotsman - it’s a survivor.”
The Flying Scotsman was built in 1922 at Doncaster Works and steamed up and down the East Coast Mainline between London Kings Cross and Edinburgh at 100 mph until 1963.
After various changes of ownership, a £4.2 million restoration project was completed in 2016 and was marked with a trip from Kings Cross to York.
They created further history as the Flying Scotsman claimed the record for the oldest mainline working locomotive on Britain’s railway network, adding to its record of being the first locomotive to hit 100 mph in 1934.
David Challenger from Sheffield described the feeling of being towed by the legendary locomotive as ‘absolutely beautiful’.
“I can tick if off my bucket list now,” he said.
“I’ve been on loads of steam trains but I’ve always wanted to go on the Flying Scotsman.
“Part of the restoration took part in our neck of the woods in Yorkshire.”
If the Flying Scotsman had not broken down at Peterborough last year, then the Nene Valley Railway would not have got her.
They kindly stepped in to repair her and were given her for the weekend.
Thousands of passengers snapped up tickets almost immediately and took advantage of a rare and special opportunity.
Jerry Thurston, from Nene Valley Railway, said nearly 7,000 people had enjoyed The Flying Scotsman over five days.
“It was an absolutely phenomenal weekend,” he said. “We couldn’t have asked for more and it was amazing to have such an iconic steam engine here.”