"Flying Scotsman" was something of a flagship locomotive for the LNER. It represented the company at the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley in 1924 and 1925. At this time it acquired its name and the new number of 4472. From then on it was commonly used for promotional purposes.
With suitably modified valve gear, this locomotive was one of five Gresley Pacifics selected to haul the prestigious non-stop Flying Scotsman train service from London to Edinburgh, hauling the inaugural train on 1 May 1928. For this the locomotives ran with a new version of the large eight-wheel tender which held 9 tons of coal. This and the usual facility for water replenishment from the water trough system enabled them to travel the 392 miles (631 km) from London to Edinburgh in eight hours non-stop. The tender included a corridor connection and tunnel through the water tank giving access to the locomotive cab from the train in order to allow replacement of the driver and fireman without stopping the train. The following year the locomotive appeared in the film The Flying Scotsman. On 30 November 1934, running a light test train, 4472 became the first steam locomotive to be officially recorded at 100 mph (160.9 km/h) and earned a place in the Land speed record for railed vehicles; the publicity-conscious LNER made much of the fact.
On 22 August 1928, there appeared an improved version of this Pacific type classified A3; older A1 locomotives were later rebuilt to conform. On 25 April 1945, A1 class locomotives not yet rebuilt were reclassified A10 in order to make way for newer Thompson and Peppercorn Pacifics. This included "Flying Scotsman", which emerged from Doncaster works on 4 January 1947, as an A3 having received a boiler with a long "banjo" dome of the type it carries today. By this time it had become no. 103 in Edward Thompson's comprehensive renumbering scheme for the LNER, then 60103 from 1 January 1948, on the nationalisation of the railways when all the LNER locomotive numbers were prefixed with 60.Between 5 June 1950, and 4 July 1954, and between 26 December 1954, and 1 September 1957, under British Railways ownership, it was allocated to Leicester Central shed on the Great Central, running Nottingham Victoria to London Marylebone services via Leicester Central, and hauled one of the last services on that line before its closure..
All A3 Pacifics were subsequently fitted with a double Kylchap chimney to improve performance and economy. This caused soft exhaust and smoke drift that tended to obscure the driver's forward vision; the remedy was found in the German-type smoke deflectors fitted from 1960, which somewhat changed the locomotives' appearance but successfully solved the problem.
Number 60103 ended service with British Railways in 1963 and was sold for preservation to Alan Pegler who had it restored as closely as possible to its original LNER condition. It then worked a number of railtours, including a non-stop London–Edinburgh run in 1968 – the year steam traction officially ended on BR. As watering facilities for locomotives had by then disappeared a second 8-wheel tender was adapted as an auxiliary water tank.
In 1969 it went on a promotional tour to the USA, where it was fitted with cowcatcher, high-intensity headlamp, bell, air brakes and buckeye couplings. The trip was initially a success, but when Pegler's backers withdrew their support he began to lose money and was finally bankrupted in 1972. Fears then arose for the engine's future, the speculation being that it could take up permanent residence in America or even be cut up. Fortunately in January 1973 William McAlpine stepped in at the eleventh hour and had the locomotive repatriated and repaired.
In October 1988 the locomotive arrived in Australia to take part in that country's bicentenary celebrations and during the course of the next year it travelled more than 45,000 kilometres (28,000 mi) over Australian rails, including a transcontinental run from Sydney to Perth. It was a central attraction in the "AusSteam '88" festival, double heading with NSWGR locomotive 3801, and running alongside Victorian Railways R class locomotives along the 300 km (190 mi)-long parallel broad and standard gauge tracks of the North East railway line, Victoria. The "Flying Scotsman" stayed in Victoria for 2 months before heading back to New South Wales. On 8 August 1989 "Flying Scotsman" set another record, travelling 442 miles (711 km) from Parkes to Broken Hill non-stop, the longest such run by a steam locomotive ever recorded.
In recent years "Flying Scotsman" has continued to have an eventful existence. In 1995 it was in pieces at Southall depot in West London and facing an uncertain future owing to the cost of restoration and refurbishment necessary to meet the stringent engineering standards required for main line operation. Salvation came in 1996 when Dr Tony Marchington bought the locomotive and had it restored to running condition at a cost of some £750,000.
In 2004 "Flying Scotsman" was put up for sale because of the mounting debts of its owning company. After a high-profile campaign it was bought in April 2004 by the National Railway Museum in York and it is now part of the National Collection. In 2007 "Flying Scotsman" entered the Museum's workshops for a major overhaul to mainline running standard; planned to be completed by mid 2010 if sufficient funds were raised. The bay in which the locomotive was being refurbished was on view to visitors to the NRM but the engine was rapidly dismantled to such an extent that the running plate was the only component recognisable to the casual observer.
Choice of livery is an emotive subject amongst some of those involved in the preservation of historic rolling stock, and "Flying Scotsman" has attracted more than its fair share as a result of 40 years continuous service, during which the locomotive underwent several changes to its livery.
Alan Pegler's preferred option was evidently to return the locomotive as far as possible to the general appearance and distinctive colour it carried at the height of its fame in the 1930s. A later option was to re-install the double Kylchap chimney and German smoke deflectors that it carried at the end of its career in the 1960s, which encouraged more complete combustion, a factor in dealing with smoke pollution and fires caused by spark throwing.
More recently, until its current overhaul, it was running in a hybrid form, retaining the modernised exhaust arrangements while carrying the LNER 'Apple Green' livery of the 1930s. Some believe that the more famous LNER colour scheme should remain, while others take the view that, to be authentic, only BR livery should be used when the loco is carrying these later additions. The subject is further complicated by the fact that, while in BR livery, the locomotive never ran with its corridor tender.
Early in 2009 it emerged that the spare boiler, acquired following the locomotive's preservation, had been sold.
Because of the LNER's emphasis on using the locomotive for publicity purposes, and then its eventful preservation history, including two international forays, it is arguably one of the most famous locomotives in the world today, and no doubt among the most famous in the UK.
"Flying Scotsman" has been featured in The Railway Series of children's books by the Rev. W. Awdry. The locomotive visited the fictional Island of Sodor in the book "Enterprising Engines". At this time "Flying Scotsman" had two tenders, and this was a key feature of the plot of one of the stories.
Flying Scotsman was also scheduled to appear in the Thomas and Friends series, but a crew member damaged his model, so his tenders appeared, but both had coal.