The Flying Scotsman steam engine 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, following a fresh lick of paint, she 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.
Armitage 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’ dance, originally 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, planted in Princes Street Gardens just across the road from Waverley station, will see a familiar Flying Scotsman theme when the flowers bloom later this year.
The 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 (NRM) in York, where Flying Scotsman is a working exhibit, has organised a centenary programme featuring events and displays.
NRM director Judith McNicol said there are “many reasons” why Flying Scotsman is “so special”. The locomotive has “style and sophistication” and it was a “very emotive” experience for people when they first saw it.
“Edinburgh Waverley is a fitting location to mark the centenary of the world’s most famous express passenger locomotive,” she added.
“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.”
McNicol said the locomotive will spend the rest of 2023 travelling across the country to allow as many people as possible to see it during its 100th anniversary year.
Speaking about the Flying Scotsman, 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. 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 added.
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