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  • Writer's pictureJohn

The Flying Scotsman Visits Berwick!

Updated: Jul 6, 2021


 

I am sure you will be chuffed to read that as I am not trained in locomotives and before I run out of steam and the fact my puns are not first class I will publish them online before starting this blog. Just the ticket! How do trains eat? They choo-choo!

I must stick to the point so that’s the end of the line……


 

Earlier during the day of 24th June I was running errands in Berwick and when I returned my partner informed me that the famous Flying Scotsman was coming to town later that evening. I am not sure if I am classed as a spotter or enthusiast but I do like them!

The East Coast Main Line is 393 miles long (now electrified) and was opened in 1850 which runs between London and Edinburgh which is roughly parallel with the A1 road. There are 51 stations along its route and Berwick-Upon-Tweed is about 8 miles away. This is now our closest station as the Norham one along with numerous others were culled based on the Beeching Report called The Reshaping of British Railways, which was published on 27 March 1963.

Perhaps the Norham line and station could feature as a future Discovery Blog?


 

Over the years numerous franchises and public ownership have operated train services along its route. Between 2018 & 2019 I commuted to the south.

This photo which is a classic bridge shot over the Tweed on its approach into Berwick station was taken by my partner at 10.36 am 18th April 2018. A memorable date as this was my first trip returning north. Not sure if you can see me waving in the furthest right carriage in the image?


At the time this was during the change over period from the East Coast Trains which was a franchise joint owned by Sir Richard Branson (10%) and Stagecoach (90%) back into public ownership which is now LNER. The train in the photo is an electric intercity 225 and most of my commutes were on the old intercity 125 diesel electrics. These trains were built between 1975 and 1982. And due to their long use in service and maintenance repairs/upgrades, a bit like Triggers broom they are not truly original! The amount of paint jobs over the years is amazing, the original being the blue and yellow and white under British Rail ownership. Rather than some of the 125’s being scrapped by LNER I have noticed the X Country livery on a few of their rolling stock so assume they acquired them?

It was a shame Sir Richard’s Virgin trains were bailed out by the government especially as he was heavily involved with the Azuma trains inception that we see today. Being more modern and cleaner the journey time between London and Edinburgh would be cut by more than 20 minutes. The trains are manufactured by the Japanese company Hitachi.

I never got to commute on the Azuma especially as these new trains did not work properly with existing track side equipment and could therefore not be used north of York. Thankfully the points issue has now been resolved.


 

I name that train in one! 東


Because East Coast trains placed the initial order for the new trains they were aptly named Azuma which is Japanese for East. If LNER (London North East Railway) had decided to rename them in Japanese (using Google translate) they would now be called Rondon Hokutō Tetsudō. Or, ロンドン北東鉄道 if you can read it. It’s a bit of a tongue twister so I can see why the name has remained the same.

LNER originally operated from 1923 – 1948. Due to copyright I cannot publish their original promotion posters, but if you search LNER posters Northumberland on Google you will see these amazing almost art deco like pieces of art.


 

This is not necessarily a recommendation to use their service but occasionally on my commutes I managed to upgrade to a first class ticket using Seatfrog. It’s like an auction. See below link for more information on how it works.


Due to Covid I have yet to travel on an Azuma and have heard mixed reviews on the comfort of the seats, apparently they are thinner hence the extra seating capacity. Good news for cyclists is that Azuma’s have additional bike capacity. A bike reservation must be made in advance. See link below.

For a future Discovery blog I am hoping to travel to Northumberland’s least used train station of Acklington and cycle back. YouTuber legend Geoff Marshall who has almost ¼ millions subscribers has visited there. See link below.


 

On the 3rd June 2018 I took this picture of a class 37 diesel electric locomotive near Scremerston. Although not exactly environmentally friendly their diesel engines sound amazing. Google the words ‘class 37 thrash’ to hear more! I have recorded its id number of 37 025 in the photo.



 

The Main Event and without further ado, The Flying Scotsman!


The Flying Scotsman is the name given to the train service between London King’ s Cross and Edinburgh Waverley and apart from the iconic steam train its namesake has also appeared on diesel and electric variants. The first service was operated in 1862 taking 10 ½ hours. Today you can get the nonstop 05.40 am from Edinburgh and arrive in London in exactly 4 hours.

This magnificent train, originally a Class A1 before being upgraded to a Class A3 LNER Flying Scotsman steam train cost £7,944 in1923 which is about £½ million in today’s money. Not sure how that compares with its modern day replacement in monetary terms? Like all the blogs I write they are researched and written in good faith and all remaining errors are my own. A big thank you to a very good friend of mine in the south called Justin for clarifying that there haven’t been 5 Flying Scotsman’s but only 1 with five different numbers, listed below with the years in service. The number changes were implemented by different operators such as LNER, GNR (Great Northern Railway)

1472 - Feb 1923 - Feb 1924

4472 - Feb 1924 - Jan 1946

502 - Jan 1946 - May 1946

103 - May 1946 - Dec 1948

60103 - Dec 1948 onwards

See below link for a more in-depth overview.


At almost 100 years of age she has had a remarkable history clocking up over 2 million miles before being retired from service in 1963. Officially the first locomotive to reach 100mph and the first to circumnavigate the globe. Has had numerous owners including private individuals and is now owned by the National Rail Museum. There is a huge abundance of facts online and apparently in 1928 you could have a haircut on the service which must have been a hair-raising experience!

About 13 miles away near the coastal hamlet of Goswick there was a tragic rail crash on the 26th October 1947 which sadly resulted in multiple fatalities. A train called the Merry Hampton which was operating the express from Edinburgh to London derailed. See below link.


 

Waiting in anticipation I took these photos of two modern day passenger trains slightly south of Berwick-Upon-Tweed.






A LNER Azuma train travelling south.











A X Country Bombardier Voyager built in Belgium travelling south.










Here she comes!






Today she has a diesel locomotive at the rear for assistance. See https://www.heritagerailway.co.uk/3774/why-we-have-diesel-assistance-today/ which explains why.


Holding a mobile to video with one hand and a digital camera in the other is difficult and out of the 2 minutes taken the 8 second clip was usable!


Although there was light rain I managed to take all the photos before a major downpour.












I have created a mono image and apart from the electric wires it could have been taken in 1923.

 

Like most modes of transport these days there are various apps/sites that can track their movements (no pun intended!)

For example you can find steam train schedules on https://www.railadvent.co.uk/eventscalendar and then track them via https://www.realtimetrains.co.uk/

LNER has recently invested £1.2 billion in upgrades. Check out their site for tickets, offers, travel news and competitions.


 

Resident professional photographer Jim Gibson took some absolutely awesome photos of the Scotsman on the earlier mentioned 2162ft long Grade 1 listed Royal Border Bridge. From the link below navigate the site to see the images which are far superior to mine on his Facebook page (you don’t have a registered account to view them). The site also gives an insight into all the services that are on offer.

Again, huge thanks for the spectacular drone intro on the homepage of this site that Jim kindly provided along with allowing the use of some of his other incredible photos.


 

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