For one of Yorkshire’s most famous faces, it proved to be quite literally a trip back in time.
Celebrity gardener Alan Titchmarsh was yesterday joined by the record-breaking locomotive, Flying Scotsman, for the official re-opening of a heritage steam railway.
The classic steam train was packed with enthusiasts and local dignitaries for the relaunching of Mid-Hants Railway’s Watercress Line.
The event was held following the completion of works to re-build nearby White Lane Down Bridge on the line which runs from Alresford to Alton in Hampshire.
And Ilkley-born Mr Titchmarsh admitted that the event had left him reminiscing about his formative years.
He said: “It’s the most wonderful timewarp, you come over the bridge to the Watercress Line and you are back in your childhood. The wonderful thing about locomotives like Flying Scotsman is they breathe, they are living, she’s panting, just waiting to get back to Alresford.
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“What an enormous honour it is for me, a life-long steam engine fanatic, to be able to be here today.”
Watercress Line director Simon Baggott added: “It was a landmark moment as Flying Scotsman travelled across the new White Lane Down Bridge, surrounded by 300 local school children waving flags before arriving into Alton Station and breaking a banner to officially re-open the line.”
Flying Scotsman was built at a cost of £7,944 in Doncaster for the London and North Eastern Railway (LNER), emerging from the South Yorkshire works on February 24, 1923.
The engine found global fame when it became the first locomotive to reach 100mph before British Railways withdrew the icon of engineering from service in 1963.
It was purchased by the National Railway Museum in York in 2004 and was restored with £4.2m from the National Heritage Memorial Fund, the Heritage Lottery Fund as well as from public donations.