Flying Scotsman’s Olympic Flame role scotched by further delays

AN INTERNAL investigation has been launched after it was confirmed the iconic locomotive Flying Scotsman will not be ready for the Olympic Flame celebrations as the most expensive restoration of its kind hit further delays.

The world’s most famous steam engine had been due to pull the Olympic Flame from York to Thirsk as part of the torch’s national tour in the run-up to the Games in London this summer.

But the latest delay in 4472 Flying Scotsman’s protracted restoration led to the National Railway Museum (NRM) in York, which is overseeing the overhaul, confirming yesterday that the engine will not be ready for the Olympic role on June 20.

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The internal investigation has been launched to examine “all engineering aspects” of the project and to identify “any lessons that can be learnt”, according to the NRM’s director, Steve Davies.

Mr Davies was adamant that he will not resign following the latest major setback in the restoration, which has seen costs spiral from £750,000 to £2.6m.

The locomotive 46115 Scots Guardsman, which featured in the famous 1936 film Night Mail and is one of only two remaining LMS Royal Scot Class engines, will now be used to pull the Olympic Flame.

Mr Davies said: “No one would like to see Flying Scotsman back in steam more than me. But we have had to take the decision that it will not be ready in time. In many respects, I ought to be delighted that there is such passion out there from people wanting to see Flying Scotsman back. It is an iconic locomotive not only for its past but also for its future, with the current restoration that has taken on marathon-like proportions.”

The latest problems emerged about a week ago when cracks were found in the cast iron horn guides which hold the axle box in place above the bogie – the four wheels at the front of the locomotive. Replacement parts have been ordered, and are due to be cast in the next week.

Mr Davies stressed the restoration is “one of the most complex engineering projects of its kind” ever undertaken in Britain, and maintained he shared the “public’s frustration” it had yet to be finished.

But he said he would not be resigning after the latest setback – less than a month after he was forced to announce the locomotive would not be appearing at another high-profile event.

Flying Scotsman had been due to be at a steam gala at Derbyshire’s historic Barrow Hill Roundhouse in April. Mr Davies had said he would “fall on his sword” if the restoration was not completed in time for the Derbyshire event.

But the retired Army colonel said: “The military instinct in me says that I am still the right person to continue leading this project, and that is exactly what I intend to do.”

While he was unwilling to give an exact timescale as to when Flying Scotsman’s overhaul will be completed, Mr Davies claimed the end of the project is “tantalisingly close”.

But he confirmed the locomotive would not be in steam for the much-hyped RailFest, dubbed “Britain’s biggest rail celebration”. The engine is still expected to make an appearance at the event in York in June, although tests will not be completed in time for it to be in steam. During the restoration, the locomotive has been disassembled, every component inspected and the engine entirely re-built. It has been paid for by donations, £275,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund and marketing of the Flying Scotsman brand. The National Museum of Science and Industry, the NRM’s parent body, provided a £540,000 grant last year.

The overhaul has now cost more than the price the locomotive was bought for when it was saved from being sold abroad. The NRM bought the steam engine for £2.2m in 2004 following a high-profile campaign backed by the Yorkshire Post.

The Doncaster-built locomotive found global fame in 1934 when it became the first steam engine in Britain to be officially timed travelling at more than 100mph. The restoration began in January 2006 and it had initially been hoped the work would be finished within 24 months. The previous repair programme was carried out in 1999.