It was a sight which had never been witnessed on the tracks before, four generations of trains spanning the past, present and future of rail travel on the East Coast main line, all travelling in parallel in the same direction through the Yorkshire countryside.
An early hours start did not deter thousands of railway and history buffs heading from across the country to North Yorkshire to witness the historical, one-off spectacle, which organisers had been warned beforehand would be “impossible” to pull off.
Set up to celebrate the forthcoming addition of a new fleet of trains on this near 400-mile rail link that spans Britain, from Edinburgh to London and with stops along the way including at Doncaster, Wakefield, Leeds and York, the ‘Four Trains’ event was held this morning on a fast, flat stretch of the route between Tollerton and York railway station.
The line up on the tracks comprised of the famous Flying Scotsman which first operated along the line in the 1930s, alongside two trains from Virgin Trains’ revitalised fleet - an HST Intercity 125 (Class 43) and an Intercity 225 (Class 91) - and the first new Virgin Azuma (Class 800), which is being built by Hitachi in the North East, and comes into service next year.
The grand occasion was organised by Virgin Trains, the National Railway Museum in York, Network Rail, Welcome to Yorkshire and Hitachi, whose representatives joined the crowds at York station to take in the scene.
Among them was Bob Gwynne, associate curator at the National Railway Museum, who said: “It has been particularly special here in York, which is a railway town in many respects, to be able to see four express passenger trains that represent the past, present and future of the line all together and have a nice warm, genteel event that really celebrates the fact that railways are moving forward.”
To see a classic locomotive from the 1930s and jumping from the end of the steam age on the East Coast main line to the 21st century in one shot was a really nice moment to see.Bob Gwynne, associate curator at the National Railway Museum.
To arrive inside York station, where the configuration of the tracks could not allow the four trains to come to a stop in parallel, Flying Scotsman and the new Azuma train travelled alongside each other.
Mr Gwynne said: “To see a classic locomotive from the 1930s and jumping from the end of the steam age on the East Coast main line to the 21st century in one shot was a really nice moment to see.”
Sir Gary Verity, chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire, said: “It couldn’t have gone better. It was particularly pleasing that all the partners came together for something that people said was impossible to pull off. All big events look straight-forward to people on the day but behind the scenes a lot of work goes into making something like this happen.
“There were hundreds maybe thousands of people all the way from Tollerton right the way down to York train station where there were several thousand people gathered and we had brass brands and pipers to welcome them. It is a moment in history to remember, it will never be repeated.”