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This weekend's Flying Scotsman services cancelled as investigation into Highland train crash continues

By Andrew Dixon

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It appears that The Flying Scotsman has escaped damage in the incident.
It appears that The Flying Scotsman has escaped damage in the incident.

Services celebrating the world famous Flying Scotsman's 100 years of running have been cancelled this weekend after a crash involving the train last night.

Two people were taken to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness after a low speed collision while coupling with the Royal Scotsman at Aviemore Railway Station.

The locomotive arrived at Strathspey Railway earlier this month as part of its centenary celebrations and this weekend was to be its last services of its current visit to the area.

The scene of this evening's accident involving The Flying Scotsman. Pictures: Aidan Woods.
The scene of this evening's accident involving The Flying Scotsman. Pictures: Aidan Woods.

A spokesman for Strathspey Steam Railway said: "On Friday, September 29 at 6.15pm, a shunting incident occurred when Flying Scotsman was being coupled with Belmond’s Royal Scotsman train carriages, which were stationary in Aviemore Platform 3. Emergency services attended the site to provide assistance.

"Two people have attended hospital and been discharged, with others being treated at the scene. Appropriate authorities were notified immediately, and we are co-operating with their investigations.

"Due to the ongoing investigations, unfortunately we are not able to operate any Flying Scotsman trains on Saturday or Sunday. Our thoughts are with those affected and their families and friends. Thank you for your understanding.

"We will, however, endeavour to provide some steam service over the weekend although much depends on recovery and removal of the set currently standing at Platform 3."

Police Scotland said a man and a woman were taken to hospital by the Scottish Ambulance Service for treatment as a precaution, adding their injuries are not believed to be serious.

The force added: "A number of other passengers were assessed by the ambulance service at the scene and did not require hospital treatment. Enquiries are ongoing to establish the full circumstances."

Owned by the National Railway Museum in York, the class A3 Pacific express locomotive was designed by Sir Nigel Gresley, the first built by the newly-formed London & North Eastern Railway, entering passenger service on February 24, 1923. It was named 'Flying Scotsman' after the daily 10am express from London’s King’s Cross to Edinburgh Waverley.

A spokesperson for the National Railway Museum stated the Flying Scotsman was visiting the railway as part of a planned excursion, adding: "Appropriate authorities were notified immediately, and we are co-operating with their investigations."

Just a few hours before the crash, Strathspey Steam Railway shared some information about the train's history, stating: "While we are currently celebrating Flying Scotsman's 100 years of running, it hasn't always been without problems. In 1963, the locomotive was facing an uncertain future with the threat of being cut up for scrap by British Rail. Alan Peglar, a British businessman, hearing of the locomotive's possible fate, bought the locomotive for £3000 (approximately £80,000 in today's money). He required to find a way of raising money to keep the locomotive on the tracks and came up with the idea of taking the Flying Scotsman to America where he hoped to make sufficient money to keep the locomotive in operation. It headed for America in 1969, initially as part of a Buy British trade initiative, in effect a mobile exhibition with British goods being displayed in some of the repurposed train carriages. Initially, this part of the tour was successful.

"However, by September 1971, following a disastrous tour of Canada, Alan Peglar was facing financial ruin, mainly from track access costs. At this point, he discovered that there was a British Trade Exhibition about to start in San Francisco. He believed the locomotive would be the star of the exhibition and that this would solve his financial issues. The problem was the locomotive was in Buffalo, New York State, some 3200 miles away. Thinking this was his last chance to save himself from bankruptcy and from losing ownership of the locomotive, Peglar got together a crew for the long journey to the west coast of America.

The Flying Scotsman in Aviemore.
The Flying Scotsman in Aviemore.

"One of those who volunteered was Peter Gores, a 25-year-old policeman and trained heritage steam fireman. He joined a mixed British-American train crew. The Strathspey Railway is delighted to announce that Peter Gores has travelled from his home in Rochester, New York state, to be reacquainted with the locomotive, he last saw 52 years ago. It is now a different colour and carries a different number but we are sure he will still recognise it as the locomotive that took him from east to west coast America. Fortunately, Peter and fellow fireman Devan Lawton had cameras with them and took many iconic photographs of the Flying Scotsman as it passed through 1970s rural America. Peter has generously offered the use of these photographs to help raise funds for the railway. Currently, the railway has created a poster using these photographs and incorporating a map from Trackside Magazine which illustrates the journey. This A1 size poster is available to view and purchase in the railways' shops. Peter is at the railway over the weekend so if you want to know what happened, he'll be delighted to recount the story of Flying Scotsman across America in 1971.

"For those not at the railway this weekend, Alan Peglar eventually went bankrupt, and Flying Scotsman's future was again in doubt until another well-known British businessman Sir William McAlpine stepped in and brought the locomotive back to Britain."

It is unclear whether alternative arrangements will be made for anyone interested in finding out more about this part of the train's history.

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