LONDON (Reuters) - One of the world’s most famous steam engines, “Flying Scotsman,” is set to return after a decade of restoration and over 80 years since it became the first locomotive to reach 100 miles an hour (160 kph).
The venerable engine, which has toured both the United States and Australia since it was retired from service, made a series of short test runs on Friday, ahead of a program of heritage journeys this year on Britain’s main lines.
It emerged dramatically from huge clouds of steam at Bury station in northern England to the delight of dozens of rail enthusiasts who had gathered to mark the occasion.
Restoration work for the National Railway Museum that has cost some 4 million pounds ($6 million) has now almost finished, although the engine will not be repainted in its traditional green livery until next month.
“Flying Scotsman is arguably the most famous locomotive in the world,” the museum said on its website. “Once restoration is complete, it will be back hauling mainline railtours, steaming proudly into the 21st century.”
Built in 1923, the engine hauled the first ever non-stop service between London and Edinburgh in 1928, taking eight hours. It set the record-breaking 100 mph mark in 1934.
After it was retired in 1963 as the age of steam in Britain drew to a close, the Scotsman was sold to a businessman who took it on a tour of the United States where it was fitted with a bell, headlamp and cow-catcher.
In 1988-9 under new ownership, it toured Australia, where at one point it recorded the longest ever non-stop run by a steam locomotive, traveling 422 miles.
The high cost of restoring and running the engine had always limited its public appearances but in 2004 it was returned to public ownership.
The first mainline test run is expected to be from Manchester to Carlisle, over the scenic Ribblehead Viaduct, on Jan. 23. Next month the Scotsman will run between Kings Cross station in London to the railway museum in York, northern England, where it will be based.
Reporting by Stephen Addison; editing by Michael Holden