February 25, 2016 / 2:27 PM / 3 years ago

Flying Scotsman steam train puffs again, thrilling enthusiasts

People watch from a railway platform as the Flying Scotsman steam engine prepares to leave Kings Cross station in London, February 25, 2016. REUTERS/Paul Hackett

YORK, England (Reuters) - Legendary British steam train The Flying Scotsman returned to the tracks on Thursday after a 10-year, 4.2-million-pound ($5.9-million) refit, billowing smoke over train enthusiasts as it thundered from London to the northern city of York.

Built in 1923 and now the sole survivor of its class, the train is considered a national treasure because of its longevity and popularity. It became too costly to run in 2004 but an appeal to save it attracted donations from thousands of people.

“I’ve always loved steam trains, my dad worked on the railways, but I wasn’t quite old enough to see them. So to be here today, the smell of the steam and the noise of the engine, it’s just been unforgettable. I’ve had a tear in my eye several times,” said Michael Cooper, 48, who works for the Post Office in London.

With its distinctive green livery and round clock face, it was named The Flying Scotsman after the London to Edinburgh service it covered, and made famous at a British Empire Exhibition in 1924.

The Scotsman took just under five hours to puff the 200 miles to York, a journey which now takes around two hours on a modern train.

Back in 1934, however, The Scotsman was the first train in Britain to reach a speed of 100 miles per hour (160 km per hour).

Steam trains hold a particular place in the British imagination due to the country’s pioneering role in developing the railway industry in the 19th century, and to the enduring popularity of children’s fiction character Thomas the Tank Engine.

The train is now headed to the National Railway Museum in York.

($1 = 0.7151 pounds)

Reporting By Russell Cheyne; writing by Elisabeth O'Leary in Edinburgh; editing by Estelle Shirbon

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