TRAIN enthusiasts have described the “thrilling” moment the Flying Scotsman returned to the tracks after a decade-long £4.2 million restoration.
One woman had tears in her eyes as she watched the famous locomotive steam past her at the East Lancashire Railway’s Bolton Street station in Bury after a 50-year wait.
Tina Bywater, 67, said it was “amazing” to see the Yorkshire-built green and black engine following its 10-year refit.
As it arrived, whistling, on the preserved heritage line run in part by volunteers, the crowd cheered and took pictures before becoming engulfed in clouds of steam.
Mrs Bywater, a member of the East Lancashire Railway Preservation Society which helps to fund refurbishment projects, said: “It was perfect. I have always loved a steam engine, I think it’s in the blood. It’s such a spine-tingling moment. It’s thrilling.
“I have always said if you could bottle steam, oil and coal I would wear it as a perfume. We are all a bit delighted, to say the least. It’s amazing to have it here while it’s still under trials.”
The locomotive has been brought back to life after the National Railway Museum bought it for £2.3 million in 2004 before work got under way in 2006.
Hundreds of people of all ages lined the Lancashire tracks and bridges to catch a glimpse of the Flying Scotsman as other trains were suspended for the day.
Gareth Mawdsley, 40, took his two-year-old son Dexter along with his father to reminisce on days gone by.
“There’s three generations of us come here. All those weekends and Sunday mornings stood there in the freezing cold and now it’s my turn to bring this little one. Now it’s quite exciting for me and I hope this little man carries it on for generation to generation.”
His father Robert, 71, said it was “fantastic” to have the three generations present.
He said: “It’s iconic really, the Flying Scotsman. My dad brought me here, same train station.”
Another described the loco as a “national monument” because of its ethos.
David Flood, 68, former vice chairman of the East Lancashire Railway Preservation Society and an ex-railway guard, said it was “a national symbol”.
“It’s on a par with stately homes, that sort of criteria. It belongs to the people now. I was 21 when the steam disappeared off the face of the earth.
“For me who was an enthusiast it was a very sorrowful time. Looking at this puts me straight into nostalgic mode.”
The Flying Scotsman was built in Doncaster in 1923 and soon became the star locomotive of the British railway system, pulling the first train to break the 100mph barrier in 1934.
Last year it topped a poll of the world’s best-known trains and locomotives following a worldwide survey by YouGov, where people across four continents were asked to name five trains or engines.
One worker from the engineering team called out from his carriage that it was an “honour” and a “great privilege” to see the Flying Scotsman in its full glory - before being overcome with steam.
Anthony Weaver, 68, from Rochdale, said: “It was beautiful, well worth the wait. It was magnificent. I come every week so there’s always a steam engine but this was lovely. What more do you want?
“It’s such an iconic engine, it’s an amazing thing.”
Simon Holyroyd, the engineer manager for the National Railway Museum who has worked to get the loco back up and running, said it still had not sunk in.
“I’m near speechless to be honest, it’s been quite a day. It feels like all the frustration and hard work is justified.
“It’s always been known as the world’s most famous steam locomotive and hopefully we will get it back up there in it’s rightful place and you can see a lot of people enjoying it.
“At times it’s been very, very hard, frustrating, very expensive. This is the big day. It’s really hit home today, it’s something special when you see everyone’s faces.”