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A Rare View of An Iconic Locomotive

Free Photos, York, North Yorkshire

Article By: Dave Roberts

First Published: 31 May 2011

What do you do that's interesting and fun for all of the family in York on a wet and windy bank holiday Monday? .... simples... The National Railway Museum. It's indoors, impressive, entertaining, educational, completely free and there's even a 'Park and Ride' to drop you off at the door.

By 11am on Monday, May bank holiday, throngs of people were already heading home from the popular Yorkshire Coastal Resorts and the other attractions of North York Moors - the wet and windy weather had seen to that. So intense was the early exodus that by 11.30am the A64 was one long traffic jam all the way from the failed 10 million pound roundabout upgrade at Hopgrove, all the way back to the the A169 x A64 junction at Eden Camp. Some 17 miles of standing or very slow moving traffic - the worst I have ever seen it. So much for the upgrade I thought.

As I passed over the A64 at the Eden Camp roundabout, I could already see the traffic backing up, also the exit from the roundabout providing access to the A64 westbound (toward York and Leeds) was completely backed up causing the Eden Camp roundabout to jam up.

I couldn't help think how much better I could have done for a lot less than 10 million pounds.

Luckily for me, I know the area well so headed straight into Malton, out to Hovingham, across to Strensall then joined the York Ring Road - missing out the 17 miles of doom. Although I did feel sympathy for those still stuck in the jam.

Arriving at Rawcliffe Bar 'Park & Ride', there were plenty of parking spaces available and soon we (my wife, our daughter of 14 yrs and yours truly) were on our way through the back streets of York and without fuss alighted from the bus right outside the entrance of the National Railway Museum.

Now having avoided all the traffic jams, you can imagine our concerns to see the longest queue I can ever recall, waiting to get inside the attraction. Not even when the museum first opened at this site in 1974 do I remember so many people queuing to get in. That said, the museum staff were on hand guiding people along and what at first looked like a potentially long wait, took only a few minutes until we were inside. All credit to the efficiency of the museum staff for that.

The museum is a large building and even though there seemed to be a vast number of people inside, there was no crush, no internal congestion, all the exhibits were easy to access and although there were short queues at some of the exhibitions, we didn't wait long for anything.

But had all these people come here just to avoid the bleak weather? Indeed not, in the centre of the main hall, just managing to fit onto the large turn-table was the recently overhauled - star of the show, the 'Flying Scotsman'.

Now I'm no train buff and although our visit was based on somewhere to go on a poor weather day, I couldn't help notice that the locomotive was painted in mat black and the number seemed a bit odd too.

Convinced of the irregularity, I explained to my bemused looking family that something wasn't quite right, "I'm pretty certain that it should be green." I said. Followed with a knowing nod and tap to the side of the nose, I then pointed another alarming oddity "And that's not the correct number either." Whilst pointing to the number 103 painted on the side of the cab.

Now - with my veins filled with coal and steam, a man convinced of his knowledge on this historical subject of evolutionary engineering and magnificence. My wife said "I like matt black, it looks nice and modern."

"Me too." added our daughter.

A man should always know when he's exhausted his limit and my daughter being an artist with an extra-ordinary talent and my wife having such excellent and refined taste, I added nothing further.

The museum's own theatre group were giving special plays depicting the life of the Flying Scotsman, but engrossed in articles of interest, we didn't take the opportunity to watch.

Was the visit worth all the detours, effort and queuing? Oh yes... it has to be said, the National Railway Museum in York is amongst the best visitor attractions in the UK. Apart from the special event of the 'Flying Scotsman' there are no less than 20 acres of exhibition area with around 100 locomotives plus about 200 other items of rolling stock, most of which ran on the railways of Great Britain.

There are three large halls and a balcony overlooking the workshop where restoration work can be seen progressing on locomotives and rolling stock. The very place where the Flying Scotsman was overhauled.

Thousands of other objects of interest including art, furniture, signage and much, much more. Indeed it would be impossible to take in all the items which adorn the walls and galleries of the NRM.

Today I chatted with Emma Rogers from the NRM. I asked her about the colour and the engine number. She told me that the Flying Scotsman was painted Black to replicate the 1943 LNER Black livery. That during this time and just after the World War II, the engine numbers 103 and 502 were added.

Following the May event, the engine will be prepared for its steam tests and commissioning runs due to take place in the next few weeks. Once its steam tests and commissioning runs are all complete, Flying Scotsman will be re-painted in its iconic Apple Green livery and throughout August, visitors will be able to access the cab of the famous steam engine while on display in the Museum's Great Hall.

Thank you to Emma and all of the staff at York's National Railway Museum. I think I'll also be back in August.





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