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article imageLegendary 'Flying Scotsman' steam train returns in UK

By Edouard Guihaire (AFP)     Feb 25, 2016 in World

The Flying Scotsman, a 93-year-old steam locomotive and jewel of British industrial heritage, set off from London on Thursday on its first official journey since a painstaking restoration.

The train streamed through the English countryside on its inaugural journey to York billowing white smoke as passengers enjoyed a champagne breakfast in old-fashioned carriages with wooden compartments.

Train enthusiasts lined the track in some areas and at one point near the town of St Neots in Cambridgeshire the locomotive was forced to come to a sudden stop because of dozens of people on the line.

"I think the steam trains have got this bit of extraordinary character to them," said Paul Jubb, a 58-year-old fan from Birmingham who was among the 300 donors and enthusiasts aboard locomotive 60103.

The Flying Scotsman steam locomotive travels along the East Coast Mainline near East Retford  easter...
The Flying Scotsman steam locomotive travels along the East Coast Mainline near East Retford, eastern England on February 25, 2016
Oli Scarff, AFP

Jubb said he had "very fond memories" of steam trains form his childhood, adding: "I never imagined one moment that nearly half a century later I'd be lucky enough to get to go on this famous train!"

Sitting on plush velvety seats behind white tablecloths, passengers tucked into their porridge, sipped tea and quaffed champagne.

Staff were dressed in green uniforms -- the same colours of the former national railway agency in which the locomotive has been painted.

The 97-tonne engine pulled out of King's Cross Station at 0740 GMT to applause from a crowd of enthusiasts who had come to witness its rebirth after a restoration that has lasted a decade.

The Flying Scotsman was bound for York, a historic city some 280 kilometres (175 miles) north of London, where it will stay in the city's National Railway Museum until the beginning of March.

The Flying Scotsman steam locomotive undergoes restoration work in the National Railway Museum in Yo...
The Flying Scotsman steam locomotive undergoes restoration work in the National Railway Museum in York, north west England on February 17, 2016
Oli Scarff, AFP/File

The train will then spend the coming months on tourist trips and featuring in exhibitions.

Restoring the famous engine cost around £4.2 million (5.3 million euros, $5.8 million).

- 'Magnificent symbol' -

Thursday was the locomotive's first official outing since it returned to the rails last January in Bury, northwest England, for a series of tests.

"It's a historic day," said Paul Kirkman, director of the National Railway Museum.

"This celebratory journey marks a new stage in this steam icon’s long and colourful history, and is a tribute to all the people who have worked so hard to make this happen, from those that have worked on the restoration itself to the public that donated to our appeal to bring this legend back to life."

An engineer stands on the footplate of The Flying Scotsman steam train in Bury  north west England o...
An engineer stands on the footplate of The Flying Scotsman steam train in Bury, north west England on January 8, 2016
Paul Ellis, AFP/File

"It's great to see this magnificent symbol of Britain's railway heritage and technology once again running on our tracks," added Peter Hendy, chairman of Network Rail, which runs Britain's rail network.

The National Railway Museum bought the Flying Scotsman in 2004, partly thanks to funds donated by the public. Restoration work started in 2006.

Built in 1923, the locomotive was the first steam engine officially to hit 160 km/h (100 mph) and the first to link London to Edinburgh in a single journey.

After being retired in 1963, the Flying Scotsman crossed the Atlantic to pull tourist trains on the West Coast of the United States.

Bought in 1973 by a British billionaire, William McAlpine, the locomotive returned to Britain and passed through the hands of several owners.

Fully renovated in the late 1990s, the locomotive pulled the Venice Simplon-Orient Express on tourist trips from Victoria Station in London.

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