FLYING Scotsman returned to the tracks yesterday after a decade-long, £4.2 million restoration that has taken far longer and cost far more than expected.
The locomotive steamed along the East Lancashire Railway ahead of its first passenger runs on the line today.
Steam enthusiasts lined the route at Bury in Manchester to see the green and black engine after its ten-year refit.
The locomotive has been brought back to life after the National Railway Museum bought it for £2.3m in 2004, with work starting in 2006.
The former East Coast main line engine will return to Scotland in May for the first time in 16 years, hauling a train from York to Edinburgh.
It will then travel over the Forth Bridge into Fife as part of a four-day tour.
The engine is due to make its inaugural main line run between London and York in February.
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.
Designed by Edinburgh-born Sir Nigel Gresley, the Pacific class A1 locomotive was plucked from obscurity by the London and North Eastern Railway to front a new premium London-Scotland rail service in 1928 in an attempt to trump its west coast rivals.
The engine was given the same name as the Flying Scotsman train, launched in the 1860s, to haul a non-stop service between the English and Scottish capitals.
However, the rebuild has taken much longer than expected, with costs rocketing from £1.5m, because far more extensive repairs were found to be needed than had been anticipated.
Last year, it topped a poll commissioned by the museum of the world’s best-known trains and locomotives.
Bury-based steam and diesel engineering firm Riley & Son was appointed in 2013 to complete the overhaul as well as manage and maintain it during its first two years of operation.
Company co-director Colin Green said he was “emotional” to see it moving again.
Tina Bywater, 67, of the East Lancashire Railway Preservation Society, 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.”