Flying Scotsman on track for annual Scottish visits

The Flying Scotsman returned for a second year of Scottish excursions today with a pledge from organisers to make them annual events, The Scotsman has learned.

The Flying Scotsman locomotive hauls the Cathedrals Express excursion over the Forth Bridge today. Picture: SWNS

The 94-year-old express locomotive, reputedly the world’s most famous, steamed across the Forth Bridge on two trips from Edinburgh.

Nearly 800 passengers were due to be carried on the runs round the Fife Circle, and later up the Forth via Alloa and Stirling.

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Organisers Steam Dreams said the excursions had been as popular as last year, when the engine made its first visit north of the Border for 16 years following a £4 million refurbishment.

Chairman Marcus Robertson said things had run far more smoothly today after the 2016 trips were almost cancelled when it was discovered with days to go that track owner Network Rail had not approved the routes.

He told The Scotsman: “So far, everything is running 100 per cent fine.

“It does make me confident of doing this as an annual event, if the locomotive is available.

“Edinburgh is a wonderful city to come to and there was a big waiting list for seats on the train.

The Flying Scotsman heads into Fife on the first of two trips over the Forth Bridge today. Picture: SWNS

“I could have filled it twice over.”

A total of 395 passengers were booked for the lunchtime trip round Fife via Kinghorn and Kirkcaldy, with the same number on the evening trip via Dunfermline to Stirling and back to Edinburgh.

Those in the dining cars enjoyed a three to course meal including dishes of asparagus and Parmesan, baked salmon with watercress, and pear and almond tart.

Network Rail said more than 750 spectators had turned out to see the train pass this morning at five stations alone.

The Flying Scotsman heads into Fife on the first of two trips over the Forth Bridge today. Picture: SWNS

There were more than 300 at Glenrothes, 150 at Kirkcaldy, and around 100 each at Dalmeny, North Queensferry and Dalgety Bay.

A spokesman said there had been no reports of fans straying onto the line to get a closer look or reports of drones flying illegally above rail lines, which were being patrolled by its helicopter.

Mr Robertson said future trips were likely to be over the Forth Bridge again rather than on the Borders Railway, which had proved less popular last year.

He said: “Going over the bridge is the piece de resistance of the whole thing - it’s hard to think of anywhere better.

”Borders has been steamed to death now” - a reference to ScotRail excursions following the line’s opening in 2015, and last year.