Revealed: How Flying Scotsman's historic trip to Preston nearly didn't happen

Flying Scotsman passing through Lostock Hall on Saturday captured by reader David Cross, of Lostock Hall
Flying Scotsman passing through Lostock Hall on Saturday captured by reader David Cross, of Lostock Hall

Flying Scotsman’s historic trip hauling the luxury Northern Belle train from Preston on Saturday nearly had to be cancelled at the last minute after the steam engine sprang a leak, we can reveal.

Engineers worked through the night at Carnforth to repair and tighten hoses on the 96-year-old locomotive.

But the problem wasn’t solved until six o’clock in the morning – just four hours before it was scheduled to haul the Northern Belle train.

The alarm was raised soon after the Scotsman arrived at West Coast Railway’s Carnforth depot late on Friday night.

The worried driver reported that it had begun to lose both water and pressure, putting the following day’s journey in jeopardy.

A team of crack fitters were summoned from Riley & Sons, a specialist engineering firm in Heywood, near Rochdale, who service the engine.

But they had to wait three hours for the boiler to cool down before they could clamber inside and repair the damage.

READ MORE: Stunning pictures of Flying Scotsman's visit to Lancashire
Northern Belle owner David Pitts said: “The Riley’s team did a superb job to get the Scotsman back on track. It was touch and go for a while whether the engine would be able to run.

“But these guys are real professionals and worked through the night so our passengers wouldn’t be disappointed. Full marks to the West Coast Railway team too, who managed to get seven other steam engines and one heritage diesel service running on Saturday. They all ran like clockwork, which is pretty impressive stuff.”

Thousands of people turned out to watch Flying Scotsman’s two trips from Preston hauling the Northern Belle’s seven 1930s-style Pullman carriages

Passenger Charlie Garth, from Bedfordshire, said afterwards: “We had a wonderful meal on the train and the onboard staff couldn’t do enough to look after us.

“It was an expensive journey but worth every penny to travel on one of the UK’s most luxurious trains while being pulled the world’s most famous locomotive.

“This really was the trip of a lifetime. I wouldn’t have missed it for all the tea in China.”

Told the Scotsman almost didn’t make it, he added: “Phew, thank goodness they sorted the problem.”

The Northern Belle will be back in Preston twice next month – on Friday, August 16 when it runs to Llandudno and then on Saturday, August 24 when it heads for Edinburgh. More details from www.northernbelle.co.uk or phone 01270 899681.