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Back to the future as history made with east coast rail icons

Thousands of enthusiasts and history buffs were treated to a world first on 23 April 2017 as four generations of trains representing the past, present and future of passenger rail travel ran side by side, in the same direction, on the East Coast main line.

The event took place in the stunning Yorkshire countryside and featured the famous Flying Scotsman alongside two trains from Virgin Trains’ revitalised fleet—an HST Intercity 125 (Class 43), an Intercity 225 (Class 91)—and the first new Virgin Azuma (Class 800), which is being built by Hitachi in the North East and will come into service in 2018.

The once-in-a-lifetime event was organised by Virgin Trains, the National Railway Museum, Network Rail, Welcome to Yorkshire and Hitachi to celebrate the start of a new chapter for one of the country’s most iconic railway lines.

The journey though the Yorkshire countryside was enjoyed by crowds of rail fans who took advantage of viewing points along the route to marvel at the unique spectacle, which concluded at York station.

Paul Kirkman, Director for the National Railway Museum in York—which is custodian of the Flying Scotsman—said: 

“In what is genuinely a world first with our engines of the past, present and future coming together in this way, the National Railway Museum is delighted to have supported this unique celebration of our railway heritage, unlikely to be seen again in our lifetimes. It’s fitting to see the Flying Scotsman participate in something of this magnitude.”

David Horne, Managing Director for Virgin Trains on the east coast, said:

“We’re delighted to have presented this unique event showcasing the past, present and future of express rail travel in the UK, with our first Azuma travelling alongside Flying Scotsman and trains from our current fleet. With our new Azuma trains entering service next year, this has been an opportunity to celebrate the icons of the railways and look forward to 2018 when we’ll usher in a new era for travel on the East Coast route."

Rob McIntosh, Managing Director for Network Rail on the London North Eastern and East Midlands route, said: 

“The East Coast Mainline and its long heritage is uniquely placed to have run these four historic trains from four different generations side by side. This was a long-standing vision for both myself and our industry partners and that vision has become a reality, creating a wonderful occasion to help us celebrate our proud rail heritage as well as the ongoing success of Britain’s railways. To have achieved this truly special, once-in-ageneration event with the eyes of the world watching—and to have not caused any disruption to regular rail passengers—makes me immensely proud to have helped to make a moment in railway history.”

Karen Boswell, Managing Director for Hitachi Rail Europe, said: 

“We believe our new, British-built Azuma trains will inspire the next generation of rail enthusiasts and show how investment in new trains will transform passenger experiences on this iconic route.”

Sir Gary Verity, Chief Executive of Welcome to Yorkshire, said:

‘What a moment in history; a once-in-a-lifetime event on St George’s Day and just days before the start of the Tour de Yorkshire. We’re immensely proud to have been involved in making this wonderful event a reality. It’s taken passion, drive and commitment, all true Yorkshire qualities that help make our county as great as it is.”



Virgin Trains / 07812 592 228 / 07970 438 814 / 07875 377 401
Hope & Glory PR: 020 3588 9700 or 020 3588 9720 /

National Railway Museum 

Darryl Butcher, +44 (0)7789 948 627
Simon Baylis, +44 (0)7513 821 487

Network Rail

Toby Higgins/Amy Brenndorfer, 01904 383 180 / or

Hitachi Rail Europe

Nina Harding, 07753 453 914
Sam Fisk, (0)203 904 4000 or +44 (0)7713 697 727

Welcome to Yorkshire

Alice Bailey, 0113 322 3563 or 07711 221 068



  • Faster acceleration: The Azumas will accelerate more quickly, going from 0–125mph at least a minute quicker than the current fleet
  • Azumas will reach 125mph in around 4 minutes 40 seconds, compared with around 5 minutes 40 seconds for our current electric-powered trains
  • New direct services: The faster journeys will make direct routes to new destinations such as London–Middlesbrough possible, as well as a big increase in through services from London to places such as Bradford, Harrogate and Lincoln
  • Greater comfort: The trains will have some of the best leg-room on the rail network, as well as ergonomically designed seats in both first and standard
  • Virgin’s unique feel: Both the interior and the exterior of the new fleet with have that distinctive Virgin atmosphere
  • Lower emissions: The trains will be lighter and more energy-efficient, making them some of the most environmentally friendly in the UK
  • Improved facilities: The trains will have faster and free Wi-Fi, an improved traffic light reservation system, power sockets for every seat and more overhead luggage space
  • Traffic light reservation system: If the indicator is red, the seat is reserved. If the indicator is amber, the seat is currently available but has been reserved from a station later in the journey. If the indicator is green, the seat is available through to the train’s final destination
  • Buffet cars: An onboard food bar is a key part of the experience for passengers

ABOUT InterCity 225 (Class 91)

  • On 17 September 1989, an InterCity 225 train set a new UK speed record when it achieved 162mph during testing on the East Coast main line between Grantham and Peterborough
  • On 26 September 1991, achieved a new record for the journey from King’s Cross to Edinburgh of 3 hours 29 minutes
  • Maintained at Bounds Green depot, north London
  • Power output 6,300 hp
  • The first InterCity 225 passenger service was on 2 October 1989 on the Yorkshire Pullman, 0710 Leeds to Kings Cross
  • Locomotive 91101 first entered service on 3 March 1989 and was first named Flying Scotsman in May 2011. Virgin Trains unveiled a newly liveried Flying Scotsman at a special launch event with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon at Edinburgh Waverley station on 28 October 2015

ABOUT HST InterCity 125

  • Full name: HST InterCity 125
  • Record: The InterCity 125 took the world record for the fastest diesel-powered train, when it was recorded at an absolute maximum speed of 148 mph (238 km/h) on the East Coast mainline during 1987
  • Year built: 1975–82
  • Designer: Sir Kenneth Grange and Terry Miller
  • Built by: British Rail
  • Current owner: National Railway Museum
  • Current use: Operational
  • Weight: 445 tonnes
  • Gauge: Standard (1,435mm/4ft 8 ½in)
  • Quirky facts:
    • The InterCity 125 train is made up of two locomotives, one at each end of a fixed formation of carriages, and operates at 125 mph in regular service
    • The InterCity 125 HST first entered service on the East Coast main line on 8 May 1978, it will celebrate 40 years of service on the route next year
    • Some of the trains in Virgin’s HST fleet have travelled over 10 million miles in service
    • Maintained at Craigentinny depot, Edinburgh
    • British Rail initially used the fleet on the Great Western Main Line, on the East Coast Main Line, on the Cross Country Route and latterly on the Midland Main Line, serving destinations such as London, Bristol, Edinburgh, as far south as Penzance and as far north as Aberdeen and Inverness
    • Power output 2 x 2,250 hp

ABOUT Flying Scotsman

  • Full name: No. 60103 Flying Scotsman
  • Class: A1 (rebuilt as an A3)
  • Record:
    • First steam locomotive to be officially recorded to reach 100mph in November 1934
    • During a tour of Australia in 1988-9 Flying Scotsman travelled for 442 miles non-stop thereby obtaining the record for the longest ever non-stop run of a steam locomotive
    • Flying Scotsman is arguably the most famous locomotive in the world
  • Year built: 1923 (withdrawn 1963)
  • Designer: Sir Nigel Gresley for the London North Eastern Railway (LNER)
  • Built by: Doncaster Railway Works (‘The Plant’)
  • Current owner: National Railway Museum
  • Current use: Operational
  • Restoration: From 2006 to 2016 the National Railway Museum restored Flying Scotsman to full mainline running condition
  • Length: 21.33m (70ft)
  • Height: 3.96m (13ft)
  • Weight: 96.25 tons (97.54 tonnes)
  • Gauge: Standard (1,435mm/4ft 8 ½in)
  • Tractive effort: 32,910lb
  • Quirky facts:
    • Represented the LNER at the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley in 1924 and 1925. It was this exhibition which made Flying Scotsman famous, and it went on to feature in many more publicity events for the LNER
    • In 1928, it was given a new type of tender with a corridor, which meant that a new crew could take over without stopping the train. This allowed it to haul the first ever non-stop London to Edinburgh service on 1 May, reducing the journey time to eight hours
    • Starred in the 1929 film The Flying Scotsman, which featured a whole sequence onboard the locomotive
    • Featured in the Railway Series books by the Rev. W. Awdry—in the book titled Enterprising Engines, the locomotive visited the fictional Island of Sodor
    • Flying Scotsman also starred in the film 102 Dalmatians; it was shown pulling the Orient Express out of London
  • Regional links:
    • Owned by the National Railway Museum in York
    • Built at Doncaster Works
    • Hauled the first ever non-stop service between London and Edinburgh

ABOUT Deltic D9002

  • Full name: Deltic D9002 ‘Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry’, sometimes known as KOYLI
  • Class: 55
  • Year built: March 1962 (withdrawn January 1982)
  • Built by: English Electric, Newton-le-Willows
  • Current owner: National Railway Museum
  • Current use: Operational
  • Restoration: Formally known as 55002
  • Length: 69ft 6in (21.18m)
  • Height: 12ft 10in (3.91m)
  • Weight: 140 tonnes
  • Gauge: Standard (1,435mm/4ft 8 ½in)
  • Quirky facts
    • The fleet gained the name Deltic from the prototype locomotive, British Railways DELTIC (the running number DP1 was never carried), which in turn was named after its Napier Deltic power units
    • They were designed for the high-speed express passenger services on the East Coast Main Line between London King’s Cross and Edinburgh, cutting the journey time to six hours
    • KOYLI herself became a celebrity locomotive when repainted into the original two-tone green livery in 1980 to mark the impending preservation to the NRM
    • Power output 2 x 1,650 hp

About Virgin Trains

Virgin Azuma is set to revolutionise UK travel when it arrives on the east coast in 2018. With 65 trains providing an extra 12,200 seats for a new and expanded timetable, the fleet of Virgin Azumas will increase capacity into King’s Cross by 28 per cent during peak time.

The combined network connects some of the nation’s most iconic destinations including Glasgow, Liverpool, Birmingham, Manchester, Edinburgh, Newcastle, Leeds, York and London.

Virgin Trains is committed to delivering a high speed, high frequency service, offering shorter journey times, more comfortable travel and excellent customer service. Customers consistently rate Virgin Trains as one of the top long-distance rail franchise operators in the National Rail Passenger Survey (NRPS) commissioned by industry watchdog, Transport Focus.

On the East Coast route, £140m is being invested to create a more personalised travel experience. Virgin Trains have already invested £21m to completely revamp their existing fleet, and customers can now benefit from 42 additional services (22,000 extra seats) per week between Edinburgh and London. 2018 will see the introduction of completely new Azuma trains being built in the UK by Hitachi.

The West Coast route has a proud record of challenging the status quo—from introducing tilting Pendolino trains, to a pioneering automated delay repay scheme and becoming the first franchised rail operator to offer m-Tickets for all ticket types.

Visit the Virgin Trains Media Room for the latest news, images and videos, or subscribe for regular news from Virgin Trains. Press Office: 0845 000 3333.

About the National Railway Museum and Flying Scotsman

The National Railway Museum (NRM) in York is the home and owner of the Flying Scotsman. Following a decade-long campaign to purchase and restore this historic engine, the much-loved locomotive made its inaugural run on 25 February 2016 from London King’s Cross to York. Since then more than half a million people have either directly seen Flying Scotsman at NRM or ridden behind it at via Heritage Railways tours and mainline trips.  In addition, it’s estimated several hundreds of thousands more in 2016 were able to enjoy Flying Scotsman with viewings as it travelled around the country.

The National Railway Museum in York has the largest collection of railway objects in the world and attracts over 700,000 visitors per year.

The National Railway Museum’s collection includes over 300 locomotives and rolling stock, 628 coins and medals, 4,899 pieces of railway uniform and costume, railway equipment, documents, records, artwork and railway related photographs.

The National Railway Museum houses a world-class collection of royal trains, which includes a collection of royal carriages, from those used by Queen Victoria to Queen Elizabeth II.

The National Railway Museum’s vast art collection comprises of 11,270 posters, 2,358 prints and drawings, 1,052 paintings, and 1,750,000 photographs—many of which have never been on public display.

The National Railway Museum forms part of the Science Museum Group, along with the Science Museum in London, the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester, the National Media Museum in Bradford and the National Railway Museum in Shildon.

Admission to the National Railway Museum is free.

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