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Iconic Flying Scotsman to be crewed by all-female team on International Women's Day

Famous loco will stop at East Lancashire Railway for a special event celebrating the past, present and future of women in rail.

The iconic Flying Scotsman locomotive will be crewed by an all-female team on International Women's Day at East Lancashire Railway.

In celebration of its centenary, the world's most famous steam locomotive will be leaving its home at the National Railway Museum in York and touring through railways across the UK. It will stop off at East Lancashire Railway (ELR) for a special event celebrating the past, present and future of women in rail. 

Renowned as a feat of design and engineering, Flying Scotsman will set off from ELR for three round trips through the picturesque Lancashire countryside, crewed entirely by a female footplate team.

The ground-breaking crew is made up of three volunteers from East Lancashire Railway, Linda Henderson, Charlotte Instance and Steph Elwood along with Beth Furness from Network Rail who will be driving Flying Scotsman.

Linda began volunteering at ELR in 1993 at just 14 years old along with her mum and younger brother. Throughout the years she has taken on many different roles at the railway including dispatcher, signal operations manager and in March 2017 Linda became the ELR’s first ever female main line locomotive driver.

Steph joined the ELR team in October 2021 with a background in maintenance and repair, eager to push herself further and build on her self-confidence. She was soon put on a fast-track course and passed her firing exam in September 2022, becoming the second ever female fireman at ELR.

Charlotte came to the ELR in the summer of 2021 and helped to get the station shop up and running. She quickly began following in her great grandfather's footsteps when she joined the steam crew as a cleaner and had the privilege of prepping and cleaning Flying Scotsman during one of its visits to the ELR; she has since worked her way up to the coveted position of  locomotive driver.

Beth’s love for trains started at her local railway when she was 16 years old and she has worked in a number of roles including operations, fitting, signalling and working as a fireman. She has previously worked for the National Railway Museum and now works for Network Rail.

The railway will celebrate International Women’s Day on the 8th March with a private event that will see local primary schools, children's charities, community groups and the National Railway Museum team visit the railway and ride behind Flying Scotsman.

Karen Bennett, Education Team Leader at Community Rail Lancashire, spends time visiting schools and community groups across the North teaching rail confidence and explaining all the benefits working in the rail sector has to offer.

120 pupils from Woodbank, Holy Trinity and St Marie’s schools along with their teachers and parents will take part in an action-packed day, arranged by Community Rail Lancashire, including a ride on Flying Scotsman, a tour of Bury Transport Museum, a careers talk from Women in Rail and a story session with freight driver and author Bessie Matthews.

Karen said: “I absolutely love working in this industry because there are so many opportunities for progression, and you are always looked after by your own team and the wider railway family.

“There are so many exciting developments happening over the next few decades which the next generation of rail staff can benefit from.

“I am so honoured to have been asked to work on this programme for International Women’s Day, because it’s given me an opportunity to use an icon from railway past to inspire young people to work in railway future.”

Tracey Parkinson has been General Manager at East Lancashire Railway since 2017, with an extensive 28-year background in railways she has worked across a number of roles including steam locomotive fireman and main line fireman, she comments: “This is an incredible opportunity to celebrate the contribution of women in the railway industry and the iconic Flying Scotsman in its 100th year. We are honoured to be a part of it and to have female volunteers crewing the locomotive and in supporting operational roles.

“We want to help shine a spotlight on women in the rail industry over the past 100 years and the future opportunities for women within the railway sector, including at ELR.

“We have some very exciting things planned for Flying Scotsman’s time at the railway, including the chance to ride behind it and enjoy a luxury dining experience. It will also be on static display at our Heywood and Bury Stations for the public to get up close and personal with it.

“We want people of all ages, genders and backgrounds to know that they are welcome at ELR, with or without experience. We offer extensive training programmes across a variety of roles at the railway and our hardworking volunteers are crucial in keeping the doors open.” 

Beth Furness, who works as a section planner for Network Rail, said: “Historically the railways have been a male dominated industry, but this is changing. Since 2017, our female workforce has grown twice as much as our male workforce and today, around 19% of people working at Network Rail are women.

Never Mind the Gap is an industry-wide collaboration that offers two-week work placements to show women what it takes to be a train driver, work at one of our stations, as well as experience in engineering, communications and investment. Once you join the industry, there’s lots of support available to grow your career.

“I’m hoping that the team today and the magnificent Flying Scotsman can inspire more young women to come forward.”

Judith McNicol, Director of the National Railway Museum, said: “Flying Scotsman’s centenary is a chance to celebrate the history of this famous locomotive, but also to reflect on how far we’ve come in terms of women’s opportunities in rail and what still needs to be done. When Flying Scotsman was built in 1923, equal voting for men and women was still five years away and despite playing an important role in keeping the railways running, especially during the world wars, many higher status occupations were not open to women. I hope that by working with our partners to mark International Women’s Day at this event, we can highlight and celebrate the achievements of women in the rail industry.”  

Flying Scotsman will be open to the public to ride behind through the beautiful Irwell Valley and to indulge in a luxury dining experience from the 11th March to 19th March.

As a registered charity, the railway relies heavily on volunteers to operate. Its team of over 800 dedicated volunteers work hard across a variety of roles including running the railway’s pubs, cafes and events, repairing and maintaining trains, driving trains and much more.

To learn more about volunteering opportunities at ELR or for more information on Flying Scotsman’s visit, head to:


Notes to editors

About East Lancs Railway

ELR opened as a heritage railway in 1987, and hosts around 200,000 visitors annually, as one of the leading visitor attractions in the North West. Operating steam trains from Bolton Street Station in Bury, along a 12.5-mile line between Heywood, in Greater Manchester, and Rawtenstall in Lancashire, the railway was recently recognised with TripAdvisor Travellers Choice Award for 2022.

For more information, please email

About Flying Scotsman

Flying Scotsman was built in Doncaster in February 1923, as an A1 class locomotive for the newly formed LNER and converted to an A3 class in 1947.

It was the first locomotive of the newly formed LNER (London and North Eastern Railway). Designed by Sir Nigel Gresley and numbered 1472, the locomotive was not named ‘Flying Scotsman’ until the following year when it was picked to attend the British Empire Exhibition in London and renumbered 4472. The locomotive went on to operate in service until 1963 and later in preservation, which included tours of the USA, Canada and Australia, where it captured the hearts of millions.

Today the locomotive is owned by the National Railway Museum in York and is operated and maintained by Riley & Son (E) Ltd, based in Heywood, Greater Manchester. To find out more about Flying Scotsman and to hear more about centenary plans as they are announced, visit

Key facts

  • Built in 1923 at Doncaster Works, costing £7,944
  • Weight: 97 tonnes
  • Length: 70ft
  • Officially the first steam locomotive to reach 100mph, and the first to circumnavigate the globe
  • Holds the world record for a non-stop run in a steam locomotive, set in 1989 with a 422-mile trip

The National Railway Museum in York has the largest collection of railway objects in the world and prior to the pandemic, attracted more than 750,000 visitors per year. The collection includes over 260 locomotives and rolling stock as well as coins, medals, railway uniform and equipment, documents, artwork and photographs. The National Railway Museum forms part of the Science Museum Group, along with the Science Museum in London, the Science and Industry Museum in Manchester, the National Science and Media Museum in Bradford and Locomotion in Shildon. For more information, visit:

Part of the Science Museum Group