Little Bits of History

100 Miles Per Hour

Posted in History by patriciahysell on November 30, 2013
Flying Scotsman

Flying Scotsman

November 30, 1934: The Flying Scotsman is official. Twice before steam locomotives claimed to have broken the 100 mph speed barrier. Neither was officially clocked. The GWR 3700 Class 3440 City of Truro (UK) claimed to pass the 100 mph mark on May 9, 1904. The Pennsylvania Railroad E6s #460 (US) also made the claim on June 11, 1927 but the trains did not have speedometers. They calculated speed by timing mile markers. The Flying Scotsman’s speed was officially timed and authenticated.

The Flying Scotsman first went into service in 1862 as an express passenger train service running between London and Edinburgh. The route was over the East Coast Main Line tracks. These were built by a number of smaller companies. With mergers and buyouts there were eventually three companies controlling the entire line: the North British Railway, the North Eastern Railway, and the Great Northern Railway. By 1860 the Big Three established the East Coast Joint Stock for the long-distance service. Thus, the Flying Scotsman was born.

There have been several different engines used to move people back and forth from England to Scotland. The train was long and heavy making it necessary to have an extremely powerful locomotive pulling the load. It was the Gresley A3 Class #4472 engine that achieved the land speed record on this date. Sir Herbert Nigel Gresley designed many steam engines over thirty years (1911-1941). The A3 Class was a continuation of the A1 Class. There were 52 A1 engines built with 52 rebuilt as A3 engines along with 27 new construction engines. No. 4472 was a three cylinder engine built in 1923 and retired in 1963. The engine underwent several different number designations beginning with 1472, then 4472, then 103, and finally 60103.

The Flying Scotsman engines were replaced with ever newer models. In 2004 British citizens worked together to fund the restoration project to return the venerable engine to its former condition. There is a permanent exhibition about the Flying Scotsman at the National Railway Museum. Engine No. 4472 has undergone a tremendous beautification process. The biggest expense went to repairing and rebuilding the huge copper boiler. The goal of the restoration project is to have the engine back on the Main Line once again.

“RAILROAD, n. The chief of many mechanical devices enabling us to get away from where we are to where we are no better off. For this purpose the railroad is held in highest favor by the optimist, for it permits him to make the transit with great expedition.” – Ambrose Bierce

“The introduction of so powerful an agent as steam to a carriage on wheels will make a great change in the situation of man.” – Thomas Jefferson

“I can see nothing to hinder a steam carriage moving on its ways with a velocity of 100 miles an hour.” – Colonel John Stevens, 1812

“Rail travel at high speeds is not possible because passengers, unable to breathe, would die of asphyxia.” – Dionysius Lardner

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: The National Railway Museum is located in York, North Yorkshire, England. It is part of the British National Museum of Science and Industry. It was established in 1975. There are over 100 locomotives displayed at the Museum and there are almost another 200 that are rolling stock. Included in the museum are many hundreds of thousands of other items related to the railroads all contained on the 20 acre site. There are three large halls containing most of the items which are social, technical, artistic, or of historical interest. The buildings were part of the former motive power depot next to the East Coast Main Line near the York rail station. The museum is a popular visiting place and had more than 717,000 visitors in the financial year 2011-2012. This is more than any museum in England outside London. The museum has won many awards including the European Museum of the Year Award in 2001.

Also on this day: I’ll Take Television for $200, Alex – In 2004, Ken Jennings finally lost at Jeopardy! after winning over $2.5 million.
Lucy – In 1974, Australopithecus was discovered.
Penal Reform – In 1786, the death penalty was outlawed for the first time.