Skip to main page content (AccessKey S)
"The Flying Scotsman: The Legend Lives on" by Brian Sharpe is a well written and beautifully illustrated book which tells the story of the railway locomotive, The Flying Scotsman. Actually, it does very much more than just that. It also sets out the background to the development of the class of engines of which Flying Scotsman was just one example, and also fills in much of the surrounding railway landscape. And it does so in an accessible way which means it can be enjoyed by a broad constituency of readers, not just the railway enthusiast in your life. Though if truth be told, it's going to prove a fascinating read for the railway enthusiast in your life as well.
Perhaps the best aspect of the book is the approach adopted by the author in dividing each chapter up into a series of short articles, each focusing on a particular aspect of the engine's development or history, or the wider background. The opening chapter begins with a section entitled "why is this the best-known steam engine in the world"? The answer is largely down to the mystique of its name and image, rather than because of any intrinsic greatness of the engine itself: indeed it seems there were better engines in the class. This was simply the one which attracted all the attention when the class was in service, and certainly since. We then move on to sections about the Great Northern Railway (which, it seems, was neither especially great nor particularly northern); about the engineer Sir Nigel Gresley who designed the class; about his other locomotive designs; about engine wheel configurations. Later on the mix is enlivened further with "What If?" boxes: for example what if Gresley had not been appointed Chief Mechanical Engineer of the GNR?
The first third of the book is the story up to the retirement of the Flying Scotsman from BR service in 1963, while the latter two thirds takes a similar approach to the story of the Flying Scotsman, and to a much lesser degree other preserved locomotives, in the half century since. Again, a very varied approach is adopted, drawing on different perspectives: and again, this greatly helps ensure that the result is a book of wide and enduring appeal.