The ECML’s very own Big Four…

In what Virgin Trains and Network Rail described as a ‘World First’, the Four Trains event north of York enticed thousands from their Sunday slumbers to the lineside for the 0600 event on April 23. 

Four generations of East Coast Main Line traction ran parallel southbound to showcase the past, present and future of passenger travel on the railway.

The event featured the National Railway Museum’s A3 steam locomotive 60103 Flying Scotsman; a Virgin Trains East Coast High Speed Train with 43238 National Railway Museum 40 Years 1975-2015 leading; a VTEC rake of Mk 4s led by the Flying Scotsman-branded Driving Van Trailer 82205; and finally Hitachi Rail Europe 800101, the first of VTEC’s Azuma Intercity Express Programme (IEP) trains that are due to enter traffic next year. 

The NRM’s main line-registered D9002 The King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry was on the rear of the A3’s train, but was lined up with the other four trains at York station. 

The trains departed from Tollerton, around six miles north of York. Running at 25mph, they ran to near York station, from where the A3 and Class 800/1 ran into the station side-by-side. 

“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,” said Virgin Trains East Coast Managing Director David Horne

“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.”

Paul Kirkman, Director for the NRM, which is custodian of 60103 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.”

Rob McIntosh, Network Rail’s Route Managing Director for London North Eastern and East Midlands, said: “The East Coast Main Line 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 a generation 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 make a moment in railway history.”

Hitachi Rail Europe Managing Director Karen Boswell 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. We’re immensely proud to have been involved in making this wonderful event a reality. It’s taken passion, drive and commitment.”

The event was made possible because Network Rail had a booked possession north of York.

This feature was published in RAIL 826 on 6th May 2017

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