As the British fashion invasion of the USA subsided, so did the attraction of the Flying Scotsman. Ensuing financial troubles led to its sitting derelict in a San Francisco switchyard for several years. In 1973, the steam engine was brought back to England, and put back into special service, a mere hint of its former glory. After an Australian tour in the late 1980s, it passed through a succession of owners, no longer in the public eye. In 2004, the British Railway Museum purchased the Flying Scotsman, and after a £4.2 million restoration project (approximately $6.5 million), it is once again on tour.
Large crowds of railway enthusiasts now greet the Flying Scotsman wherever it travels. Lady Ann learned that it would travel close to our location during my visit; I insisted that we become part of that large crowd, railway enthusiasts that we are.
So with that background, we visited the Flying Scotsman, and guess what? It’s just another steam engine. We had expected a massive locomotive of a size commensurate to its reputation. In truth, it’s no bigger than any other engine. Just like every other steam engine, it eats coal a shovel load at a time, and its wheels rotate and greet the track and it squeals and it hisses. Worse yet, there wasn’t even a mini-skirted, knee-high booted entourage of young women selling hats or T-shirts so we could pretend that we had been impressed by what we saw and gloat among other railway enthusiasts. “Oh, yeah. I saw the big one. I breathed its steam.”