IN its heyday, the Flying Scotsman was a classic symbol of modernity: a gleaming, powerful new steam locomotive that, in 1934 - when it was already more than ten years old - became the first in history to reach 100mph.

Today it is the flagship for a growing sense of nostalgia about Britain's railway past and the great age of steam.

Bought by the National Railway Museum in 2004, for most of the last decade the mighty locomotive has been undergoing an extensive £4m restoration, mainly at the Riley & Son workshop in Bury, although some work has been done right here in York.

Sometime this autumn, when the work is finally completed, the famous locomotive will be taken out to be run in on 'heritage' railway lines, before making its inaugural mainline run between London and York. It will be a 'triumphant return home at long last', says Bob Gwynne, the NRM's curator of collections and research.

The train today is more than 90 years old. It has undergone major restoration work in the past, most notably in 1962.

But the work that has been done over the last nine years has been unprecedented in scale. Nobody quite knew, back in 2006, just how much work needed to be done, admits Mr Gwynne. "It has proved much more complex than we thought."

Partly that is because, in order to be able to run on mainline railways, the locomotive needs to be brought up to modern standards.

York Press: Flying Scotsman season

Flying Scotsman in its heyday

The boiler needed a replacement firebox - and the right kind of copper could only be found in China. The cylinders have had to be refurbished - and then new frame plates were needed when a trial fitting of the cylinders showed problems with alignment. Wheel sets have been repaired, there are new axle box bearings, a new tender door and much, much more.

So, in view of all the restorations it has undergone in its 90-year lifespan, just how much of the original locomotive that came out of the Doncaster works in 1923 is left?

Probably not much, admits Mr Gwynne. "It has got very few bits that were there in Doncaster in 1923." But it is like the woodsman's axe that has had first its blade then its handle replaced, Mr Gwynne says. "It is still the same machine that people saw at the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley in 1924."

York Press:

NRM curator of collections and research Bob Gwynne checks on the progress of Flying Scotsman

So it is: and its arrival in York - in time for next February's Flying Scotsman Season at the NRM - is being eagerly awaited in what is now its home city.

In the meantime, the NRM has given The Press access to some stunning photographs. They show both the restoration work that has been undertaken on the great locomotive over the last few year and the Scotsman herself in her glory days, going full steam ahead.

Here's looking forward to her long-awaited return to York...


A brief history of the Flying Scotsman

The Flying Scotsman was built at Doncaster and came into service with the new London & North Eastern Railway (LNER) in 1923. She was named after the great high-speed London to Edinburgh Express service, also popularly known as the Flying Scotsman.

1924: the locomotive became one of the stars of the British Empire Exhibition at the new Wembley Stadium.

York Press:

Flying Scotsman at Wembley Exhibition in 1924

1929: the Flying Scotsman train became a film star for the first time, featuring in a blockbuster, The Flying Scotsman, starring Ray Milland. In the 1930s it also featured in Alfred Hitchcock’s classic The 39 Steps

1934: the locomotive touched 100mph during a test run designed to help the development of new, faster locomotives. It was the first steam locomotive to be recorded at this speed

1963: the locomotive was withdrawn from service as it approached 40 years old. It may well have been scrapped had not a flamboyant businessman and former pilot named Alan Peglar bought it.

1969-1971: the locomotive - fitted with an American bell, lamp and cowcatcher - toured the United States as part of a UK trade mission

1988: Flying Scotsman arrived in Australia to take part in the country's bicentenary. During the course of the next year, the locomotive travelled more than 28,000 miles on Australian railways, concluding with a return transcontinental run from Sydney to Perth via Alice Springs.

2004: the locomotive was bought by the National Railway Museum 2006-present day: the Flying Scotsman undergoes extensive restoration