World Stamps

New British stamps celebrate the ‘Flying Scotsman’ locomotive

Mar 3, 2023, 8 AM
Great Britain’s Royal Mail marks the 100th anniversary of the Flying Scotsman on a set of eight stamps and a souvenir sheet of four stamps issued March 9. Royal Mail calls the locomotive a “national treasure of engineering and design.”

By David Hartwig

Great Britain’s Royal Mail marks a century since the British locomotive the Flying Scotsman first entered service on a March 9 issue of 12 stamps.

Eight stamps issued in a set of four se-tenant (side-by-side) pairs give different portrayals of the locomotive Royal Mail calls a “national treasure of engineering and design.”

Four stamps are valued at the first-class rate (currently 95 pence), and four are denominated £1.85 (the rate for letters to Europe up to 100 grams and worldwide up to 20 grams).

The words “Centenary of the Flying Scotsman” appear at the bottom of each stamp, with the denomination in the upper left. The upper right corner features the silhouette of Queen Elizabeth II.

As reported in the Oct. 17, 2022, issue of Linn’s, Royal Mail said in a Sept. 27 announcement that it plans to exhaust existing stocks of stamps before issuing stamps with the image of King Charles III.

The Flying Scotsman steam locomotive emerged from the former Great Northern Railway (GNR) works at Doncaster, England, in February 1923.

This period saw the introduction of more luxurious carriages and restaurant cars, Royal Mail said in the presentation pack included with the stamp issue, and more powerful locomotives were required to pull these heavier trains.

The locomotive that became known as the Flying Scotsman fulfilled this requirement. The engine could pull trains of 600 tons at 50 mph, and in 1934, the locomotive even reached speeds of 100 mph, becoming the first locomotive to do so.

The Flying Scotsman traveled over 2 million miles during its 40-year career on the British rails. In 1963, with diesel engines replacing steam engines, the Flying Scotsman was taken out of scheduled service.

Businessman Alan Pegler bought the locomotive, restored it to its original 1920s appearance, and took it on a tour of the United States in 1969. The engine traveled from Texas to Canada and then went west over the Rocky Mountains to San Francisco.

The trip brought publicity, but it came at the cost of Pegler’s fortune. British millionaire William McAlpine rescued the locomotive from an uncertain fate and returned it to the United Kingdom in 1973.

In 1988, the Flying Scotsman toured Australia in celebration of the country’s bicentenary. “The tour ‘down under’ was a triumph,” Royal Mail said, “with the return journey via Cape Horn ensuring another ‘first’: the locomotive had circumnavigated the globe.”

In 2004, the locomotive joined the collection at York’s National Railway Museum, where it was rebuilt over a period of 10 years and remains today. A special centenary exhibition for the Flying Scotsman will be on display at the museum from April 1-23.

In addition to the set of eight, Royal Mail issued a souvenir sheet of four stamps that show publicity posters of the 1920s and 1930s. Two of the stamps are valued at the first-class rate, and two are denominated £1.85.

To read the rest of this story, subscribe to Linn’s Stamp News.

Connect with Linn’s Stamp News: 

    Sign up for our newsletter
    Like us on Facebook
    Follow us on Twitter