Fly By Train Not Plane Urges Rail Guru Tim Dunn At Unveiling Of LNER’s Centenary-Celebrating Azuma Train

“Why fly a plane when you can fly a train”, TV presenter and railway historian Tim Dunn said after a celebration at York railway station on May 15, to launch LNER’s ‘Century’, the first named and livery train as part of the Azuma fleet on the East Coast Main Line, connecting London with Yorkshire, the North East of England and Scotland.

“We have trains here that run from downtown to downtown,” Dunn continued.

“This is a much better way to travel. These are electric from start to finish. I looked at my National Grid chart last night, and at the time, [country] is 20% renewable, meaning 20% ​​of my journey from London to York was powered by wind and water. I mean, isn’t that remarkable? That’s the future.”

After helping the LNER launch the newly named train, Dunn added: “I think the Century name is just wonderful. It tells a story.”

And that story is the centenary LNER name. The earlier company, also called LNER, was founded in January 1923.

In a statement today the company — owned by the UK government — said the name was chosen by LNER employees and a train naming panel to express “a sense of pride in LNER’s rich past, its passion for the present and the ambition LNER has for the future .”

The LNER previously operated named trains such as the ‘Flying Scotsman’, the ‘Mallard’ and the ‘Sir Nigel Gresley’.

LNER MD David Horne said: “It’s a special moment for everyone at LNER to be unveiling the first named Azuma on the fourth anniversary of our Azuma trains first entering passenger service.”

The livery—much of which covers staff windows, not passenger windows—represents LNER staff past and present through a photographic timeline of the LNER’s 100 years.


Trains can travel at 125 miles per hour on much of the East Coast Main Line, and upgrades will soon allow speeds of 140 miles per hour or more. Trains fly easiest along the flatter, slightly downhill sections of the track.

The the iconic Flying Scotsman introduced a month after the creation of the LNER—regularly broke speed records on these sections through Lincolnshire.

(In the 1860s, a rail journey between Edinburgh and London took ten and a half hours. By 1938, the journey between the two capitals had been reduced to 7 hours and 20 minutes. Today, with Azuma engines, the journey takes just four hours. )

After its much-loved appearance at the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley in 1924, the Flying Scotsman locomotive became an advertisement for the high-speed LNER. It ran for the first time in 1862 at 10am from London to Edinburgh, originally known as the Special Scotch Express.

In 1934 the Flying Scotsman became the first steam train to break 100mph, a coup.

In the 1920s, first-class passengers on the LNER’s Flying Scotsman service—which had always been a brand rather than a specific engine—could enjoy a fine dinner in the dining car, get a haircut from the on-board barber and request a fancy drink from the cocktail bar.

Along with the aerodynamically streamlined Mallard locomotive of the late 1930s, the Flying Scotsman was one of the ‘crack expresses’ of the steam era. These high-speed trains involved “the most extraordinary technology of the day”, Dunn said, but it was the prowess of the LNER’s pre-war PR department that allowed the company to milk the fanfare so effectively.

“The Flying Scotsman, in particular, is a lasting triumph of the brilliance and implementation of technology and the publicity that can surround it,” Dunn stressed.

The supposed romance of steam was replaced in the late 1950s and early 1960s by the muscularity of diesels. Carriages pulled by Deltic diesel engines starred in a 1971 film Call Carter.

Often voted one of the greatest British films of all time, this gritty classic was directed by the late Mike Hodges and starred Michael Caine at his gangster best.

The film’s famous opening credits played a train driving through bridges and tunnels with Caine as Carter presented a crime novel reading in a first-class carriage.

In the film, tough man Carter was supposed to be traveling from London to Newcastle, but segments of the opening scenes show the train heading south towards Selby rather than north towards York.

east coast

The East Coast Main Line, steeped in tradition and completed in 1848 by the Tweed Bridge, is a national economic asset with several train companies operating daily. However, the LNER has been a leading user of the line since the company began a hundred years ago.

Now publicly owned through the Department for Transport, the LNER was created by the Railways Act of 1921, which aimed to stem the losses made by many of the country’s then 120 railway companies. The government has lumped these various concerns into four large companies called the “big four”. LNER—formed by seven companies, including North Eastern Railway and North British Railway—became the second largest of the Big Four behind London, Midland and Scottish Railways (LMS), which was the world’s largest transport organization at the time.

Twenty-five years later, the LNER and LMS, as well as Great Western Railways and Southern Railway, were nationalized to form British Railways, which, when it morphed into British Rail, became something of a joke. U Notes from a small island in 1995, American writer Bill Bryson wrote: “I remember when you couldn’t buy a British Rail sandwich without wondering if this was your last action before a long time on life support.”

Following privatization in the mid-1990s, the first company to take over the InterCity East Coast franchise was Bermuda-based shipping company Sea Containers, which operated as the Great North Eastern Railway, or GNER.

Following the bankruptcy of its parent company, GNER’s services were transferred to National Express East Coast in 2007, which lasted only a few more years before being nationalized and operating as East Coast until 2015, when control was given to a joint venture Stagecoach/ Virgin.

Virgin Trains East Coast lasted just three years before the government stepped in again, creating the London North Eastern Railway, evoking the pre-war LNER but without the “i”.

Today’s Azuma trains—built in the north-east of England by Hitachi of Japan—emit 97% less CO2 than planes flying between the same cities.

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