Resurrection of the Grey

16 June 2011

This story starts some 6 years ago when one of our ‘old boys’ rang Dick Hill, Secretary of the North West and

Wales Branch of the Association to say that he had just seen the 3rd Carabinier pass down the line of the East Lancashire Railway (ELR).  About 30 minutes later he rang back to say that he had seen the Royal Scots Grey pass the other way!  Thus began the relationship with two railway engines, their owners and the Regimental Association.

These two Deltic diesel locomotives live on the ELR where they are nurtured by their owners as a living monument to our past.  The 3rd Carabinier is owned by Ralph Swaney who hails from Edinburgh, while the Royal Scots Grey is owned by Martin Walker of Beaver Sports in Yorkshire.  The former engine is currently undergoing a major refit, and one must not forget that all costs have to be met by the owners so these things take a lot of time and effort by those involved.  The latter is going like ‘a spring chicken’!

This year saw the 50th anniversary of the Royal Scots Grey pulling the Flying Scotsman from London to Edinburgh.  Given our association with the engine, I decided to join the party and make the anniversary trip on the 2nd March 2011.  The journey was from London King’s Cross to Edinburgh and return but, being from North Wales, I decided to join the train at York.

York Station on an early March Saturday morning is not my most comfortable venue but, after a quick run around the National Railway Museum (entry is free), I managed to join the train in time.

The train was packed and we eventually reached Edinburgh on schedule.  A reception party from the Edinburgh Branch of the Association had been organised by Bob Swan, together with Jimmy Springthorpe who had to tame the not-very ‘Fat Controller’ at Waverley Station so that we could have an appropriate reception committee on the platform.  The authorities contrived to stop the train 50 metres short of the designated area!

Through a milling mass of humanity, all trying to get close to the Royal Scots Grey, we managed to join up for a mini-reunion.  There was time for a photo-shoot with the organiser of the trip, Guy Middleton of Spitfire Rail Tours, and Martin Walker of Beaver Sports, who owns the engine.  We then all repaired to the Royal Scots Club for a well-deserved ‘wee dram’ before I was back at Waverley for the return journey, during which Martin and Guy were extremely kind in allowing me to do a bucket collection.  It is amazing what a beret and medals can do and some £425 was raised from the passengers on that excursion.  It was very interesting talking to many of them, most of whom had little or no knowledge of the Army.  Virtually none of them were from Scotland, but nearly all were supportive of what our soldiers were being asked to do these days, and also indeed since the end of the Second World War.  Most had travelled up from London and, when I asked them if they had seen the piper at King’s Cross, they had said that he had set the standard for their day.  Hearing    that Pipe Major Potter was The Queen’s Personal Piper really put the seal on the whole journey for them.  I am told that the faces of some of the oriental visitors to London at 0730 hrs on a Saturday morning were something to behold: a piper in full dress uniform on the platform, playing a train away!

A big thank-you: to all contributors on the train; to Jimmy Springthorpe, Bob Swan and the Edinburgh Branch for arranging the Scottish end of the project;  to Howard Elston and Pipe Major Derek Potter for seeing the train off from King’s Cross in such memorable style; to Network Rail for their help and cooperation; and  especially to Martin Walker who owns the Royal Scots Grey and Guy Middleton and Spitfire Rail Tours who organised the entire journey.

Interestingly the Royal Scots Grey was recently 'recalled to the colours'; you can see her on

It is funny how life goes round full circle.




By Major John Scrivener, Chairman,  North West and Wales Branch of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards Association