Steam enthusiasts disrupted the inaugural run of Flying Scotsman after its decade-long, £4.2 million refit by standing on the track to take photographs, delaying its trip through Grantham this morning.
Passengers said the famous locomotive came to a “shuddering stop” near St Neots, Cambridgeshire, and Virgin Trains East Coast warned that other services were expected to be delayed by 15 minutes due to photographers on the track.
Footage filmed from the stationary train showed people walking down the tracks holding cameras.
Some 297 VIPs, fundraisers, competition winners and members of the public who paid up to £450 are onboard for the trip.
Hundreds of people who had arrived from 6am to secure a vantage point on platform one at London King’s Cross were covered in steam as the journey began.
Built in Doncaster, South Yorkshire, in 1923, it soon became the star locomotive of the British railway system, pulling the first train to break the 100mph barrier in 1934.
It has been painted in the traditional early 1960s British Rail green for its first official outing bearing its nameplates after the restoration project.
Michael Portillo said he was “very excited” to be travelling on the train as part of filming for BBC documentary series Great British Railway Journeys.
“This is certainly the most famous journey and most famous locomotive in Britain,” he said.
“It’s absolutely wonderful that it’s able to run today from London to York. We’ve got a very excited bunch of passengers. We’ve got a whole lot of history.”
He described Flying Scotsman as “an engineering triumph” and praised its designer, Sir Nigel Gresley, for having “an eye for engineering, for design, for style and for marketing”.
The National Railway Museum (NRM) in York bought the locomotive for £2.3 million in 2004 before work got under way on its restoration in 2006.
The museum’s director, Paul Kirkman, said Flying Scotsman was a reminder that “railways have been making this country run properly for nearly 200 years”.
He went on: “It’s a very special day because it’s the world’s most famous locomotive and it’s back on the tracks again heading up the route that it would historically have done up the East Coast Main Line.
Mr Kirkman said the restoration project was a “long old journey” but added that it was “incredibly satisfying” to see the locomotive returned to service.
Also among the passengers was Ron Kennedy, who drove Flying Scotsman from 1956 until it was retired in 1963.
The 83-year-old, from Leigh-on-Sea in Essex, beamed with delight as the locomotive pulled into the station he first worked at as a cleaner almost 70 years ago.
“It’s unbelievable. I never dreamt about being on it again. To be out with it is just fantastic,” he said. “It was a good engine.”
Mr Kennedy said he was impressed with how Flying Scotsman has been restored.
“When the railway museum took it over they didn’t know what to do with it but public donations meant they could put it back together again,” he explained.
“I think they’ve done a wonderful job. It belongs to the public really so let’s keep it so it’s always there for our children and grandchildren.”
Flying Scotsman will be kept at the NRM until March 6 before embarking on a tour around the country.