A record-breaking East Coast locomotive is to be named ‘Battle of Britain Memorial Flight’ by TV star Carol Vorderman, in a spectacular ceremony to launch a nine-day festival at the National Railway Museum in York this June.
The locomotive will carry a specially-designed livery featuring the ‘planes and insignia of the Royal Air Force Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (RAF BBMF).
Three of its iconic aircraft – the Spitfire, Hurricane and Lancaster – will fly overhead as Carol unveils the train in front of thousands of visitors at the opening of Railfest, a spectacular celebration of the railways, on Saturday, 2 June 2012.
The locomotive, number 91110, achieved a UK national speed record for electric trains at Stoke Bank, north of Peterborough, on 17 September 1989 – a record which stands to this day.
Carol Vorderman stars on ITV1’s panel show ‘Loose Women’, following 26 years as co-host of Channel 4’s quiz show ‘Countdown’.
Carol said: “It would be a privilege to be asked to name any train. But to be asked to unveil this particular East Coast locomotive, named ‘Battle of Britain Memorial Flight’, is a deeply moving honour.
“I’ve been a friend and supporter of the RAF BBMF for a long time, and I’m thrilled to be invited to carry out this important ceremony. It’s firmly in my diary and I am very much looking forward to being part of such a landmark event.”
The design for the locomotive will feature the three aircraft plus the Royal Air Force roundel, RAF BBMF insignia and ‘Lest We Forget’ motto. It will also feature a pair of ‘oak leaf’ cast iron plates commemorating its record-holding status, in similar style to those carried by the LNER steam locomotive ‘Mallard’, the world’s fastest steam locomotive.
‘Mallard’ will stand nose to nose with East Coast’s locomotive at the naming ceremony. A programme of music and guests will entertain spectators before and after the locomotive is named. The ceremony will conclude with a further flypast by the RAF BBMF’s D-day liveried DC3 Dakota aircraft.
East Coast’s Director of Communications Paul Emberley said: “East Coast is delighted to work with the Royal Air Force Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, the National Railway Museum and RAIL magazine to present this important and exciting event.
“Our named and liveried locomotive will be an ambassador for the RAF BBMF, and everything it stands for, along the East Coast Main Line between London, Leeds, York and Edinburgh.
“Bestowing the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight name on this electric locomotive is highly appropriate, and the commemorative plates kindly donated by the National Railway Museum will continue to emphasise the power and prestige of the East Coast route – just as Sir Nigel Gresley’s streamlined locomotive ‘Mallard’ did in the steam age.”
The Railfest opening ceremony will begin at midday on Saturday 2 June, featuring individual flypasts by the Spitfire, Hurricane and Lancaster aircraft in the run-up to the train naming by Carol Vorderman. The three planes will then form up and fly together over the stage as Carol unveils the East Coast locomotive in its commemorative livery.
National Railway Museum Director Steve Davies said: “Railfest will be Britain’s biggest rail celebration, and there could be no finer way to open and launch it than with this prestigious and historic East Coast locomotive naming ceremony. We are delighted that Carol Vorderman has agreed to carry out the naming, and we look forward to a spectacular launch to nine wonderful days in York this summer.”
Although various steam and diesel locomotives have carried aircraft names, this will be the first time a main line express locomotive will have been named and liveried in honour of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight.
Officer Commanding RAF BBMF Squadron Leader Ian Smith – a former Red Arrows display team pilot – will be among those watching events on the ground and in the air on 2 June.
He said: “Everyone associated with RAF BBMF is thrilled that Britain’s record-holding electric express locomotive is to be named in honour of the Flight. It will greatly help the RAF BBMF with one of its key messages: to recognise and commemorate the selfless acts of bravery of over 100,000 RAF airmen abd airwomen who have defended our freedom over decades, many making the ultimate sacrifice.
“It is especially gratifying that this locomotive travels regularly at speed through Lincolnshire, ‘Bomber County’, where many of the 55,573 men of Bomber Command took the offensive to Germany and never returned. 91110 is a powerful symbol in honour of their memory.”
It’s hoped that a number of RAF veterans will join serving pilots who fly the RAF BBMF’s collection of historic aircraft to witness the ceremony in York. Alongside them will be Squadron Leader Stuart Reid (Rtd) who flew the Lancaster bomber for the last 11 years of his career, and who first put forward proposals for the train naming.
Squadron Leader Reid will co-present the naming ceremony alongside the Managing Editor of RAIL magazine, Nigel Harris. Railfest is being staged with key support from RAIL and its sister titles Steam Railway and Model Rail.
Nigel said: “The train naming and flypasts will provide an awe-inspiring launch of Railfest, which promises a nine day celebration across a space the size of eleven football pitches, filled with an amazing line-up of record-breaking historic and modern locomotives, from both the Museum’s own collection and across the UK.
“There could be no better way to raise the curtain on such a magnificent festival than this. Saturday, 2 June 2012 will be a date which will live long in the memory of every one of the thousands of people who will be in York to see this great event unfold on the ground and in the air.”
Tickets are now on sale for Railfest, the nine-day celebration of Britain’s railways, to be held at the National Railway Museum in York from 2 to 10 June 2012.