West Coast Railways Presents
Famous Steam Train
Scarborough Spa Express
Scarborough Spa Express History

The History of the Scarborough Spa Express

Early 1900s

In July 1927 the London North Eastern Railway Company inaugurated the Scarborough Flier. This titled train ran from London King Cross to Scarborough Central and Whitby Town. It consisted of an express service from London to York, at which point the locomotive would be changed, before the train ran on to the coastal towns of Scarborough and Whitby.

Scarborough Flyer

The service continued until September 1939 when, like many services, it was cancelled for the duration of the war.

Mid 1900s

It wasn´t until June 1950 that the service was re-introduced as a Summer Only express and it quickly became The Scarborough Flyer (note the change of spelling!) with the very characteristic sunburst design on the headboard.

The train ran for 13 years until it finally ended in September 1963, by which time these special named expresses were becoming unfashionable. However, In the early 1970s British Rail allowed steam back on the main line, using preserved steam locomotives and by the late 1970s, the company ran a series of trains during the summer months from York to Scarborough and back.

Late 1900s

In 1981, BR introduced the Scarborough Spa Express, to celebrate the re-opening of the town’s famous Spa building, which ran from York to Scarborough and return twice a week.

The following year these were extended to run over the circular route from York to Harrogate and Leeds, returning to York before continuing to Scarborough. These ran until 1988.

The Scarborough

Since 1988, there had been occasional steam railtours to Scarborough, featuring locomotives including 60800 “Green Arrow”, 46229, Duchess of Hamilton, 48151, 3440, City of Truro and 45596 Bahamas.

2000 onwards

It was not until 2002 that regular trips began again. These were introduced by West Coast Railways and ran from Scarborough to York and return for three days a week during July and August. The same format was used again in 2003.

The National Railway Museum began running directly from York to Scarborough in 2004 from 20 July. 4472, Flying Scotsman having just been acquired by the NRM was the main loco used but supported by 45407 in the event of any loco failure.

The NRM sponsored the SSE until the of 2006 when they decided hand over the running of the SSE to the Railway Touring Company. So in 2007 RTC (Railway Touring Company) included the Harrogate Loop in the SSE itinerary once more and ran a very successful number of tours during July and August.

Scarborough Flyer

In 2008-2009 West Coast Railways took back the running of the SSE and they again utilised the Harrogate loop running on three days a week during July and August.


In 2010 the route was changed as gauging problems on the Harrogate loop put a stop to any steam locomotive using this route. This is how the Wakefield Circle was born.

The route was York-Normanton-Wakefield Kirkgate-Wakefield Westgate, Woodlesford, Castleford and back to York. Then from York the usual trip to Scarborough and back to York and the Wakefield Circle as per the morning run, returning to York at 21-00. The same route will be used in 2016 – Running: Tuesday 25th, Wednesday 26th and Thursday 27th October 2016.