Full steam ahead: How The Flying Scotsman is charging towards its centenary

With the centenary of The Flying Scotsman coming down the tracks for 2023, there will be plentiful opportunities for licensees and retailers to get involved, with a revamped style guide making the most of the 100 years iconography. LicensingSource.net finds out more from Science Museum Group on how plans are building around the iconic locomotive.

With 2023 marking the centenary of The Flying Scotsman, Gemma Woodward, senior partnerships manager at Science Museum Group, is already excited about the opportunities this affords the licensing programme for the iconic locomotive.

“To date, the Scotsman and its brand has largely been perceived as something for locomotive enthusiasts and aficionados – while this is certainly true, it doesn’t fully reflect the broad reach that we know the Scotsman has,” Gemma tells us. “Through insight reports, personal requests and social media, we know that the Scotsman has a significant following across multi-generational groups – families and children of all ages have huge affection for this giant icon of steam.

“In many ways, this seems obvious when one considers the popularity of ‘power vehicles’ in character licensing – the Scotsman firmly resides in this arena, but as an actual real-life locomotive.”

With this at the fore, the anniversary licensing programme will not only celebrate the Scotsman’s remarkable centenary, but also herald the start of a much broader offering. Details will remain tightly under wraps until much nearer the time, however Gemma does tease that discussions are progressing with a number of high profile partners, “those that you might expect and others that you wouldn’t”.

The Flying Scotsman was designed by Sir Nigel Gresley and built in Doncaster in 1923.
The Flying Scotsman was designed by Sir Nigel Gresley and built in Doncaster in 1923.

Gemma continues: “In many ways, this is like working towards a movie release date, except activity surrounding the anniversary needs to last for an entire year, so we are working hard to ensure that press/publicity is sustained throughout. One thing we can tease for now though, is to expect very exciting news for children’s publishing imminently.”

One thing which can be confirmed is a revamped style guide, courtesy of Beacon Creative which built on the existing Flying Scotsman guide specifically for the centenary. Special edition anniversary packaging and ‘100 years’ iconography has been added, while Beacon also helped create new graphics such as posters and patterns, as well as product applications ideas, inspired by the locomotive’s route and speed record.

For licensees, Gemma believes that working with The Flying Scotsman holds appeal for a number of reasons.

“For some, it’s simply its history, engineering and record-breaking speed – all of which lend themselves particularly well to certain product categories,” she says. “Others are keen to tap into the romance of the Age of Steam. After the last year or so, heritage brands are providing even more comfort than before, not to mention domestic travel has never been so pertinent. However, as an evergreen brand, licensees know that they are buying into longevity and enduring popularity, which makes for a safer bet at retail.”

The Flying Scotsman is the world's most famous steam locomotive.
The Flying Scotsman is the world's most famous steam locomotive.

Gemma continues: “On a practical note, the Scotsman has an instantly recognisable look, which translates beautifully to image-based products. The wealth of material (original travel posters, tickets, menus, luggage labels, etc) means that licensees have a lot to be inspired by and have the ability to refresh product regularly. Finally, as all royalties go towards the upkeep and support of the Scotsman and our other National Railway Museum objects, it’s a very virtuous project to be involved with.”

There are several key categories which Gemma and the team are hoping to cement by the end of this year and further signings are being finalised. Product development is fully underway and with the team fresh from Brand Licensing Europe, it’s certainly a busy time.

“As we head into 2022, there are still certain spaces within categories and we are looking to fill those particularly within gifting, grooming and travel games,” says Gemma. “Food and drink collaborations, as well as apparel, continue to be very important to us and we will seek to lock these down. We are also hoping to build on the success we’ve had with the Lloyds Bank brand partnership in 2020/21, which featured the Scotsman in its advertising campaign.”

The Flying Scotsman’s centenary announcement will take place in October 2022 at Kings Cross station and then it really will be full steam ahead.

“The real fanfare for the centenary begins in 2023 and the Scotsman’s 100th birthday in February – several of our licensed products will share this as their launch date. Events, stunts and celebrations will continue throughout 2023 – you won’t be able to miss it,” Gemma concludes.

To date, the licensing programme has primarily focused on collectables and models with partners including Hornby and Steiff.
To date, the licensing programme has primarily focused on collectables and models with partners including Hornby and Steiff.

The Flying Scotsman: Need to know

The Flying Scotsman service from London to Edinburgh, through beautiful countryside of moorland, rolling hills, farms, country towns and villages has existed since 1862, with the iconic locomotive named after the route.

Designed by Sir Nigel Gresley and built in Doncaster in 1923, the Flying Scotsman received her name and number for the British Exhibition in 1924.

Officially retiring from service in 1963, the Scotsman was privately bought and ran in the UK as well as visiting the US and Australia. Eventually purchased by the National Railway Museum in recognition of its national importance, the Flying Scotsman underwent a complete restoration and returned to the tracks in 2016.

The Scotsman is perhaps best known for breaking the record for the fastest locomotive, back in 1934, clocking in at 100mph.

In the 1930s, the train also had a cocktail bar and hairdressing salon – LicensingSource can only imagine the skill and steady hand required to cut passengers’ hair when moving at high speed.

This feature originally appeared in the autumn 2021 edition of Licensing Source Book. To read the full publication, click on this link.

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