Flying Thistle is a LNER A3 Pacific express engine that visited the NWR several times in the 1950s. Later becoming part of the NWR once BR disbanded.
Flying Thistle was built in 1924 as one of the batch of A1s built by the North British Locomotive Co. Unlike the rest of his class, he was painted black and commonly used as a freight engine.
He was partially rebuilt in 1927 with Walschaerts valve gear and a modified blastpipe, which made him stronger but at the same time made him slower. The reason for this rebuild was part of the attempts to improve the Gresley Pacific design. There were those in the LNER who believed aspects of Gresley's design were lacking, specifically his Conjugated Valve Gear, and forced the use of the more common Walschaerts.
In tests, Gresley's design proved superior, especially in the class' intended express duties, and this became the Class A3. The rebuilt Thistle, however performed admirably and was kept in his rebuilt state until his second rebuild in 1949 when he became an A3. For unknown reasons, he kept his Walschaerts valve gear.
During the Second World War, he was noted to be best preformer on the heavy goods trains his class found themselves hauling, even manageing to outperform the A3s, and lacked the maintenance problems that befell his brothers, sisters and cousins.
The Flying Thistle first visited the Island of Sodor in 1950 to run part of the Tidmouth-Arlesburgh line. While taking an express train on his first day he got stuck in the snow and had to be rescued by James and an engine that was on loan at the time. In 1951 he was confused for Gordon by Bill and Ben which caused major confusion and delay. Soon after he returned to British Railways.
In 1997 he became a permanent addition to the North Western Railway's Fleet, although he still travels back to the mainland from time to time. He currently runs his own passenger service from Vicarstown to Tidmouth and back.
The Flying Thistle is humble to all, and enjoys all work whether it be passengers or goods. He is very proud of his strengh and speed but he doesn't boast. Despite his seemingly calm nature he has been known to be easily annoyed and gulled at times.
The Flying Thistle was painted in the NWR red livery with yellow lining for a time. He carries the NWR crest on either side of his tender for a time. Between 1924-1947 he was painted in unlined LNER black with LNER lettering on his tender in yellow. He has a yellow nameplate on his wheel arches.
- He is the twin of Knight of Thistle.
- Part of his name is derived from the Flying Scotsman.