The Flying Scotsman

Mon March 4, 9-10pm, BBC2

There’s really only so much pity that can be mustered for a steam train. Unfortunately pity is what this documentary is fuelled by, which makes for a pretty tedious journey.

During World War II, the narrator mournfully tells us, the once-celebrated Flying Scotsman was put to work in the war effort and ‘largely ignored’. To compound the tragedy, the London to Edinburgh train’s popularity, which had begun to wane when its 100mph record was usurped in 1936, dropped considerably as cars became increasingly common in the ’50s. Since then it’s been a relic, a glowing example of British manufacturing achievement. But the train’s uselessness has also made it a financial burden. It has significantly dented three millionaires’ fortunes (it bankrupted one) in its attempts to swerve the scrapyard, and we even see children compliantly donating their pocket money towards its upkeep.

Obviously there’s little doubt that the Scotsman should be preserved. But any sense of the real significance of the train in its heyday gets lost somewhere between elderly men reminiscing and a lot of ridiculously po-faced fawning.