THE golden age of the railways returned when a steam locomotive rumbled into Worcester during a national tour.

The years melted away in a moment as the steam billowed from the chimney of the Flying Scotsman.

Hundreds of people welcomed the head-turning locomotive to Worcester or came later to wave the elegant engine farewell as it departed for London.

The crowds spanned all generations and were an eclectic combination of train enthusiasts, curious locals and bemused commuters going about their daily lives.

However, those not in the know quickly noticed that the platforms were much busier than usual and something strange was afoot.

The locomotive, built in Doncaster, arrived into Worcester Shrub Hill at 11.50 on Saturday and departed at 16.31 as it began its return to London via Moreton-in-Marsh.

Staff chatted to spectators and walked along the platform to keep people at a safe distance from the tracks while still allowing the crowds to get as close as possible to the train and savour the moment.

Fathers hoisted their children up onto their shoulders to afford them a better look at the rare spectacle and many people tried to capture the visit on mobile phones, cameras and tablets.

One man could be heard saying ‘I’ve never seen so many people at Shrub Hill’.

Among those to enjoy the visit were Paul James, 47, and partner Sally Williams, 48, of St Peter's, Worcester. Mr James used the locomotive's flying visit as a chance to photograph the engine from Worcester bridge as it headed over the viaduct but could not resist coming to Shrub Hill for a closer look.

Friends of the National Railway Museum set up shop in the station where people bought books, badges, calendars, plaques, mugs and even Christmas cards featuring the locomotive as souvenirs of the visit.

Among the volunteers were Mel Draper and Roger Smith. Mr Smith said staff at the station had made sure people could enjoy the locomotive and said the people of Worcester had given the engine 'one of the warmest welcomes' he had seen during the tour.

The locomotive was held in the sidings, waiting for the departure of the 16.14 train to Malvern before it made its approach and people craned their heads for a better look.

There was cheers and applause as the locomotive sent forth great plumes of steam which briefly enveloped it completely as it moved away, screening it from jubilant onlookers, at least one of whom had come from Australia to see the engine.

While it was stopped on the platform many curious spectators peered into the elegant first class carriages and marvelled at the period décor.

The engine was built in 1923, and is widely recognised as the most famous steam locomotive in the world. It was the first to break the 100 miles-per-hour barrier.

The day trip, known as the ‘The Cotswold Venturer’ left London Paddington at around 7.40am before moving along the former Great Western Railway (GWR) main line.

The journey took passengers up the 1 in 94 gradient up to the summit at Sapperton Tunnel, coming down through the Golden Valley via Stroud to reach the Bristol line at Standish Junction.

After passing Gloucester the train travelled via the line between Cheltenham Spa and Abbotswood Junction before heading to Worcester.

After leaving the city, the train took the Cotswold line through to Oxford, passing through Evesham and Honeybourne.

Other stops included Moreton-in-Marsh, Charlbury and Oxford. From there the service rejoined its earlier route at Didcot before heading to Reading, Slough and London Paddington.

The engine returned to the rails in 2016 following a £4.5 million refurbishment by staff from the National Railway Museum.