Flying Scotsman VR brings the world’s most famous steam locomotive to life in a multisensory experience which takes a museum visit to a completely new level. The new immersive attraction uses free-roaming VR headsets to take visitors on a journey back in time and around the world to bring the golden age of rail travel to life. Aside from telling the incredible story of Flying Scotsman, the immersive experience makes full use of the cutting-edge technology to celebrate engineering brilliance and explore the science behind steam locomotion. Flying Scotsman VR is a trailblazer demonstrating how museum collections can be brought to life in fresh new ways – educating and entertaining a new generation of museum visitors.
LocationNational Railway Museum, York, UK
Services- Story, Research & Interpretation - Visitor Analysis - Concept Design & Visualisation - Scheme & Detailed Design - Project Engineering & Technical Design - Interior Design, Set and Staging Design - Lighting, Audio, Video, Network Design - Audiovisual & Interactive Technologies - Graphics - Lighting - Theming - Show Control Specification - Show Programming - Technical Installation & Commissioning - Special effects, 4D Vibration, Movement & Smell - Construction & Installation - Support & Maintenance - Training - Consultancy
AwardsAV Awards - Themed Entertainment and Attractions Project of the Year (Finalist)
Photos: Science Museum Group, Sarner International Ltd, Figment Productions Ltd
Flying Scotsman has been described as the most famous steam locomotive in the world and is a prized object in the Science Museum Group collection. An incredible feat of design and engineering, the celebrity locomotive embarked on its first journey from the sheds at Doncaster Works in 1923.
Flying Scotsman consolidated its reputation in 1934 when it was clocked at 100mph, becoming the first steam locomotive to have officially reached that speed. It came to symbolise all that is speed and style, not least because it starred in one of British cinema’s first ‘talkies’ in 1929 and Flying Scotsman train service carried innovations such as a cinema car, cocktail bar, and hairdressing salon.
For the engine’s 100-year anniversary, the Science Museum Group wanted to develop a new immersive experience that would not only celebrate the history of Flying Scotsman but would also bring to life its remarkable engineering and the science of steam power for a wide audience, including families, casual rail enthusiasts and complete newcomers to the National Railway Museum, part of the Science Museum Group.
The experience also had to be built to tour the UK before being installed as a permanent offer at the National Railway Museum in York, England.
Sarner International, in partnership with Figment Productions, were appointed by the Science Museum Group to design and build the new immersive experience.
At every step, we carefully considered the project's impact on the environment. The VR Experience was installed inside two re-usable 40-foot shipping containers to minimise new build requirements and wastage, while ensuring the experience was flexible yet robust enough to withstand the requirements of the centenary tour. When in situ, the containers are joined to create one unit.
The new attraction uses a combination of a beautifully themed physical environment delivering an audio-visual preshow, followed by an innovative free-roam Virtual Reality experience using the latest untethered VR technology. Vibrating panels, heat lamps and wind-mimicking fans provide multisensory stimulation while visitors are immersed in the virtual world. This is one of the first UK experiences to utilise free-roaming VR, where guests can freely stand-up and walk around via mobile headsets rather than the bulky backpack computers of a few years ago.
The primary difference between Flying Scotsman VR and other VR-based experiences is the holistic approach to the guest experience design. Guests enter a themed environment and see no sign of a stark VR space. Once the VR headset is on, the guest sees a digital twin of the beautifully themed 1930s railway station waiting room, exactly as they’ve just seen it with their own eyes. At this point, operators open doors to a bespoke VR space, but although the guest inhabits this space, they never see it at all, and when they return to the waiting room, the doors close before they take off their headset, thus maintaining the magic throughout the experience.
The design sets a new standard in STEM education through innovative immersive storytelling as well as world class levels of accessibility, ambitions that drive our team at Sarner.