George Hinchcliffe has died aged 89 marking the end of a remarkable career including managing and rescuing Flying Scotsman from its American tour in1973.
George Hinchcliffe was born in Gainsborough in 1922 and is reputed to have learnt to read by watching the named steam locomotives of the LNER which ran through his area. He achieved this before going to school!
He worked on minesweepers in the war and afterwards tried his hand at teaching rising to deputy headmaster, and then arranged steam railtours in the 1960s as the Beeching cuts took place. He was also very active in railway modelling and became chairman of the Steam Locomotive Operators’ Association.
It was through the Gainsborough Model Railway Society that he met Alan Peglar who also lived locally who bought LNER Icon No. 4472 Flying Scotsman. Their friendship led to George being asked to manage tours with No. 4472 for Alan and in 1969 he took up the role of Operations Manager for Flying Scotsman Enterprises and was also general manager of Flying Scotsman’s tour of North America. He also worked with Roland Kennington in North America who still looks after LNER Pacifics today!
When the owner Alan Peglar went bust, George was tasked with rescuing the engine by would be purchaser Bill McAlpine. This was accomplished and the engine went to Carnforth again to be managed by Mr Hinchcliffe. Carnforth became pre-eminent as a Steam centre in the 1970s and 80s and George retired in 1984 after ill health. The engine was also co-owned with Pete Waterman for many years.
David Smith then bought Steamtown at Carnforth and today it is the busiest steam and diesel depot in Britain and the main base for his company, West Coast Railways. At the open weekend held in July 2008 (partly organised by Rail.co.uks Phil Marsh), George was delighted to be invited to name a class 37 diesel, No. 37676 Loch Rannoch in front of hundreds of people.
When he was phoned to be asked if he was available to perform the ceremony, his wife answered the phone and said, hold on, he is in the roof playing with his model railway, not a bad reply given his age!
George was also heavily involved in the Ffestiniog Railway and the Railway Heritage Trust to name just a few of his other activities