Farewell to Pioneer Railway Preservationist, Ffestiniog Railway Chairman and Flying Scotsman Owner, Alan Pegler

Published 22nd March 2012

The man who purchased ‘Flying Scotsman’ from British Railways and from the scrapyard has died

Alan Pegler was born on April 16, 1920 in London, the son of a successful Midlands industrialist and attended Radley and Jesus Colleges at Cambridge. He left Cambridge after a year when his father became ill and he took control of the family business.

He is perhaps best known for saving the LNER A3 No. 60103 Flying Scotsman from BR for £3000 in 1963. The engine was not due to be preserved despite achieving the longest non-stop run by a steam engine in the world between London and Edinburgh in 1928 covering 393 miles. It was also the first authenticated engine to reach 100mph which it did in 1934 and when it was consigned for scrap, Alan Peglar bought it for scrap value.

He funded it’s restoration to working order and put it back into original LNER green livery and became the sole steam locomotive to be allowed to run on the main line.

America, the land of bankruptcy

In 1969, he took it to America pulling an exhibition train promoting British exports and was fitted with a cowcatcher, bell and an American-style whistle. After limited success, the tour ran into financial trouble and former Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, supported the American adventure but by now, he was out of office and Ted Heath was Prime Minister.

There was no money made available to rescue the engine which was laid up on the West Coast San Francisco. Pegler managed to get home by working on a P&O liner giving lectures about railways and the engine. Four years later, the well-known railway enthusiast, Sir William MacAlpine bought the locomotive.

Pegler carried on working for P&O and was employed for a couple of years with his lectures proving popular. After this spell of work, he lived near Paddington and took up acting perhaps best known for impersonating Henry VIII by the Tower of London.

Pullman Supremo

The decision to recreate the Orient Express by James Sherwood and his company Sea Containers proved a magnet for Alan Peglar. He became an on-train guide between London and Venice and spent a lot of time on the Pullman train.

He was also a pilot and when war broke out in 1939, was commissioned into the Fleet Air Arm and later joined the Royal Observer Corps after illness.

Alan Pegler remained involved with the Ffestiniog Railway until the end of his life. He shared railways with his family and was married several times and is survived by two children. He was one of the true pioneers of Railway Preservation.

The Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railway write that:

It is with great sadness that we report that Alan Francis Pegler passed away on Sunday 18th March 2012 after a short illness. He was 91.

It was Alan's intervention in the 1950s that made the restoration of the Ffestiniog Railway a reality and he is owed a tremendous debt of gratitude for his unswerving belief that the restoration of the FR could be achieved.

A former member of the Eastern Area Board of British Rail with a boundless enthusiasm for railways going back to boyhood days, his favourite haunt remained the old Great Northern main line.

His CV included a breathtaking variety of jobs: station master and signaller's assistant; photographer; law student; bomber pilot; company director; member of the British Transport Commission; railtour organiser; passenger on Sir Nigel Gresley as it set the post war steam speed record of 112mph; purchaser of Flying Scotsman, seller of Flying Scotsman; lecturer; professional actor; and president of both the Festiniog Railway Company and the Ffestiniog Railway Society.

He remained president of the FR and FRS until his death and was awarded the OBE in the 2006 New Year Honours list, a richly-deserved recognition of his enormous contributions in many walks of life.

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