At Doncaster, 2003
16 April 1920|
|Died||18 March 2012|
|Known for||Saving the Ffestiniog Railway and Flying Scotsman|
|Wikipedia entry||Alan Pegler|
|Official positions held:|
|FR Co. Exec||President|
|FR Soc. Post||President|
|FR People | WHR People|
Alan Francis Pegler OBE, FRSA (16 April 1920 – 18 March 2012) was a businessman, entrepreneur, railway preservationist and actor. It was Pegler who provided the money required to transfer ownership of the Festiniog Railway Company to the new regime, allowing the railway to be revived in the 1950s.
Later he became known for purchasing Flying Scotsman from British Railways. The locomotive's subsequent American tour bankrupted Pegler, who then took up acting and public speaking.
Pegler, who continued to be president of the Festiniog Railway Company and the Ffestiniog Railway Society until his death, was appointed OBE in the 2006 New Year Honours in recognition of his contribution.
Early life and career
Born in London on 16 April 1920, he was the son of Francis Pegler, the then Managing Director of the family-owned Northern Rubber Company based in Retford, and his wife Enid. Raised in the Nottinghamshire village of Sutton cum Lound, he was educated at Hydneye House School, Sussex and Radley College near Oxford.
Pegler gained his Private Pilot Licence aged 17 at Radley, and spent much of his time chasing LNER expresses along the East Coast Main Line. Accepted into Jesus College, Cambridge to study law, the outbreak of the second World War meant that he was instead commissioned into the Fleet Air Arm. However, a serious illness resulted in his being invalided out to join the Royal Observer Corps. Upset outside active duty, he applied to become an intelligence officer for the Royal Air Force. By the end of the war, he was again a commissioned officer in the RAF Photographic Recognition department.
Postwar he was again accepted into Jesus College, Cambridge, but after a year his father became ill, and he returned home to run the family business. Made a director of the firm aged 21, he then became a Lloyd's of London insurance underwriter, from which he earned a reasonable fortune of his own.
Involvement with railways
From 1951, Pegler began to run railway enthusiasts excursions, under the NRC banner. Through these efforts in 1955 he was directly appointed by Sir Brian Robertson to the British Transport Commission's Eastern area board. As a result, in 1959 he was on the footplate of the LNER Class A4 Sir Nigel Gresley when it broke the postwar steam speed record by hitting 112 mph south of Grantham.
In 1951, Pegler was approached through friends of friends of his BTC colleagues to buy and clear the outstanding debt of the derelict Festiniog Railway. Alan's father put up the initial £3,000 needed to transfer ownership of the Festiniog Railway Company to the current administration. Pegler obtained control in June 1954, and was appointed the company's Chairman. In December 1955 Pegler's shares were transferred to a charitable trust. This had the effect of making it clear that he could not profit from the restored FR, thereby allaying the fears of some members of the Ffestiniog Railway Society. Pegler stepped down as chairman in 1972, owing to his bankruptcy, and was instead appointed president of both the company and the society.
It was Pegler's intervention that made restoration of the FR a possibility, and he was owed a tremendous debt of gratitude, not only for his confidence in the Ffestiniog Railway Society at that time, but also for all the help and encouragement given since to the Society. Pegler, who continued to be president of the Festiniog Railway Company and the Ffestiniog Railway Society until his death in 2012, was appointed OBE in the 2006 New Year Honours in recognition of his contribution. After his death, it was decided to discontinue the title of president of both the company and society. Money raised in memory of Pegler was used to complete the signalling of the rebuilt Harbour Station in period style.
Pegler first saw LNER Class A3 4472 Flying Scotsman in Wembley at the 1924 British Empire Exhibition. In 1962, British Railways announced that they would scrap the locomotive. Proposed to be saved by a group called "Save Our Scotsman", they were unable to raise the required £3,000, the scrap value of the locomotive. Pegler stepped in and bought the locomotive outright, using money received for his share holding when Northern Rubber was sold. He spent the next few years spending large amounts of money having the locomotive restored at Doncaster Works, and then persuaded the British Railways Board to let him run enthusiasts' specials.
In 1969, then Prime Minister Harold Wilson agreed to support Pegler via the Trade Department running the locomotive in the United States and Canada to support British exports. The train ran in America for two years until 1971. In 1970 Edward Heath's Conservatives ousted Wilson's Labour Party, and withdrew financial support from the tour. However, Pegler decided to return for the 1972 season. By the end of that season's tour, the money had run out and Pegler was £132,000 in debt, with the locomotive in storage in U.S. Army Sharpe Depot to keep it away from unpaid creditors. In 1973 Flying Scotsman was sold to William McAlpine, who returned it to the UK.
Pegler worked his passage home from San Francisco to England on a P&O cruise ship in 1971, giving lectures about trains and travel. Declared bankrupt in the High Court in 1972, he rented a room above a fish and chips shop opposite Paddington Station. From 1973, Pegler was again employed by P&O for two seasons giving his popular lectures. He obtained a discharge from his bankruptcy in December 1974. Pegler then took up acting, gaining his Equity trade union card by playing Henry VIII in a theatre restaurant in St Katharine Docks. He also played 700 performances of Henry VIII at the Tower of London.
When Sir James Sherwood's Sea Containers company began collecting Pullman Company carriages to relaunch an Orient Express, Pegler introduced himself as a useful railway contact, as well as an expert lecturer. Sherwood employed Pegler as a lecturer six days a week, and when the trains were not running he performed the same role on British Rail’s luxury Highland rail cruises.
Pegler died on 18 March 2012 at the age of 91, after a short illness. His ashes were scattered in October 2018 by being placed in the firebox of Flying Scotsman as it ascended Stoke Bank hauling a special commemorative train.
- "Obituary - Alan Pegler". Daily Telegraph. 25 March 2012. Retrieved 25 May 2013.
- Johnson, Peter (25 March 2012). "Alan Pegler obituary". The Guardian.
- "Obituary - Alan Pegler" (PDF). The Times. 25 March 2012. Retrieved 25 May 2013.
- Herring, Peter (2002). Yesterday's Railways. David & Charles. p. 130.
- Johnson, Peter (2017). Festiniog Railway: From Slate Railway to Heritage Operation 1921 - 2014. Barnsley: Pen & Sword. ISBN 978-1-47389-625-3. OCLC 1000452534.
- le Vay, Benedict (2008). Britain from the Rails: A Window Gazer's Guide. Bradt Travel Guides. p. 15.
- Bird, Steve (13 October 2018). "Ashes to ashes on the last journey of Flying Scotsman's saviour". The Telegraph. Retrieved 16 October 2018.
To hear recordings of Alan talking about the revival of the Ffestiniog and the purchase of Flying Scotsman click below: http://www.nrm.org.uk/railwaystories/railwayvoices/alanpegler
Alan Pegler's appearance on BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs can be heard on BBC iPlayer: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p009y1d0