Alan Pegler (1920–2012)

Alan Pegler was one of the pioneers of the heritage railway movement in the United Kingdom, which influenced the preservation of historic lines across Europe. He was the son of Francis Pegler, managing director of the Northern Rubber Company at Redford, Nottinghamshire which was founded by his ancestor Albert Pegler in the early 1870s, and manufactured India rubber belting, piping, matting and hoses, many of its products being used in the engineering industry. Alan Pegler gained a pilot’s licence while still at school, and used a light aircraft to chase express trains along the East Coast Main Line. He joined the Royal Air Force during the Second World War, although ill health prevented him from serving as a pilot. Subsequently he was a director of the Northern Rubber Company and an underwriter at Lloyds, amassing a considerable personal fortune.

From 1951 Pegler was involved with the project to preserve the Festiniog Railway in North Wales. He cleared the debts of the existing company, was chairman of the new company set up to work the line from 1954, and remained in touch will the railway until his death. His enthusiasm for railways and flying extended into promoting excursions for his workpeople at Retford to the Farnborough Air Show in Surrey in 1954 and 1955, hauled by historic locomotives, and in 1958 by a new main line diesel engine.

Pegler was deeply impressed when he saw the locomotive Flying Scotsman at the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley when he was only four years of age in 1924. When it was threatened with scrapping in 1962 he bought it and used it to haul excursion trains on main lines. Such excursions were prohibited after British Rail ceased to use steam locomotives in 1968, but Pegler played an important role in reversing that decision.

In 1969 Pegler with Flying Scotsman embarked on a government-backed tour of the United States intended to promote British business. The train progressed from coast to coast but completed the tour in San Francisco in 1971 with a burden of debts. The new Conservative government in the United Kingdom withdrew support from the venture, and Pegler sold Flying Scotsman to Sir Bill McAlpine, who arranged the locomotive’s repatriation. Pegler himself was declared bankrupt in 1972 but was discharged in 1974. After working his passage home from California, he found employment as an actor and as a lecturer on railways on cruises organised by Orient Express and BR Highland Rail.

Pegler’s reminiscences of the railway preservation movement have been recorded by the National Railway Museum and can be heard online at "Railwaystories".

The Pegler family home the mid-eighteenth century Arncott House at Retford has housed the Bassetlaw Museum since 1986.