Sir William McAlpine passes away
Preservation is mourning the loss of a much‑loved and respected figure – Sir William McAlpine, who died on March 4 at the age of 82 after a short illness. Sir William was most famous in railway circles for his eleventh‑ hour rescue of ‘A3’ No. 4472 Flying Scotsman in 1972, after the LNER ‘Pacific’ was stranded in San Francisco following a financially crippling tour of the USA. Sir William owned ‘Scotsman’ for 23 years – longer than any of its preservation‑era proprietors so far. He purchased his first locomotive – one of the McAlpine firm’s Hudswell Clarke 0‑6‑0STs, No. 31 (Works No. 1026) – when he was aged just 29, in 1965. This locomotive would form the nucleus of the one‑mile Fawley Hill Railway and museum, one of the largest collections of railwayana outside of the National Collection. Sir William opened up his private railway to invited guests on selected open days, the highlight of which was the engine tackling the 1‑in‑13 gradient – the steepest adhesion‑worked incline in the UK. Another of his most notable contributions to preservation was saving the Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Railway from potential closure in the early 1970s. Sir William, in partnership with John Gretton, also owned ‘Castle’ No. 4079 Pendennis Castle from 1971‑77, when he sold it to Hamersley Iron Co. and the locomotive moved to Australia. His main line interests extended beyond locomotives and he was a major shareholder in what was then Steamtown, at Carnforth. He also owned a number of main line‑certified carriages. David Ward, former director of BR Special Trains, paid tribute to Sir William: “There would be no main line steam today if, in the 1980s, Sir William had not purchased two sets of steam‑ compatible carriages and made them available for steam workings. These purchases and his influence where it mattered with senior railway management ensured those who wanted steam off the main line did not win. The carriages still form the backbone of the steam sets.”
Sir William mcalpine on the footplate of Flying Scotsman on april 13 2017 at the Bluebell railway.