Sir Wil­liam McAlpine passes away

Steam Railway (UK) - - Contents -

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.”

steve toWn

Sir Wil­liam mcalpine on the foot­plate of Fly­ing Scots­man on april 13 2017 at the Blue­bell rail­way.

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