March 21, 2012

Alan Pegler & 4472: A few words

It’s been a sad few months for railway preservation. First it was George Hinchcliffe, a man I am ashamed to say I knew heinously little about before he died. Then it was Malcolm Crawley, of the A1 Trust, who I knew personally albeit in a limited capacity as a friend of a friend.

Then of course, we have lost Alan Pegler this weekend. Many of us, did not know him personally. We all knew him, perhaps through specific literature, VHS tapes which used to play shots of Flying Scotsman in Australia, or Great British Steam, where we remember him smiling broadly as he watched this gleaming, apple green engine leave Doncaster Works for the final time.

One thing these three men all had in common, were apple green Pacific locomotives of the London & North Eastern Railway. All have, whether consciously or subconsciously, affected your lives, because you have experienced the fruits of their labours in railway preservation over many years.

Some of us are very positive because of this. We see 4472, not as museum piece, but as a living, constantly changing being. In this respect, it is no different to you or I. I am not the same I was in 1987, given my components are constantly renewing and changing, but I am still “Simon Martin” in the same way that “Flying Scotsman” remains Flying Scotsman.

I personally don’t care whether Flying Scotsman has the same components it had in 1923. It’s not a museum piece. That place in time and space, always reserved for 4472, has always been known as 4472. The number and the name remains constant, even if all the components do not. She is the sum of her components, no more and no less than we are.

I’ve seen firsthand the work going into her. Talked firsthand with people working on her, and I, and many hundreds of thousands of people, the world over, have put into the restoration pot our own money, freely, and in some rare cases, time and effort too.

I would like to think that the passing of Alan Pegler will present a line drawn in the sand. Here is where we remember what railway preservation was all about, and how we must go forward in the future.

Above all, remember that people sacrificed their wealth, their time, health and lives to bring into the present day, this relic of the past. Remember what it stands for: more than the sum of its original components.

It remains a Talisman, an apple green reminder of a time when railway preservation was but a glint in a few determined people’s eyes, and when hope was built from coal, flames, steam and steel.

Let 4472 be a living memorial, and moreover, remain the living being that it was described as, first by Pegler in the 1960s, and now in 2012, nearly 50 years after he bought her from British Railways.

Rest in peace Alan Pegler, and thank you, both for 4472, and the hope that you have, and will continue to give, generations of railway enthusiasts around the world.

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