On the right track to retire
As a young boy, Gavin Mortimore remembers being interested in the steam and the smell of train engines attending railway picnics with his dad.
After leaving school he went into farming for a few years before realising his true passion was with trains.
After a medical check and simple test, he got a job at KiwiRail as a 19 year old, and started almost straight away in the locomotive department, paid 88c an hour, in 1971.
Now after 47 years Mortimore has retired. He served his last day on Friday.
Throughout the years he had achieved a lot and seen many changes in the industry, he said.
Starting out, he was sent to Lumsden to work as a cleaner on the Kingston Flyer, but in 1976 he got his second grade driver’s ticket to drive freight trains.
Then after two years experience he gained his first grade ticket to drive passenger trains.
‘‘It took seven years to go from the polishing boy to get my driving ticket.’’
Later in 1985 he also got his steam driver’s ticket.
Things in the 70s and 80s were different to recent years though.
Back then there were more social events, including sports tournaments and dances.
The main reason for the drop in activities was the staff reductions over time.
When Mortimore started in the locomotive department there were 48 staff in Invercargill but now there are eight.
However, he still believed the people were what kept him in the industry so long.
‘‘It’s the people you work with that makes the job go round ... there’s lots of characters in the industry.’’
As well as staff cuts, some train lines had closed down in the region and he had seen technological advancements that impacted the industry.
There were new rules and regulations, and health and safety standards were cracked down on too, he said.
After having five workmates killed on the job, there was more training, and staff had to be recertified every two years.
‘‘It’s a good idea. This industry is not forgiving if you have an accident.’’
After retiring, he was most looking forward to giving up night shifts, and had plans for holidays and family time.
Gavin Mortimore has retired from KiwiRail after 47 years as a driver.