RECORD-BREAKING DRIVER GORDON HOOPER DIES
Nine Elms engineman Gordon Hooper died of a brain haemorrhage, aged 87, on September 1, writes DON BENN.
Born on Boxing Day 1930, he joined Exmouth Junction shed as a cleaner and worked through the usual progression to driver before he realised that the Southern shed would soon close. He had the choice of staying with the Western Region with diesels or moving to a shed of his choice. He chose Nine Elms but kept his seniority in the move and so worked in No. 3 and No. 2 links, first learning the road to Salisbury and then to Bournemouth.
He set three records in 1965 that were never beaten. The first was the Up ‘Bournemouth Belle’ run on April 4 when, with ten Pullmans and a bogie van weighing 455 tons, ‘Merchant Navy’ No. 35012 United States Lines topped Roundwood summit at 76mph, a record with this load. In doing so, the engine produced over 3,000ihp, the highest known for any Bulleid ‘Pacific’ and rated in the top three steam runs in the UK.
On the 9.20pm Down train on May 15 1965, with No. 35005 Canadian Pacific hauling ten coaches (a load of 355 tons) he reached Basingstoke in 43 minutes 48 seconds having touched 90mph after Hook. This is the fastest known time to Basingstoke with steam. He then went on to reach 105mph down Roundwood bank, the second highest speed known with Southern steam.
After the end of steam, he continued to work on ‘Warship’ diesels between Waterloo and Salisbury and electric services to Bournemouth. He then moved to Weymouth and Salisbury, both as train crew supervisor. His final move was back to Exeter, from where he retired in 1995.
Nine Elms driver Gordon Hooper in Exeter in September 2017.