RECORD-BREAK­ING DRIVER GOR­DON HOOPER DIES

Steam Railway (UK) - - NEWS FOCUS -

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.

PIC­TURE: DON BENN

Nine Elms driver Gor­don Hooper in Ex­eter in Septem­ber 2017.

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