Great Western Railway has helped a former driver celebrate his 100th birthday in style.
Gordon Pritchard was born in Swansea in 1919. Leaving school at 14, he worked for a couple of local butchers, then in a factory in Birmingham, before taking and passing his first railways tests in Swindon in 1937.
“I remember having to follow different signal sequences – if you were colour blind you’d had it!” he remembered.
“When I passed everyone was congratulating me and telling me I’d got myself a job for life. It was difficult to understand at the time but as it turned out they were right.”
He then worked for Great Western Railway in the freight yards at Swansea, before signing up for Militia training in 1939. Soon after his 20th birthday he was called up, joining 190 Railway Operating Company, Royal Engineers.
His first assignment was to Persia, shipping coal and troops from the gulf of Tehran. He remembers colleagues fainting from the heat of the coal-driven engines and being hosed down to cool off.
He later served in Baghdad, Beirut and Lebanon, before developing ulcers on the cornea of his left eye and being sent to North Africa to convalesce.
After rejoining his company in Sicily, Gordon spent time in Austria and Poland before he was sent to Venice for the end of the war.
After returning to work with GWR, Gordon successfully applied for a vacancy at Southall yard.
Gordon’s career with GWR spanned freight and passenger trains and he would regularly drive the Swansea-London Paddington route.
He later worked on the Port Tennant and Danygraig lines and transported coal from the pits in the Merthyr Valley to Swansea Docks before retiring in May 1983.
On a personal front, he married Olive in 1947 and they had two children, Paula and Roger.
Sadly, Olive passed away six years ago, aged 88. Gordon is now cared for by his daughter Paula, granddaughter Victoria and her fiancé Ben.
It was Victoria and Ben who took Gordon to Swansea station where he joined driver depot manager Ted Llewellyn in the cab of one of GWR’s new Hitachi-built Intercity Express Trains for the 93-mile journey to Swindon – a journey he regularly made as a driver.
At Swindon, Gordon took a trip down memory lane with a tour of the town’s railway heritage STEAM Museum, where GWR presented him with a cake and framed picture.
At the end of his exciting day, Gordon said: “It’s been absolutely fantastic. I had a wonderful time in the cab of the new Intercity Express Train although it was a very different experience to the trains I used to drive. I’m so grateful to GWR and STEAM for organising this.”
Ted Llewellyn said he had enjoyed treating Gordon to the Intercity Express Train experience: “It was great to take him all the way to Swindon. Gordon’s a real railway character – a proper old railwayman with all that railway wit.
“I come from a railway family and my own father David worked as a driver for 48 years. Sadly he passed away in July but there’s a strong likelihood he and Gordon would have known each other.”