The great Nine Elms legend Gordon Hooper sadly passed away on Saturday 1st September. He was a superb engineman in the later years of SR steam and in my opinion he was in the top three along with Gordon Porter and Bert Hooker.
Gordon Hooper 1930 - 2018
Over many years railwaymen have moved homes in order to continue their chosen profession in life. Rather than find an alternative trade, for a variety of reasons, railway employment had a ‘lure’ that ensured such men had long years of continued service.
The decision to move on from those distant counties to depots nearer London were massive steps in their lives, however it saw such men from far out smaller depots heading up to the ‘smoke’.
Nine Elms over many decades were the recipients of such bold men, hailing from West of England counties like Wiltshire - Dorset - Somerset - Devon and even Cornwall! With their broad accents, that they never lost, they became part of the London and Home Counties railway scene.
Gordon Hooper was one such man who took that bold step and duly transferred from Exmouth Junction to Nine Elms in 1962. His seniority date went back to 1946 and thus enabled a junior ‘Passed Fireman’ to attain a position as a ‘Driver’ in a main line link at the depot. He soon established himself once his route learning was completed and became known for his method of driving, as many former firemen would testify! If Gordon was up the front then sparks were ‘going to fly’ and over the last years of steam operation over South Western metals he forged the reputation as a formidable Engineman.
Sadly we have lost yet another wonderful character, for he passed away on the 1st September at the age of eighty-eight. Those that knew him will speak of him for a long time, as he now joins the ranks of past ‘Enginemen Elite’, farewell old friend.
Dave 'Dropgrate' Wilson has written the following:
Tim Crowley spoke about Gordon Hooper coming up to Nine Elms from the West Country - I arrived from the opposite end of the country - 'up North'. I was there not for promotion, but to have the chance to fire steam locos on main line passenger duties.
Gordon was not my regular mate but, I knew his reputation for 'hard' running - and I was all in favour of that. Our paths crossed on a truly memorable night in May 1965 when we were paired together on the 21:20 Ex. Waterloo; with us on the footplate was inspector Brian Smith. In the train were several well known compilers of performance logs, I later discovered. On that night we set the record for the fastest known recorded time, with a regular steam hauled service train, from Waterloo to stopping at Basingstoke. And that wasn't to be the end of it as, on the descent to Winchester we reached 105mph.
I enjoyed three wonderful years at Nine Elms; I learned a great deal, played cards, badly, and had the pleasure of knowing some very fine railwaymen. Bert Hooker, who used to tell of how we first met, in his after dinner speaking engagements, my regular mate in 3 Link Eric 'sooty' Saunders and a few very enjoyable trips I made with the other Gordon, Gordon Porter, to name just a few of the enginemen who made it a pleasure and a privilege to share the footplate with them. However, if those three fabulous years had a high point it was that night in May 1965 firing for driver Gordon Hooper, on the 21.20 with No.35005 Canadian Pacific. A night which remains etched on my memory - thank you Gordon.
RIP Gordon Hooper 'Engineman'
We offer our sincere condolences to Gordon’s wife and family.
The funeral will be on Tuesday 18th September 2018 at 12.30pm, Devon & Exeter Crematorium, St. Peters Chapel, Topsham Road, EX2 6EU.
Gordon Hooper seen in the photo above at Southampton Central 8th April 1966.
Photo copyright John Tiley, thanks to Don Benn.
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