Former Great Western Railway driver Gordon Pritchard will ride in the driver’s cab of a new Intercity Express Train as part of his 100th birthday celebrations.
The Second World War hero will experience GWR’s high-speed, bullet-style train when he joins current driver depot manager Ted Llewellyn in the cab from Swansea.
A 93-mile journey to Swindon – taking less than two hours ¬– will be a far cry from transporting soldiers, goods and artillery across Asia and Europe in War Department locomotives.
At Swindon, Gordon will take a trip down memory lane with a tour of the town’s railway heritage STEAM Museum.
“It’s going to be wonderful to ride in the cab of a train again and I’m looking forward to being on one of the new Intercity Express Trains. I’m grateful to GWR and STEAM for organising this.”
Swindon holds a special place in Gordon’s heart as he passed his first railways tests in the town in 1937. After the war he went on to enjoy more than 40 years’ service with GWR.
“Looking back I had a wonderful time on the railways. I remember receiving a telegram from my Dad telling me I had to go down to Swindon to take my tests.
“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.”
Ted, Driver Depot Manager, Bristol, said he was looking forward to treating Gordon to the Intercity Express Train experience.
Ted said: “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 I wouldn’t be surprised if he and Gordon knew each other.”
Born in Swansea on November 30, 1919, Gordon left school at 14 and worked for a couple of local butchers. He then took a factory job in Birmingham before sitting his first GWR tests.
“I remember having to follow different signal sequences – if you were colour blind you’d had it!” he said.
He married Olive in 1947 and they had two children, Paula and Roger. 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.
Olive passed away six years ago, aged 88, and Gordon is now cared for by his daughter Paula, granddaughter Victoria and her partner Ben.
Gordon worked in the freight yards of 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.