Dave Lindo, Gleaner Writer
RONALD POWELL is one of many Caribbean natio-nals who have played a major part in the success of the London Underground, after clocking 33 years of dedicated service to the company.
On January 9, London Underground celebrated 150 years since the first underground journey took place between Paddington and Farringdon on the Metropolitan Railway.
Powell came from humble beginnings in Grove Place, a community near Mile Gully in northwest Manchester.
"I came from a poor family. I went to Mile Gully Elementary School and after, I worked at the Grove Place Farm for 13 years in the citrus industry," Powell said.
In search of a better life, he migrated to England in 1957. As he explained, "I was just married at 25 and things weren't easy for me, so I decided to try England. I had an older sister who was living in London, so she sponsored me."
His first job was in the health sector. "I first got a job at Neasden Hospital in London. I worked there for over a year in auxiliary nursing," Powell said.
He had a burning desire to work at London Transport. "I just had a fascination for the railway from my days in Jamaica," he said. "I used to run and watch the trains passing by in my district, and I said that one of my dreams was to drive a train one day."
While working at the hospital, Powell made several applications to London Underground and eventually got a job as a porter.
Powell remembered the date he started working there 'at the top of his head', June 4, 1959. As a matter of fact, he has a diary, which he has been making daily entries into since 1954.
"I was happy in getting that job," he said. "I felt my life ambition was being fulfilled because I always wanted to be on the train. I was so excited that I wrote my mother and told her that I was going to be working on the train."
After working as a porter for a few months, he was interviewed for a job as a guard on the train and passed the test for that job on August 5, 1959.
He worked in that position for seven years and then got the job of his dreams. "The opportunity came up to apply for a driver, so I was interviewed for the post on April 5, 1967 and was successful," Powell said. "I drove the train for 15 years."
Speaking about a moment that stood out in his memories as a driver, he said, "There was a very bad disaster at Kings Cross (station), a fire where 30-odd people got killed.
"London Underground has a high safety record. You have to deal with thousands of people each day and the voltage that runs those trains are 630 volts, so you have to take all sort of precautions. So when that disaster happened, it was surprising for us."
Of his most loved routes to drive on, he said, "It's the Oldgate to Amersham route, it was a fast run, you don't stop at every station," Powell said. "I like it (route) because I didn't like the underground so much, which most of the train routes go through. This run was mostly on surface, so it was lovely, I enjoyed the view."
Powell showed commitment to his job and was promoted to an inspector. "I passed the inspector course the 15th of November 1982 where I got off the train and was in charge of a station," Powell explained.
"And then on the first of September 1983, I was promoted to a station master, which [meant] you were in charge of about three or four stations."
Powell worked as a station master at London Underground until his retirement in 1993, after which he returned to Jamaica.
"I thank London Transport very, very much for what they did to me, for giving me an opportunity to make something of my life," Powell said. "I said I wanted to return to Jamaica to live a good life, to have a nice house, a nice car, and I have achieved all of that, added to a beautiful wife."