HARD work on the railways is the secret to long life, according to one of Darlington’s oldest men.

Former steam engine driver Albert Hawman celebrates his 104th birthday surrounded by family and friends on Friday.

Mr Hawman was born in Barnard Castle in 1912 and, following in the footsteps of his father, began working on the railways at just 14.

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He began his career as a cleaner and became a fireman before eventually being promoted to driver.

The Northern Echo: Albert Hawman, of Darlington, is celebrating his 104th birthday. Picture: TOM BANKS

Albert Hawman was a steam engine driver

Forged in the intense heat and exhausting labour of the steam-driven railways, Mr Hawman’s memories are now those of a bygone era.

But, he says, there are lessons to be learned from those who lived through such times.

“Driving steam trains was something I enjoyed, the driving wasn’t such hard work but being a fireman was – it was so hot in there,” he said.

“The work was hard but it kept me fit and I think that’s how I’ve lasted so long.

“I always tried to keep myself healthy and I’ve lived a clean life.

“Not many people of today’s generation like hard work yet they will pay to go to a gym and exercise there.

“I’ve never had to go to a gym in my life, I always got my exercise through my work and I think more people should do that.”

Outside of his work, Mr Hawman has enjoyed a long and happy life as a keen gardener and devoted family man.

He was married to wife Vera for more than 55 years, had two sons, Douglas and David, and went on to be a grandfather to six and great-grandfather to six more.

Greenfingered since he was a youngster, Mr Hawman had an allotment in his name from the age of 14 and when he was 99, had a chrysanthemum named in his honour as the oldest member of the Darlington Chrysanthemum and Dahlia Society, where he’d been enlisted since 1950.

He is also a keen reader of The Northern Echo, having had the newspaper delivered since 1939.

Now living at The Grange care home in Darlington, Mr Hawman will mark his 104th birthday with his loved ones.

He said: “My favourite memories are of being part of a loving, caring family.

“It is an achievement to get to 104 but I hear that old age can be cruel.”