Northwick Park Hospital engineer retires as the boiler house he worked in is powered down

Northwick Park Hospital engineer Dave Waterman is retiring after 40 years service.

Northwick Park Hospital engineer Dave Waterman is retiring after 40 years service. - Credit: Archant

It’s the “end of an era” for Northwick Park Hospital’s steam boiler engineer who is retiring at the same time as the boiler house powers down.

Dave Waterman is to leave the Watford Road hospital next year after more than 40 years service.

The boiler house will also go into retirement, to be replaced by a new energy efficient plant.

“I’m not particularly sentimental but it’s the end of an era for both of us,” the 59-year-old said.

Dave joined as a 16-year-old apprentice in the mid-70s.

His mum and dad were also working as a cleaner and painter at the hospital.

His boiler room bosses warned the teen that he should not be afraid to get his hands dirty.

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“They weren’t joking,” he said. “They had me up on the roof on the first day helping dismantle some machinery - but the wages were great. I got £38 a week which was double what my friends got.

“I was a fitter’s mate and fixed everything from wheelchairs to ventilation units. I learnt on the job and studied for my City and Guilds in the evenings.

“It was a very different place then but I learnt at the feet of the masters because people just don’t have those skills anymore.”

Dave would let off steam in the social club, which was quite a “rocking” place in the 1970s and 80s, Dave said, “especially at the weekends”.

“I’ve had some fantastic nights down there and everyone who was anyone would pile in after work. I even met my wife there,” he added.

The three 20ft gas/diesel-fired boilers in the boiler room were originally commissioned in 1967 to provide heating and hot water to the hospital.

They run constantly throughout the winter months, with steam generated from the boilers transported via a network of underground pipes that collectively run for several miles.

The temperature on inspection walkways above can climb to more than 40C in the summer and there is the constant throb of machinery.

Dave spends two months taking each boiler apart for their annual inspection, before painstakingly putting them back together.

“I don’t get to do much hands-on maintenance nowadays but it’s still my favourite part of the job,” he said.

The reggae and Ska fan said “music and travelling,” is how he will let off steam in retirement.