A train that’ll regularly call at the home of the UK’s spy centre, GCHQ has been named after the World War Two codebreaker, Alan Turing.

The Great Western Railway (GWR) train will regularly call at Cheltenham Spa station, about a 20-minute walk from GCHQ’s famous doughnut shaped headquarters building where modern code breakers expand the legacy set by Alan Turing at Bletchley Park during WWII.

Alan Turning was not just a legendary code breaker and mathematician, he was gay at a time when that was illegal, and tragically took his own life after being convicted. Therefore, the train that’s been named after him is also the GWR’s Trainbow train, the one with the rainbow flag for gay rights. The trainbow has also been updated to reflect changing times, and now includes black, brown, light blue, light pink and white, bringing focus on inclusion for trans individuals, marginalised people of colour and those living with HIV/AIDS.

Intercity Express Train is also train number 800008, which pays a nod to the WWII codebreakers and their mastery of palindromes. And, as you might expect with something related to Alan Turing, there’s a code/cypher hidden in the letters that fill the trainbow.

The naming ceremony was planned to take place in 2020 on the 75th anniversary of VE Day as part of a wider naming of trains after wartime heroes, but Turing’s train was delayed by the pandemic, and it was only this week that all the parties involved were able to come together.

Included in the naming ceremony were two of Alan’s nieces, and Inagh Payne, speaking on behalf of the family, said “We have our own fond memories of him as a loving and caring uncle and it is wonderful to see this tribute to him, and that he is remembered, and his life celebrated by so many people.”

Following the launch of a campaign in 2009, Alan Turning was granted a posthumous royal pardon four years in 2013. A subsequent legal amendment, known as ‘Turing’s Law’, pardoned 65,000 other convicted gay and bisexual men.

GWR first unveiled the trainbow livery in 2018, and it has been adopted by a number of other train companies.

Reflecting on the addition of the trans colours, Plymouth City Councillor, and the first trans Councillor, Dylan Tippetts said that it’s an important symbol of the batter being fought today for trans rights, and that newspaper headlines today are invoking the same fears as they did in the 1980s about gay men, but today it’s trans rights.

He added though that the trainbow is one of “the things that bring us together and not those that divide us”

The naming ceremony took place at Paddington station, not far from where Alan Turing was born, and was broadcast on GWR’s Facebook page here.

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8 comments
  1. John says:

    Didn’t Turing work at bletchly Park for mi6, would have been better to have named an avanti mk to euston train.

    • ianVisits says:

      Difficult for GWR to do that.

    • Julian says:

      It’s still appropriate as Turing was born near Paddington (there is a sculpted figure of him on Paddington Green) and GWR serves Cheltenham Spa, where GCHQ has expanded on the codebreaking work that Turing pioneered.

      Avanti already has a LGBTQ+ train, as London Northwestern actually serves Bletchley perhaps they could come up with something appropriate?

  2. Richard Walder says:

    Bill Tutt who broke “Tunny “ encoded by the Lorentz cipher teleprinter is equally deserving but is a virtual unknown

  3. Paul Cavill says:

    Totally agree, let’s have a train named after Bill Tutt who is equally deserving

  4. Colin Brown says:

    And who designed and built the machines to make this possilbe? Yes Tommy Flowers. The person who is almost forgotten, but without him all of Turings, and Tutt’s dreams would not come into existance!

    • ianVisits says:

      Most computer or WW2 history people I know are all very aware of who Tommy Flowers was and what he did at Dollis Hill.

      I accept he isn’t as famous as other people, but that could be said of most people as well – but to say he is almost forgotten is a massive exaggeration.

  5. Colin Brown says:

    For my sins I did a computer science, in computing theory we learned about Claude Shannon information theory, Alan Turring, and von neumann architecture. But we never learnt anything about Tommy Flowers and his significance to computing hardware, to be fair BT research acknowledges who he was, so do Hackney and Barnet Councils. My point is that many people in the computing industry would have told about him, and then to search on the internet to find out more details about him!

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