British Rail’s InterCity 125, the famous High Speed Train, has finally, after just 41 years, retired from mainline high speed service, with final scheduled journeys on the East Coast Main Line last week. But operator London North Eastern Railway wasn’t going to let the legend fade quietly away.
Since 1978, these remarkable trains have been running from London to Yorkshire, north east England and Scotland, following the mighty Deltics. But now 125mph diesels are history; shortened units remain in Scotland and south west England, but the final long distance services on the slower Midland main line and Cross Country routes will end in 2020.
In May this year, when Great Western’s HSTs surrendered to the onslaught of new Hitachi electric and bi-mode trains, GWR painted power cars in historic liveries and organised a sequence of four special trains from London Paddington to destinations across the GWR network. The bar for LNER’s celebrations of the world’s greatest diesel train was pretty high after that.
But LNER has risen to the challenge, and in my opinion surpassed it. We didn’t just see a power car repainted in historic liveries – we were treated to a whole train of 2 power cars and 7 carriages in the original HST livery of Rail Blue and Grey from 1978, specially repainted for the occasion. The set looked spectacular – this was a quality paint job.
By contrast, this is the standard LNER livery – dramatic I grant you but not a great fit for the styling of the train.
Inside, the modern aircraft style seats remained, but the buffet was decorated with period BR posters.
And not just a final departure from London Kings Cross. LNER took the train on tour, across the whole of its network from Edinburgh to Aberdeen and Inverness; back to Edinburgh, then to Newcastle upon Tyne, York and Leeds, and finally from Leeds through Doncaster to Kings Cross. Passengers were from all over the UK. And at least one Yank – Gideon from Chicago made a special trip just to travel on the HST, and got interviewed on local radio in York as a bonus. Here, the set passes along the coast of Fife, north of Edinburgh with the Forth Bridges in the background.
Many thanks to Jamie McEwan for this wonderful video of the @LNER #Intercity125 HST farewell tour yesterday on the Highland Main Line heading south at Dalnaspidal. #HML pic.twitter.com/efw46KqBxH
— HighlandMainLineCRP (@hmlcrp) December 20, 2019
The tour was promoted as LNER’s HST Farewell, but it was a goodwill builder, not a profit maker – proceeds are going to a charity working to reduce the incidence of suicide. And despite it being December, even the weather cooperated, with dramatic snow in the Scottish Highlands.
Some shiny blue and white pointy diesel thingy crossing the Kind Edward Bridge, Newcastle earlier today…@lner_adamreid@LNER#HSTFarewell pic.twitter.com/1BwWUBsmNu
— Patrick Rice FCMI – #StayHomeSaveLives (@Patrick_Rice) December 20, 2019
Here, we see the last ever HST cross the King Edward Bridge over the Tyne at Newcastle
A last farewell to Darlington, birthplace of the railway.
I think it’s fair to say the drivers enjoyed the distinctive HST horns! Many of those lucky enough to drive the train had dug out their old BR uniforms for the day, in place of LNER’s bright red. This is Wakefield Westgate, where I first saw HSTs 41 years ago.
And again! #LetsGoRoundAgain #InterCity125 @LNER
🎥 Tim Wade pic.twitter.com/Yvi2cXZsge
— 125 Group (@125Group) December 21, 2019
A lucky encounter with a electric class 91 hauled express
Crowds at Kings Cross for the last rites, including Sir Kenneth Grange, designer of the power car’s distinctive nose and livery.
Here are some proud drivers at Kings Cross – who isn’t envious?
And for the final time through Doncaster…
Flying through with tones to boot. @LNER @125_RailwayInfo @railcamlive #LetsGoRoundAgain #HSTFarewell pic.twitter.com/x96gMxo3WH
— Mir 🚂🦨💙 (@mirmuln1r) December 21, 2019
Then, after dark, returning to Edinburgh without passengers for an uncertain future – but giving Doncaster, birthplace of Flying Scotsman, something to remember on a dark and miserable night
*PARP PARP* #LetsGoRoundAgain #InterCity125 @LNER @richardsalkeld
🎥 125 Group member Alex Jackson pic.twitter.com/elBow66VdC
— 125 Group (@125Group) December 21, 2019
And, finally, this is what the fuss was all about. As LNER put, “we’ve had a good trip!”
the final farewell tour passing through Moy this afternoon heading for Edinburgh. @DavidHorne @warrick7622 @LNER @AlexHynes @SirPeterHendy @richardsalkeld pic.twitter.com/qGRJmyusgs
— InvernessMOM (@InvernessMom) December 19, 2019
And very finally – well done LNER. You didn’t have to do any of this, but you did, and you did superbly.
Articles like this one make me feel old – it seems just yesterday that those trains were the latest thing. Thanks for keeping us up to date on the world of rail.
Also I had a giggle at the typo in that Twitter post you included that referred to it crossing the Kind Edward Bridge. 🙂 The world needs kind Edwards.
It makes me feel embarrassed.
In 1978, it took the train about 10.5 hours to do the 600 miles of Melbourne to Sydney, that distance being about another 1/3 of London-Edinburgh (400 miles).
If one added a third of the 4.5 hours – less, actually – that the Intercity 125 took to do London-Edinburgh, it would be 6 hours Melb-Sydney.
But in 2019, it takes about 10.5 hours to the 600 miles of Melbourne to Sydney. And in truth, it’s usually longer.
Wonder if I’ll live another 40 years to see the Brits retiring the next thing to use Maglev for the 1.5 hour London- Edinburgh trip? I could read about it on the 10.5 hour journey to Sydney.
I believe it is scheduled to get Wi-fi that year.
I remember when my best friends’ sister got engaged to a chap who was working on the proposed tilting high speed train – it seemed pretty far-fetched.
Far fetched? Hardly. Yes, ultimately they couldn’t get it working reliably enough or, more especially, within budget. That does not mean the concept was inherently a bad idea.
41 years … that’s what it will end up taking just to build our first high speed train in California. That is, if it ever gets finished.
Sorry to see them go, but they’ve had an amazing innings as top-rank express trains. I was at the end of my teens when these came into service and I’ve got a bus pass now! Nice to see they can still zip along, but the soundtrack lost its appeal when they were re-engined; I do miss those two screaming Paxmans.
In 1976, in October I took a train form London to Bath I believe. It was the maiden run of a high speed train and it looked a lot the one(s) depicted here. Was that a different train? Thanks in advance for your input.
It would have been one of these – the GW HSTs were finally retired earlier this year
Yes, the same trains with about another 8 million miles on the clock.
Thank you. I remember they were very quiet and smooth. A real joy.
Marvelous machines I used to travel to bristol,cardiff and swansea most weekends for
£1.25 when the HSTs were new !
MY mum got all of her friends,neighbours and relations to collect the vouchers from their persil washing powder I HAD SOME OF THE BEST DAYS OF MY LIFE ON THESE TRAINS.
Some people loved the valentas but these NEW engines just purr when pulling away. They are almost quieter than the 91s
They will be missed by everybody.
Anyone know the name of the Paxman engineer who oversaw the first 17 Valenta engines into the Production Power cars ?