We Are Railfans Podcast: HST - Driving the Icon



July 1st, 2021

Earlier in the year we kicked off our We Are Railfans Podcast with broadcaster and N gauge modeller Ben Ando who talked about how he became a railfan, what interested him in the railway world and what the future holds for the hobby and the industry.

For the rest of the series, the We Are Railfans Podcast will be stepping into the cab and onto the footplate of a varied collection of locomotives and units, talking to the people that operate them for a living. The first such episode, entitled 'Driving the Icon', delves into life behind the controls of the iconic InterCity 125, otherwise known as the HST or High Speed Train. Host Sam talks to driver Ian who discusses starting your journey as a driver, some of the challenges they face and what makes the HST such a joy to operate.

You can listen to this latest episode here:

Or alternatively follow this link to listen via a number of different outlets: https://pod.fo/e/d6cc1 - Make sure you subscribe, so you never miss an episode and leave us a review! You can also let us know what you think via social media, on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or our new Tiktok account. HST-St-Philips-Marsh-Adam-Lucas A colourful array of HST power cars line up for a photoshoot at St Philips Marsh, Bristol. Left to right: 43172 'Harry Patch'; 43423 in Grand Central livery; 43013, a New Measurement Train power car; 43300 in LNER livery; 43048 in East Midlands Trains livery and 43137 in GWR livery. Photo by Adam Lucas.

But what is it about the HST that's so special and iconic? For over 40 years these trains have defined high-speed rail in the UK, carrying passengers across its length and breadth under a number of different brands and operating companies and today they have a strong following with specific examples now in preservation and others given a new lease of life for exclusive rail tours. There are, however, still many in mainline operation, most notably with GWR who run their 'Castle Class' sets across a number of routes in southwest England. IC125-Swallow-Adam-Lucas Perhaps the livery that railfans remember most fondly. The InterCity 125 in its iconic InterCity swallow livery, seen here on power car No.43185. Photo by Adam Lucas. FGW-HST-Newport-Adam-Lucas Prior to the rebranding and respraying to GWR, South Wales and the West Country saw plenty of First Great Western HSTs as seen here. This set is pulling into Newport Station (Gorsaf Rheilffordd Casnewydd). Photo by Adam Lucas.

The trains operate in a top-and-tail formation with two Class 43 power cars at each end of a Mark 3 consist, typically between 4 and 8 carriages. Origins for the project were in the prototype Class 41 locomotives built in 1972 and tested across the network until the refined Class 43 replaced them in 1975. Reaching speeds of 125mph, giving the trains their IC125 title, they were crucial in improving the journey times across the UK from London, into Wales and through the Midlands up to the North and Scotland. The innovative aerodynamically-styled cab was instrumental in achieving such speeds. 41001-Class-41-Adam-Lucas The prototype Class 41 No.41001 began test runs in 1972 and paved the way for what would become the HST and the Class 43 locomotives. This power car now resides with the National Rail Museum. Photo by Adam Lucas.

In recent years, many sets have been withdrawn by operators on certain routes as the more recent Class 800 trains have introduced themselves to the network, but in some areas, notably those without electrification, the HSTs continue to whizz passengers across the nation with long-standing, committed drivers like Ian taking the helm. The days may be numbered for the units as their approach 50 years on the rails, but for railfans, passengers and the drivers they will always remain one of the most popular and recognisable trains in the UK. IET-GWR-Pride-Adam-Lucas Ian now drives the GWR IET Class 800 trains. Whilst unable to top the speed of the HST due to the operating speed of the line, it is a marked improvement in terms of comfort and efficiency for both passengers and the driver. This is example No.800008 featuring the #Trainbow decal. Photo by Adam Lucas.

Thanks to Ian and to GWR for working with us on the Podcast and to Adam Lucas for use of photographs in this feature. You can find out more about Ian's Facebook Group here: The Two Miles A Minute Group

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