Above: a northbound train speeds out of Stoke Tunnel in May 1983.
Photograph by Mel Smith
High Speed Trains (HSTs, also known as class 43) are diesel-powered passenger trains built by British Rail Engineering Limited (BREL) between 1975 and 1982. Also known as the Inter-City 125s, they commenced regular services on the East Coast Main Line (ECML) through Grantham in May 1978. They took over a number of top link passenger trains from Deltic locomotives (class 55), which had supplanted steam power in the early 1960s. As the years went by, HSTs became the mainstay of passenger services on the eastern side of the country.
By 2019, with the impending full introduction of the Hitachi Azuma fleet on the ECML through Grantham, the writing was very firmly on the wall for the HST fleet.
Sunday 15th December 2019 was a significant day on the southern end of the ECML because it was the very last day of revenue-earning services for the venerable class 43 power cars and their associated vehicles.
As a curtain call LNER ran four Say Goodbye to the Inter-City 125 excursions using a BR blue painted set. The final one was Leeds to London King's Cross on Saturday 21st December, with a stop at Grantham.
The customers of successive ECML train operators had travelled through Grantham in HST sets for more than 42 years, a unique record.
Setting the achievement of the HST into historical perspective is difficult because, unlike their predecessors, they are complete trains, not a locomotive hauling a set of carriages. Confining the comparison to motive power alone, it appears that no class of diesel locomotive came near to four decades' use on scheduled ECML express services.
Going back to steam days, arguably only two classes of locomotive have a comparable record of longevity. They are the Ivatt GNR Large Atlantics (from 1902 until the 1940s), and the Gresley GNR/LNER A1/A3s (from 1922 until the 1960s).