HST SERVICES THROUGH GRANTHAM - THE END OF AN ERA
Steve Philpott takes us back to the 15th December 2019 with his personal account of the final day of booked L.N.E.R. HST operation on the East Coast Main Line (ECML) through Grantham.
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. Each HST set is comprised of two Class 43 power cars, one at each end, with a rake of usually 9 Mark 3 carriages. They started regular ECML services through Grantham in May 1978, taking over a number of top link passenger trains from my beloved Deltics (class 55). Like many other people similar to myself and of the class 55 persuasion, they were not looked on very favourably and soon acquired rather derogatory nicknames such as ‘trams’ or ‘flying bananas’, the latter in keeping with their Inter-City 125 livery at the time.
As the years went by HSTs became the mainstay of passenger services on the eastern side of the country, in particular after the Deltics had finished at the end of 1981. The fare-paying travelling public loved them and eventually railway enthusiasts came to accept them as part of the everyday scene, in fact developing quite a following amongst the enthusiast fraternity and interest in the movements of individual power cars was high, as they were changed around fairly frequently. These changes resulted in many people going further afield to sample the Western Region (WR) allocated examples, which could be seen working on the Paddington to Bristol / South Wales / Plymouth and Penzance services, and well worth the trip purely to get the ‘foreign’ members of the class ‘in the book’ for sight and, often, haulage.
So, many years later, in 2019, with the impending full introduction of the Hitachi Azuma fleet on both the Great Western Main Line (GWML) and the ECML, through Grantham, the writing was very firmly on the wall for the HST fleet. By 18th May 2019 the WR was the first to completely eradicate the class from its services and the Eastern Region (ER) would follow suit in the December.
I had quite a long association with the class 43s, being a regular traveller when I worked in Doncaster for EWS / DB Schenker and I would often have an HST home in the evening for my commute back to Newark and I sometimes took the opportunity to time them. I had found, as is the case with all diesel classes, that some locomotives were slightly better than other members of the same class, however, in saying that, and in the case of HSTs there were two of them effectively working ‘in multi’ and I found that the performance of the individual was often equalised by its partner. My own experience of HST haulage over the years has allowed me to record many splendid performances and they were consistently able to achieve their 125 mph design speed with great regularity.
So, finally, here it was, Sunday 15th December 2019. It would be a significant day on the southern end of the ECML because, with the exception of the following Saturday and the running of the ‘Farewell Special’, with retro-liveried set, this was to be the very last day of revenue earning services for the venerable class 43 power cars and their associated vehicles.
On that Sunday I was in possession of an East Midlands Ranger rover ticket, thus allowing me unlimited travel on the ECML from Peterborough through Grantham and on to Doncaster and the ticket covered the whole day which was ideal! The word or ‘gen’ was that the three remaining HST East Coast sets would all be out on various turns and my plan was to try to sample each one as and when they came onto our ‘manor’ but, of course, this would be much easier said than done. The stopping patterns of the various ‘jobs’ they would be on were not particularly conducive to multiple ‘leaps’ from one to another. Fortunately, I already knew which diagrams were booked for HSTs, so all I then needed to know was which individual sets would be working which turns. The table below shows what I had managed to find out about this before setting off for the day. As you can see from this table, two sets were on Anglo-Scottish services and the third was only coming out to play late in the afternoon, with that and another of the sets having stabled overnight at Neville Hill depot on Saturday.
Now, armed with this information, it became clear to me that I would be riding on two of the sets during the late afternoon / early evening. Unfortunately, the third set would be out of reach, due to the way that the services were booked to run and their associated stopping patterns. I made the decision that somehow or other I needed to pick up and board both 1D26 (the 18.03 London King’s Cross to Harrogate) and 1D30 (the 19.35 London King’s Cross to Leeds City) which would be the final timetabled HST service train out of King’s Cross.
My plan was to get from one down train to another and avoid having an Azuma. The complication with 1D26 and 1D30 was that 1D26 stopped at Peterborough and Newark, but not at Grantham. On the other hand, 1D30 stopped at Peterborough and Grantham, before running non-stop to Doncaster. So, my mind was made up. I would pick up 1D26 at Peterborough and, after disembarking at Newark, I would then drive back to Grantham and pick up 1D30 which would then get me into Doncaster for 21.21 hours in time for 1E27 or 1E28, both of which would be class 91 turns, hence back to Grantham and home!
HOW THE DAY UNFOLDED.
So, as you can imagine, the first part of the day was spent whizzing back and forth between Newark, Peterborough and Doncaster with various class 91s. For the record, numbers 91106, 91107, 91128, and 91131. Whilst waiting at Doncaster between 1S19 and 1Y38 I did manage (in near darkness!) to photograph 43316 heading a late running 1E15 as it screamed through the middle road. Of course, that set was to be my power on 1D26 later on from Peterborough.
With no time to spare I hastily jumped on board my planned train south (1Y38) propelled by 91131 which was sitting patiently in platform 1 and upon arrival at Peterborough I decided to access the Open Train Times live mapping website and was soon able to check that 1E15 was indeed forming the booked service 1D26, back north as I had anticipated. By now I had been at Peterborough for nearly an hour and I knew that 1E18 was due in from Edinburgh soon, so I made my way to the southern extremity of platform 2 and waited for it to arrive on platform 1. I didn’t have long to wait and I managed to get a few fairly decent hand held shots of 43257 leading as it came to a stand.
On board I was able to spot a few familiar faces. Getting into position again I had time for some further forward looking shots before 43257 slipped away into the darkness with 1E18 bound for King’s Cross.
As the train disappeared southwards I made my way over to the downside platforms to wait in the cold for 1D26 to eventually arrive. Consulting the live mapping website again I kept a watchful eye on 1D26’s progress via the live mapping enabling me to know where it was and how it was doing. Suffice to say that I had the timing gear ready for when it arrived, unusually, in platform 5 with 43238 leading.
PETERBOROUGH TO GRANTHAM.
Boarding the train, I soon realised that it was full and unfortunately I would have to stand. As you can imagine, standing does not make for easy timing as the GPSs need to be perched on something to enable me to read them, being as I would then have both hands full just holding my notebook and writing! We were soon underway and 43238 and 43316 got off to a good start. By Tallington I recorded a speed of 112½ mph. This steadily increased as we progressed ever northwards towards Essendine and then onwards to Little Bytham with 121 mph being recorded around MP90, situated roughly equidistant between the two. The gradient now stiffened slightly and our speed flattened a little. Soon, however we topped the summit at Stoke with 117 mph on the clock in 14 mins 49 secs. Next up was Grantham and 1D26 slowed to a minimum of 98 mph for the restriction through the platforms and we passed in 17 mins 39 secs.
GRANTHAM TO NEWARK.
Those familiar with the layout at Grantham will know that the track curves to the right at the north end. As expected, our relative slowing was short lived, with the power soon on again by the time we’d passed Barrowby Road Junction, situated just north of the town. From here the gradient is favourable for the long straight up to Peascliffe Tunnel and beyond to Barkston. The HST really took full advantage of this, with several 128 mph speeds being recorded after Barkston, between Frinkley Lane and Broad Fen Lane crossings. Our speed never dropped below 127 mph on that particular stretch but, just after, the power was eased for the booked stop at Newark Northgate.
NEWARK ARRIVAL AND A STROKE OF LUCK.
During the trip north from Peterborough, whenever I could, I had looked up the other southbound HST diagram for EC002 - 1A45 (the 17.05 from Harrogate) which should have been well past us by now, being as it was booked to depart Newark Northgate at 18.44, which was before we’d even departed Peterborough. To my amazement, as we approached from the other direction I could see that it was only just arriving at Newark! I remember thinking, ‘could this be a tidy move here, will we make the minus 37* into it? ‘No’, I thought, ‘it’s surely too good to be true!’ I was really expecting 1A45 to be pulling out as we arrived, but it was still stationary, with all the platform-side doors still open! My train with 43238 - 1D26 came to a stand in 26 mins 33 secs at 19.18, so all in all about 1 minute early. As soon as the door locks were off, so was I, like a shot. I was out and over the footbridge in no time to try and catch 1A45. I needn’t have worried, though, as no-one seemed to be in any hurry to get the train away. In fact, so much so that I had ample time, along with quite a few others, to photograph 43238 and 43290 standing side-by-side on their respective trains. Someone informed me that it was actually all a bit of a put up job as LNER Control had authorised the Newark Northgate staff to hold 1A45 to allow people who wished to cross here from one train to another, and vice versa, to do so.
*Note: For the casual reader, my earlier mention of ‘minus 37’ probably needs an explanation. The ‘minus 37’ at Newark is one of minutes between departures of the two particular HST services in question on the day, i.e. 1A45 at 18.44 as against 1D26 at 19.21. That is to say that the southbound service (1A45) was booked to depart 37 minutes before the northbound service (1D26) should have arrived / departed, therefore, in railway parlance a ‘minus 37’. In this case on the day it was not the reality at this juncture, as 1A45 was running late (by design) and then deliberately held at Newark for 1D26 to make it, which was authorised by LNER management/ Control. This was a really nice touch by LNER and they should be commended for that.
43238 was dubbed the 'Flying Tomato' after having the N.R.M. vinyls removed in the autumn of 2019, resulting in its somewhat unique all over red livery, as opposed to the standard LNER 'swirl' livery.
NEWARK DEPARTURE AND BACK TO PETERBOROUGH.
After a few minutes both HSTs departed, almost simultaneously, and were now on their respective ways, with me, of course, thankfully on board 1A45, with 43317 leading 43290, for, hopefully, a good run to Peterborough. Once again, as is customary on a Sunday evening, the train was pretty full and I expected that I would have to stand again. However, I was kindly afforded a pew by one of my railway acquaintances who was part of a group occupying two bays of four in coach B. Heading south again past Claypole, Broad Fen Crossing and on towards Frinkley Lane, I recorded a maximum speed of 108½ mph on the stretch just after Barkston, adjacent to Jericho Wood and before Peascliffe Tunnel. Soon after, the power was eased again for the left hand curve and the 100 mph restriction through Grantham. Incidentally, for anyone who was on the platform at Grantham, we passed through at 97 mph in 10 mins 22 secs from Newark. Once clear of Grantham, Stoke was passed in 13 mins 30 secs and topped at 103½ mph.
ON MALLARD’S STRETCH.
Our speed subsequently increased as we dropped down Stoke bank towards Corby Glen with 126 mph being recorded at MP93 near Creeton. Just after, the brakes went on to accommodate a very annoying 80 mph temporary speed restriction (TSR) at Little Bytham, which, evidently, was on the Up Fast only. Unfortunately, this put a large dent into the booked running time, adding about 2½ minutes onto it. However 1A45 soon made it back up to line speed and we literally thundered over the level crossing at Tallington at 122½ mph in 22 mins 12 secs. A speed of 126 mph was again recorded and held for the distance between Maxey level crossing and Werrington Junction, save for one segment of 125 mph running, until the power was shut off for the approach to Peterborough. Approaching platform 1 (formerly the old London-bound main platform 2) we arrived at 19.50 and, after coming to a halt, I alighted from the train and the customary photographs were taken for the record. Soon after 1A45 was departing for King’s Cross, and that was that!
Now, I had a bit of a wait for the last HST out of King’s Cross in the shape of 43318 and 43257 on 1D30. It was cold and the little waiting room at the north end of platform 4 came in very handy as it was warm and has good all round visibility which, apart from anything else, allowed me to view 91121 propelling 1E99, the 16.20 Edinburgh-London, through platform 3 at some pace! My train, 1D30, had departed King’s Cross pretty much right on time and, having found it on the live mapping website, I could see exactly how it was progressing. Whilst I was waiting 91102 ‘City of York’ arrived and departed with 1D29, the 19.03 King’s Cross to Leeds, and then an Azuma came and went on 1B90, the Lincoln, before it was the turn of 1D30 to arrive.
PETERBOROUGH DEPARTURE (AGAIN) WITH A STOP AT GRANTHAM.
Sure enough, right on time, 43318 swept into platform 4 and I got aboard for my final fling with an HST on the East Coast!
At 20.18 we were moving and this time, although the train was well populated, I managed to secure a bay of four to myself. This would allow me to lay the timing gear out and make notes. I suspect that the majority of the occupants of coach B were somewhat oblivious to the significance of their journey although, to be fair, some did obviously know about it from their comments. After a pretty standard start 1D30 had passed Helpston in 5 mins 18 secs, at 100 mph, with Tallington being reached in 1 second short of 7 minutes at 110 mph. As the gradient fell away slightly, after Essendine, the speed rose, briefly, to 117 mph before tailing off again just after Careby as the terrain reversed back to a climb by Little Bytham. The speed was held at between 114 mph and 115½ mph all the way from Creeton to Stoke Summit, which was passed in 15 mins and 1 sec, before entering Stoke Tunnel and the subsequent drop down through Ponton Cutting and Saltersford to our first stop at Grantham. On coming to a stand, my journey had taken dead on 19 minutes from Peterborough.
GRANTHAM DEPARTURE FOR DONCASTER.
Virtually on time, at 20.48, 1D30 was on the move gain, this time non-stop to Doncaster and after rounding the curve at the north end of the town we had a straight run to Barkston which was passed at, yet another, three figure speed. By the time we reached Claypole we were up to 125 mph and Newark was passed in 9 mins 49 secs, with the train slowing as we rocketed through the station for the 100 mph restriction over the Trent River bridge. Just after that we accelerated away again along the Trent Valley and towards Sutton-on-Trent and the Carlton crossing. By the time 1D30 started to climb Weston Bank the speed was back up to 121 mph and although, once again, it tailed off slightly as we climbed towards the erstwhile Dukeries Junction and Tuxford a minimum of 117 mph was held all the way to Markham Summit before plunging through the 57-yard-long Askham Tunnel and then the drop down Gamston Bank towards Grove Road and Retford.
By the time 1D30 screamed over the level crossing at Grove Road the speed had increased again to 122 mph, with Retford being dealt with in 19 mins 08 secs at 120 mph! From here the line is either slightly dropping or level, so the power cars took full advantage and stormed along towards Botany Bay and Barnby Moor & Sutton at well over 120 mph with a maximum of 128 mph being recorded just before Torworth! Once again, between Ranskill and Scrooby, the power was eased and the HST was brought down to the required 110 mph restriction over Bawtry Viaduct before being unleashed for the final time after Piper’s Wood Summit and the drop down into Rossington and the outskirts of Doncaster. Somewhat miraculously for these days, the rather infamous D271 signal, by Hexthorpe Road Bridge, was showing a single yellow and ‘feather’ for platform 4 so 1D30 was able to roll straight into the station on time at 21.20, having taken 6 seconds under 30 minutes to complete the journey from Grantham. As soon as I had gathered my things I was off and away under the subway for a shot of 43318 before it and partner departed for the last time to Leeds …and that really was that!
BACK TO PETERBOROUGH (AGAIN).
With 1D30 now gone, I managed to board 1E27 southwards from Doncaster for the journey back to Peterborough, which was powered by 91128. We flashed through Grantham and finally arrived in Peterborough again, ready to catch 1D34, powered by 91106, for the journey back north to Newark, bringing to an end what was a very satisfactory day and making full use of my ticket!
That wasn’t quite the end of the story though, as three days later on the following Wednesday, 18th December 2019, 43290 and 43117 with EC59 set returned north as 5S04. This was an empty stock move from Bounds Green Traction & Rolling Stock Maintenance Depot (T&RSMD) to Edinburgh Craigentinny T&RSMD for de-branding and other modifications. So, I did manage to photograph them, as seen here at my local vantage point of Frinkley Lane crossing not far from Hougham and Marston. Job done!
Even after that, I was handed another opportunity to get yet another shot of an HST on the ECML in the form of the retro-liveried set with power cars W43006 and E43112 running as 5L46 from Craigentinny depot to Ely Potter Group sidings for storage on New Year's Eve!
FINALLY, THE TECHNICAL STUFF.
For those interested in the ‘nitty gritty’ the two tables below show my timing data recorded over the three separate trips.
KEY: L/S = Line Speed. TSR = Temporary Speed Restriction. T = Termination of Speed Restriction. b = Brakes. e = Eased.
ARTICLE, RECORDING DATA & IMAGES COPYRIGHT: STEVE PHILPOTT 2020.