The High Speed Train (HST):


The High Speed Train (HST) has certainly had some interesting times since introduced by British Rail in the 1980's. Taunton and the South West have always had an association with the class. When originally introduced it was intended that the HST's would remain as a complete operational set, as such they were given a unit style numbering sequence starting in 253xxx. It soon became apparent working the sets in this way was impractical, as a fault on a single coach or power car rendered the whole set unusable until the fault was rectified. Later the power cars were given Class 43 status and became interchangeable between coaching stock rakes.

Throughout their life the HST has moved with the times, with hundreds of modifications having been carried out in order to keep the fleet modern and efficient. With the onset of privatization many modifications became specific to one operator fleet, to the extent that in some cases there were quite some wide ranging differences between HST's used by different operators. The HST has always been a part of normal rail travel in the South West, but not many of the general public realise that the HST's which they travel on today, are exactly the same as those which they may have boarded or seen some 30 years previously!

This collection details some of the cosmetic and technical changes which have taken place over the last 30 years.

On the 1st July 1985, ex works pair 43143 and 43015 depart from Taunton passing the semaphore signals at Obridge with a Plymouth - Paddington service. This was the original BR Blue livery which was applied to every HST set, First Class being denoted by the addition of a yellow line along the top of the coach, and buffet vehicles carrying a half length red strip. (Photo: Dave Jones)
Even during the 1908's it wasn't long before the HST's began their first transformations. With BR Blue having been dropped by the BR Board, INTERCITY branding was being applied to express services all over the UK. This image (for which we have no details) shows a BR Blue powercar mixed with a rake of Intercity Mk3 coaches during the livery transition period of the time.. (Photo: Ian Baikie)

In contrast to the above image, the reverse was also possible, with newly branded Intercity Powercars mixed with BR Blue stock. On the 7th September 1985, 43126 leads 43026 away from Taunton with a cross country service running in reverse formation heading for Plymouth. (Photo: Dave Jones)

Fixed set numbers/ formations were shown on the lead and rear powercars of HST sets. 253052 is seen passing Athelney Signal Box on route to London Paddington on an undisclosed date. The image also shows another mixed set of newer livery Intercity compared to BR Blue livery.

(Photo: Dave Jones)

In June 1991 a full Intercity branded HST races through Norton Fitzwarren with a Paddington bound service in the fading light. Note that the '125' branding had been dropped creating a slightly different livery variation.

(Photo: Dave Jones)

The 1990's bought another re branding for Intercity's powercars, the subtle livery variation, with the addition of white lower body sides, and the new italic INTERICITY and swallow kept the branding fresh and up to date. In june 1991 Cross Country set 253031 passes through Taunton on route South.

(Photo: Dave Jones)

The full Intercity branding can be viewed on this image of an unidentified HST at Norton Fitzwarren in January 1993. The livery Paddington bound service became the standard Intercity livery right up to privatisation.

(Photo: Dave Jones)

 

Privaisation bought about huge changes in fleet and company identification. Keen to gain a quick identity Great Western soon launched their Green and Ivory livery with 'Merlin' motif. 43191 was the first powercar to be painted in this bold new livery. On the 17th October 1996 43191 stands at Taunton with the flagship 'Golden Hind' from London Paddington to Penzance.

(Photo: Brian Garrett)

The undated image shows the transitional period between Intercity and the new Great Western livery. It's bold colour scheme gave the company a new presence on the Great Western route. A fully liveried ivory and green set takes the relief at Taunton while a reverse formation set runs towards Paddington.

(Photo: Dave Jones)

HST sets rarely travel away from their normal high speed routes, however on the 22nd March 1997 43018 and 43139 ventured to Minehead along the West Somerset Railway as part of a Cheshire Railtours charter. 43018 is seen on the return trip at Crowcombe Heathfield station.

(Photo: Brian Garrett)

 

With Great Western, Virgin Trains, Midland Mainline and GNER all operating HST sets it was only a matter of time before new colours would be introduced to the South West. Traditionally the South West has always had additional HST sets in the Summer to help with passenger loadings. 43053 is seen at Charlton in the striking Midland Mainline livery in September 1998 returning from Paignton to the Midlands.

(Photo: Dave Jones)

 

Virgin Trains were quick to apply their stamp onto the Cross County network, their bold new livery took many by surprise. But as with many initial liveries a few minor tweaks were made once they were in service. Seen during May 1998 a yellow fronted powercar 43063 with Virgin XC branding passes Norton Fitzwarren on route to the North. The top yellow roof and XC branding was later dropped from future liveries.

(Photo: Dave Jones)

The bold Virgin XC livery can be seen here at Taunton in comparison to 43002 carrying the endangered former Intercity livery. The yellow tops to the HST powercars never worked well because they took the brunt of the trains speed and were hard to clean. Virgin later dropped this and opted for a black roof on the front end.

(Photo: Brian Garrett)

 

On the 28th August 2002, 43193 'Plymouth Spirit of Discovery' is pictured at Taunton in the low evening light working a Newcastle - Plymouth service. The removal of the 'XC' branding and black front end roof gave a much cleaner look to the front end.

(Photo: Brian Garrett)

 

During 2002 Virgin Trains downgraded its HST sets to 5 cars re branding them as 'Challengers' this shortening of sets on the Cross Country route did not go down well, but needed to be done in order to allow them to integrate into the new Voyager timetable. On the 26th October 2002 43080 leads 43091 into Taunton from Plymouth.

(Photo: Brian Garrett)

On the 23rd February 2003, 43103 is seen leading another 'challenger' set with 43090 on the rear, working South through Creech St Michael to Plymouth. Throughout 2003 and 2004 the use of Virgin HST sets diminished as more and more Voyagers were introduced.

(Photo: Brian Garrett)

By 2002/2003 Great Western had ditched their first livery in favour of a green and gold variation. For the first time the operator used their own company name on train services, 'First' Great Western. The livery became known as 'fag packet' owing to it's resemblance to Rothmans cigarettes. On the 12th February 2003 43189 leads 43124 up the grade to Whiteball Tunnel heading for London Paddington.

(Photo: Brian Garrett)

Not content with having spent two years transforming its HST fleet from Ivory and Green to 'Fag Packet Green', Firstgroup set about a change of livery into house colours. On the 5th January 2003, 43133 leads 43144 South through Charlton, not the FGW Purple liveries coach in the consist, a sign that another two years of livery changes were in full flow!

(Photo: Brian Garrett)

Perhaps the biggest modification to the HST fleet was the creation of 'The New Measurement Train' (NMT) by Network Rail. Using redundant stock and powercars off lease from Virgin Trains, Network Rail set about creating a mobile test train to record data from the UK Network at high speed. On the 20th June 2003 43062 leads 43014 through Taunton on the 1A00 Plymouth - Paddington.

(Photo: Jeff Treece)

 

 

The NMT had many modifications made to coaching stock and the power cars, all three original members also had cameras fitted to the nose which could provide a live forward facing feed to a screen inside the train. On the 20th June 2003, 43062 stands next to a former Virgin playmate at Taunton while working the 1A00 from Plymouth to Paddington.

(Photo: Jeff Treece)

First Great Western's application of it's corporate bus livery to its train fleet was going to take another two years to complete, but they failed to learn the important lesson that applying white to the front end of a train is not the best idea. The 'teardrop' livery did not last long, and was soon replaced with all over blue. On the 5th April 2003, 43041 leads 43030 South through Cogload with a Paddington - Plymouth service.

(Photo: Brian Garrett)

This image gives another chance to view the Great Western white 'teardrop' livery which was applied to a number of powercars before it became apparent that the build up of grime on the front end of HST set would lead to an un presentable livery. On the 1st November 2003 43041 passes Creech St Michael on route to Paddington.

(Photo: Brian Garrett)

In order to compensate for the over white front end, First Great Western began to over colour the white with an additional vinyl. This method left a white wrap around line on the powercar body. Only a few powercars received this treatment before a complete blue front end was added, removing any white from the powercar end. On the 13th December 2002, 43130 is seen at Taunton carrying livery variation 4 since 1996.

(Photo: Brian Garrett)

Jumping forward to 2004, First Great Western finally had the majority of their fleet in one corporate livery, although the application of the vinyl livery up close some something short of a patchwork quilt. On the 9th April 2004, 43028 races through Charlton with a Plymouth - Paddington service sporting livery variation 5.

(Photo: Brian Garrett)

 

Even during 2004, First Great Western still had some remnants of the former 'fag packet' livery running around in various train consists. On the 14th April 2003, 43029 arrives into Taunton with 43176 with a nearly complete blue rake between them heading for London Paddington.

(Photo: Brian Garrett)

With Virgin HST's very much on the demise in the South West, it wasn't long before many sets found gainful employment with other operators. During the Summer season of 2004, many sets returned to the South West working in unbranded liveries for Midland Mainline. On the 3rd July 2004, an unbranded 43153 operates the 1Z31 Leeds - Plymouth through Whiteball.

(Photo: Brian Garrett)

 

Another former Virgin Trains powercar found work with Network Rail, and joined the NMT fleet. However it was not modified in the same way as the others had been, and was only branded with a small Network Rail logo. On the 21st August 2003 43154 stands at Taunton waiting to depart back to Paddington on another track recording run.

(Photo: Nathan Williamson)

With Virgin dispencing with so many HST sets it wasn't possible to find a home for all of them, for the first time in many years their future seemed uncertain and many went into store. On the 10th October 2004 43155 and 43123 entered warm store on the West Somerset Railway along with several other vehicles, while they awaited new operators to take them into their respective fleets.

(Photo: Brian Garrett)

While on the West Somerset Railway, the powercars were kept operational, with weekly inspections and engine startups. The WSR even managed to use one set in a diesel gala weekend during May 2005. 43094 is seen leading 43123 away from Stogumber on the 8th May heading to Bishops Lydeard at a max speed of 25mph, a full 100mph short of it's actual top speed!

(Photo: Brian Garrett)

 

But 2004/ 2005 Midland Mainline had ditched their former turquoise livery with a prancing stag, for a more mundane blue and silver combination. 43070 received a slightly different repaint, with the addition of a yellow horn grill. Many of the powercars received overhauls for reliability at Devonport as part of Project Rio. On the 28th May 2005, 43070 leads the 1V29 Manchester - Newquay through Creech St Michael

(Photo: Brian Garrett)

The annual visit of foreign HST set's became part of the Summer events in the South West. By 2005 GNER were already experimenting with revised LED headlights as can be seen in this image. 43118 brings up the rear of the 1E33 Paignton - Newcastle passing Creech St Michael.

(Photo: Brian Garrett)

With Midland Mainline having taken on many of Virgin's former powercars Summer diagrams in the South West began to turn up all manner of combinations. On the 4th June 2005, unbranded 43157 passes Banklands with the 1V49 Newcastle - Newquay service. Oddly this was a Virgin Trains service using hired in trains from Midland Mainline for extra capacity. Meaning 43157 was actually in the correct colours!

(Photo: Brian Garrett)

This curious exhibit was a former GNER HST which was operating for Virgin Trains hauling a rake of Midland Mainline Mk3 coaches in the South West! 43080 was one of a small batch of HST's which were buffer fitted for DVT use on the East Coast during early electrification. Later the powercars returned to normal use but retained their buffers. On the 4th June 2005, 43080 heads the 1E34 Newquay - Newcastle service for Virgin Trains. The powercar later became part of the Grand Central fleet.

(Photo: Brian Garrett)

MTU was the word for 2005, which would revolutionise the HST fleet throughout the country. 43004 and 43009 were the two powercars chosen to test the German MTU power units. On the 28th June 2005 43004 is seen at Taunton (complete with revised headlight clusters) on a test run from London Paddington. Later the successful trials of the power units would lead to the end of the original valenta power unit fitted to the class since it had been introduced.

(Photo: Jeff Treece)

With regular visits from East Coast GNER HST's during the summer months, it was only a matter of time before some livery variations appears. On the 2nd July 2005, 43116 stands at Taunton with the 1E33 Paignton - Newcaslte service operated by Virgin Trains. The powercar carried 'London 2012 Candidate City' branding to advertise the bid for the London 2012 Olympics.

(Photo: Brian Garrett)

This image records the GNER powercar 43107 before any modifications where carried out to the class. On the 9th July 2005 43107 still had it's valenta power unit and original light clusters. It's seen here working the 1E33 Paignton - Newcastle out of Whiteball Tunnel at Marlands.

(Photo: Brian Garrett)

 

One of the most eye catching liveries in HST history was applied in 2006, which 43087 and 43070 became part of Costwold Rail. 'Hornby' livery was applied to 43087 to match the original livery released on the OO Gauge Hornby HST model. On the 12th February the pair of powercars are seen at 40 Steps, Taunton working 'back to back' from Gloucester to Bishops Lydeard where they collected a rake of stored Mk3 Virgin liveried coaches.

(Photo: Nathan Williamson)

 

Former Midland Mainline powercar 43070 (featured earlier) retained it's yellow horn grill but gained all over silver livery and Cotswold Rail branding. On the 15th April 2006, both 43070 and 43087 worked a Heartland Rail charter from Gloucester to Penzance, it's seen here passing Banklands near Taunton. The set was operated by Cotswold Rail and worked several charters around the UK during 2006/2007.

(Photo: Brian Garrett)

Towards the end of 2006, Virgin Trains hired in a Midland Mainline HST to cover for poor performing Voyagers. The set was used on one of its long distance diagrams. 43049 'Neville Hill' stands at Taunton with 43064 on the 1st March 2006 working the 1E53 Plymouth - York. These services became a favorite with enthusiasts as Midland powercars retained VP185 power units and were a novel respite from the normal diet of Voyagers and increasing MTU powercars. Note the new headlight clusters which had been fitted to Midland powercars by this point in time.

(Photo: Brian Garrett)

Not content with 4 new liveries since 1996, First Great Western launched it's 6th in 10 years on the 3rd April 2006. With MTU powercars 43004+43009 formed on a shortened rake, the new 'dynamic lines' livery was launched to the public via a special press run from Paddington through to Penzance. The latest incarnation of First Great Western is seen at Creech St Michael.

(Photo: Brian Garrett)

It wasn't long before FGW decided that it didn't like it's 7th livery so this was quickly binned in favour of all new powercars and coaching stock being coloured dark blue. On the 23rd November 2006, 43093 launches MTU Blue, with former dynamic lines (version1) and former FGW blue, pink and gold. From 2006 another two year period would follow in which another round of colour changes would take place.

(Photo: Brian Garrett)

It was 2007 before FGW settled on their final corperate livery, and so launched livery eight since 1996, on the 17th Janaury 2007. 43125 and 43021 were paired up on a shortened rake for a press run on board the 1Z30 from Plymouth to Paddington. The colourful combination with full MTU operation is seen passing 40 Steps, Taunton.

(Photo: Jeff Treece)

 

While FGW marched on with it' refurbishment and re branding of its rolling stock fleet, 43154 also found passenger work again. It was entered back into the MTU conversion program after being returned from Network Rail. It's seen at Taunton on the 24th January 2007 with a curious livery modification. The front coupling door kept coming loose, so this was the result until it was able to visit a depot to have the problem fixed.

(Photo: Brian Garrett)

 

43057 appeared in Taunton on the 26th May 2007 with another modified version of GNER, with a complete yellow front end, sprayed over the light clusters (normally left black). 057 also carried a rare triple headlight arrangement at this time. It's seen working the 1E46 from Paignton to Newcastle with 43051 during the May Bank Holiday weekend.

(Photo: Brian Garrett)

 

By 2007 MTU had reached GNER powercars, and the valenta sound was slowly dying out. GNER chose to renumber its powercars during the conversion process where as FGW hadn't. On the 2nd June 2007 renumbered 43290 (43090) passes Creech St Michael. Note the new headlight clusters, GNER Leeds - London ticket advertising and MTU nameplate. This was certainly a sign of the times with regards to modifications which were having a huge effect on the HST fleet!

(Photo: Brian Garrett)

During 2007 FGW has so many coaches in Derby undergoing a major refit (inside and out), the company hired in a rake of Midland Mainline Mk3 coaches, providing yet another livery variation to capture. On the 19th October 2007, MTU 43023 departs Taunton with 43188 heading for Penzance.

(Photo: Brian Garrett)

Asides from being one of the early powercars to carry the FGW 'teardrop' livery, 43032 was then threw up another livery variation in 2007, when the powercar appeared with White Firstgroup branding, instead of the normal gold. It's unclear if this was an experiment for later liveries or a depot modification after a repair. 43032 is pictured on the 15th September 2007 in Creech St Michael.

(Photo: Brian Garrett)

By the end of 2007 just two FGW powercars remained for MTU conversion. Ironically (planned or not) it became 43002 and 43003, it was ironic because two powercars were originally paired together under British Rail as set 253001. To mark this event FGW ran a farewell Valenta charter from Paddington to Exeter and back. 43003 is seen leading set 253001 sporting FGW livery version 5 at 40 Steps, Taunton on the 1st December 2007.

(Photo: Jeff Treece)

Having worked the final charter with First Great Western in December 2007, 43002 soldiered on alone until January 2008. The powercar is seen here on the 2nd Jan 2008 on it's final night working with a valenta engine having arrived on the rear of the 1C24 Paddington - Taunton diagram.

(Photo: Brian Garrett)

At last the transformation was complete, by 2008 First Great Western had a complete fleet of company liveried stock with little or no variations. On the 30th March 2008 43016 departs Taunton with 43168 on the read heading for Penzance.

(Photo: Brian Garrett)

2008 Summer HST hire in sets were about to tell another story. GNER were no longer running the East Coast franchise, instead National Express was making it's mark, ending nearly 10 years of Blue and Orange livery on the East Coast. Out with the old and in with the new, 43312 and 43313 climb Whiteball on the 31st May 2008. The front PC sporting the full National Express colours, with coaching stock providing the temporary 'fix' with the addition of a white National Express band.

(Photo: Brian Garrett)

National Express powercars which didn't have time to visit the paint shop, where also branded with a while National Express stripe as a 'quick fix' to remove the former GNER branding. 43095 sports its temporary livery on the 31st May 2008 while working the 1V29 Manchester to Newquay service.

(Photo: Brian Garrett)

 

With Arriva Trains now running the Cross Country franchise, the company promised to reintroduce HST's to the Cross Country Network as well as use the Virgin Voyagers. Various sets were leased and before long MTU conversion also took place. On the 18th July 2008 43301 sports its brand new look at Taunton while working the 9V57 from Edinburgh to Plymouth. Coaching stock was formed of former Midland Mainline coaches, which were later also refurbished.

(Photo: Brian Garrett)

While Cross Country were converting several HST powercars to MTU power, their other powecars remained as operational. 43104 sports unbranded Midland Mainline livery on the 3rd August while working the 9V57 Edinburgh - Plymouth. The powercar was also later converted to an MTU unit becoming 43304. Note the original BR headlights, this was another powercar which had escaped much modification during its lifetime.

(Photo: Brian Garrett)

Network Rail also went through its own HST modernisation program, following on from other operators 43013, 43014 and 43062 all went through the MTU conversion and all gained new look headlight clusters at the same time. On the 14th November 2008 43062 leads 43013 on the 1Z19 Plymouth - Paddington track recording run, seen passing Charlton.

(Photo: Brian Garrett)

 

This was another combination we never expected to see. After a shortfall of its own powercars Cross Country opted to hire in a powercar from National Express to cover. On the 4th Janaury 2009 43295 in National Express livery is seen at Taunton coupled to Cross Country coaching stock while working the 1E63 Plymouth - Leeds service for Cross Country Trains.

(Photo: Steve Yarde)

Great Western have provided a lot of variety in this section, so this image needed to be included. As part of the MTU conversion program, all FGW recieved a full repaint, and white 'First' branding applied to the bodysides and coupling door. For some reason 43144 retained its old gold 'First' loco on the front nose end. It was the only powercar which was not treated in the same way as the rest. With the gold logo clearly visible 43144 passes Cogload Junction on the 7th February 2009.

(Photo: Brian Garrett)

The full compliment of Cross Country can be seen at Taunton on the 15th March 2009 while working an Exeter - York service. 43301 was the first powercar to be refurbished by Cross Country and looked very smart in this new livery.

(Photo: Brian Garrett)

A temporary change to one HST set on the 13th March 2009, came by way of Red Nose Day. Cross Country placed a 'Red Nose' on the two powercars for their run on the 1S55 Plymouth - Edinburgh services. This temporary livery variation certainly makes it worthy of inclusion in our HST pictorial.

(Photo: Jeff Treece)

While we've already covered National Express and their transition liveries from GNER, several of the Nat Ex powercars received larger powercar numbers on the coupling doors making their identification much easier. This was a throw back to the former British Rail 'East Coast' which adopted the same practice back in the 1980's. 43296 is seen passing Creech St Michael on the 27th July 2009 working the 1V45 Manchester - Newquay.

(Photo: Brian Garrett)

Before National Express managed to relivery all of their stock, they were forced to hand back their franchise to the goverment. As a result the goverment operation was rebranded as 'EAST COAST'. In another strange turn of events the 10th Janaury 2010 saw 'East Coast' branded powercar 43306 work a Cross Country's 1V50 Leeds - Exeter service. It's seen here passing Creech St Michael in the snow.

(Photo: Brian Garrett)

We featured Network Rail's upgrade of 43062 previously, here we detail 43013 which also gained a distinctive red buffer beam during it's repaint and conversion. On the 22nd October 2010 43013 passes West Lyng working 1Z19 Plymouth - Paddington.

(Photo: Brian Garrett)

As a final item, we feature a second stray 'East Coast' powercar when on the 4th March 2011 when East Coast 43300 teamed up with Cross Countries 43301 to work the 1V50 06:08 Edinburgh - Plymouth service to cover for a shortfall of Cross Country powercars.

(Photo: Jeff Treece)