by Peter Nicholson

Iconic prototype HST power car returns to service

Published: 23rd November 2014

Designer Sir Kenneth Grange launches a restored railway icon

High Speed Train prototype power car No. 41001, the only survivor of the two which appeared either end of the sensational new train in 1972, returned to service on November 15 at the Great Central Railway (Nottingham).

The vehicle, which was the forerunner of today’s well-known InterCity 125, HST fleet, is owned by the National Collection. However, the National Railway Museum has not contributed either financially or practically to the restoration which has been undertaken by volunteers with help from the railway industry.

Project Miller

This extensive restoration has been carried out by members of the 125 Group, formed in 1994 to study and share news of these trains, which have been largely overlooked by the general railway press.

The idea of restoring No. 41001 dates back to 2011 when ‘Project Miller’ was launched. This is named after T.C.B. Miller MBE who developed the concept of the HST, comprising a rake of coaches with a power car at either end. These trains became the mainstay and salvation of inter-city and cross-country routes for many of Britain’s main lines. Although considered a stop-gap measure in the 1970s, their continuing future is assured for some time to come as they are destined to take up new duties with ScotRail.

Terry Miller (1909-1989), was apprenticed at LNER Doncaster Works, working under Sir Nigel Gresley. He became Chief Engineer for Traction and Rolling Stock for British Railways in 1968.

The ‘Screaming Valenta’ special

The inaugural train hauled by No. 41001 was a private charter named the ‘Screaming Valenta’, conveying invited guests and project supporters. This was operated a fund-raising event as there is still further work on the power car to be financed and completed.

This unique working involved a six-car East Midlands Train HST, instead of the usual eight passenger carriages. It ran from Derby via Loughborough South Junction where it reversed onto the GCR(N), top-and-tailed by production power cars Nos. 43045 and 43054. The train then ran through to Ruddington Fields station after reversing again at Fifty Steps (Ruddington South Junction).

At Ruddington, the leading power car, No. 43045, was detached and replaced by the prototype car. Speeches were then made by various railway officials and the guest of honour, Sir Kenneth Grange. As well as being the designer and stylist of the HST’s iconic streamlined shape, Sir Kenneth is Honorary President of the 125 Group.

The train then ran back to the GCR(N) boundary at Loughborough High Level via reversal at Fifty Steps, which put No. 41001 on the front of the train, and leading a passenger set for the first time since 1976.

A brief stop was made at Rushcliffe Halt on the outward journey where participants took photographs, despite the very overcast and gloomy weather. Upon return to Ruddington, EMT’s No. 43045 replaced the prototype for the return to Derby via Leicester.

Power car restoration

The 125 Group is grateful for assistance and sponsorship from the rail industry, in particular East Midlands Trains, which supplied stock and staff free of charge for this occasion. Also, much of the work undertaken on No. 41001 was at EMT’s Neville Hill depot, Leeds, where the original Paxman Valenta engine was replaced.

The original power unit had been sectionalised for display at York and No. 41001 is now powered by a unit from a production vehicle. All the power cars in the operational fleet are now fitted with MTU engines. Rewiring and repainting was also carried out at Neville Hill before it was moved to Ruddington in September 2013, where much further work has taken place.

It is now the only HST operating with a Valenta and is due to work regular passenger services on the GCR(N) in 2015.

Industrial designer Sir Kenneth Grange

Sir Kenneth Grange, now aged 85, is a notable industrial designer and stylist with many well-known products to his credit. These include such iconic objects as the London TX1 Black Cab, Kodak Instamatic 33, of which more than 25 million have been sold, and the Parker 25 pen. An exhibition of his work in connection with the HST is currently being held in the NRM’s Great Hall until December 31, 2015.

Sir Kenneth was initially asked by BR to style the livery for the new trains, but decided he could improve on the power car’s front end design, creating the iconic shape so familiar today. He was knighted in the 2013 New year’s Honours List.

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