125 Group – The Inter-City 125 in Preservation

We were delighted to welcome two members of the 125 Group, Alex Wood and John Tattersall, who gave us a thorough presentation on the group, its activities and successes since formation in 1994.

The development of the HST in the 1970s was a radical departure – a brand new train with power cars at either end of a rake of coaches and a top speed of 125mph. However, it was only ever intended as a stop gap with a 15-year service life. The longevity of the HST owes a lot to the flexibility and practicality of the design as well as its reliability, overcoming early teething problems when first introduced to service. Originally fitted with Paxman Valenta engines many will remember the distinctive HST ‘scream.’

The 125 Group were temporary custodians of prototype power car 41001 and led a project – Project Miller - to return this to working order. Whilst the ownership remained with the NRM, the 125 Group gained valuable experience in what was a comprehensive overhaul project including replacing the engine, bodywork repairs and a repaint into original blue and grey livery. A successful return to operational condition and running sadly came to an end in 2019 with the end of the 5-year loan term from the NRM.

Since Project Miller, the 125 Group has acquired four power cars, three of which are in operational condition. The fleet includes 43159, the world diesel rail speed record holder. In addition, a rake of nine trailers is owned by the group, all mainline registered, making it possible to operate a full set.

The 125 Group intends to return one power car to original condition with a Valenta engine and Marston cooler group with 43044 identified as the recipient.

Now with a membership of 760, the 125 Group has come a long way since its formation. However, Alex and John acknowledged that there are many challenges to owning and operating a fleet of HST power cars and coaches, not least the requirement to fit retention toilets to the coaches before use on the mainline. The costs of maintenance and operation on heritage lines need to be funded with longer term plans to hire out stock for mainline use.

This was a fascinating and enjoyable evening learning more about the work of the 125 Group and the progress made in preserving these iconic trains.