Nobody actually likes HSTs do they? After all they replaced or ousted many favourite locomotive types upon entering service and their unconventional ‘power car at each end’ mode of operation distinguishes them from ‘proper’ trains doesn’t it? And if they are all that good then why do none of the magazines ever report HST news or carry articles about the HSTs? Well, 125 Group has proved ‘popular’ opinion to be wrong by building up a membership of over 350 people who are interested the HST and by producing a 24 page full colour magazine every quarter packed full of news, information, articles and photographs of HSTs.
When 125 Group was established in 1994 by a small but dedicated band of enthusiasts we feared we may be alone in our interest in HSTs, but since then we have discovered a solid band of enthusiasts who share our enjoyment of the Class 43s. Our initial aims were simple, there was no other group dedicated to the HSTs that meant there was no reliable source of news or information on our favourite type of traction.The near total lack of coverage given to HSTs in the ‘popular’ railway press back in 1994 enabled us to fill this void and we quickly discovered that there were plenty of people out there with a thirst for information on the HSTs!
When 125 Group started out preservation seemed very far away, but as the HST fleet gets ever closer to the end of its working life our attentions have been turned to the future and our role in preserving for future generations an example of these magnificent trains which the revolutionised the long-distance rail network in the 1970s. We will do everything we can to meet our commitment to preserve an HST in as near to original configuration as possible. Our dream is to save a pair of power cars with Valenta engines and a selection of trailer cars. As the only group with an interest in HSTs we are working to build up sufficient funds in order to purchase and maintain in working order an example of the train which formed the backbone of InterCity services during its distinguished career.
In 2012 we struck a deal with the National Railway Museum to become custodians of the HST Prototype vehicle 41001 with a view to returning the powercar to working condition. Under the banner of Project Miller the vehicle was moved to East Midlands Trains Neville Hill Depot in Leeds where we carried out the initial restoration work. It was here that we removed a sectioned Paxman Valenta engine and replaced it with power unit number S508 which had been secured during the re-engineering programmes. The vehicle also received a full internal rewire to remove the replace the dated and tired 1970s wiring. This along with other work had the vehicle in a nearly working condition. The vehicle received a new coat of paint in the Neville Hill paint shop which should last the vehicle many years and essentially add a layer of protection to it. On 1st July 2013 Whilst at Neville Hill we fired up S508 and 41001 had a running engine for the first time in 30 years.
We did not let this momentum end though and now we had the engine running we wanted to get wheels turning.
Sadly this meant leaving Neville Hill Depot and our good friends at East Midlands Trains and we searched for pastures new to enable us to move closer to operational testing. In 18th September 2013 we moved to the Great Central Railway, Nottingham and 41001 was transported by rail down to Ruddington where the vehicle is now based. Work has taken place to return the vehicle to an operational state and a new compresser has been fitted, and the control cubicle has been fettled with to add modern day modifications to robust 1970s British engineering to ensure reliable and consistent operation.
On 31st May 2014 41001 made its first test run hauling 2 MK2 carriages and with 56097 on the rear for insurance 41001 took power for the first time since its retirement from service.
Later in 2014, on November 15th, history was made as 41001 worked a passenger train for the first time in 38 years heading ‘The Screaming Valenta’ railtour on the Great Central Railway (Nottingham) with 43054 and a shortened HST set. This was also the first time a Paxman Valenta powered HST had operated since 43123 was re-engined in 2010. You can enjoy the experience and full record of this first run in preservation in this video.
More about Project Miller and 41001 can be found at www.projectmiller.org.uk
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