As unlikely as it sounds, a High Speed Train formerly known as the Inter-city 125 due to its top speed of 125 mph, visited Swanage station in Dorset, having left Yorkshire earlier that morning.
Crowds gathered along the Swanage Railway heritage line to catch a glimpse of the iconic 1970s diesel High Speed Train (HST) as it arrived in Swanage on Tuesday 26th September 2023.
Not a usual sight in Swanage
The new arrival attracted quite a crowd!
Top speed of 25 mph into Swanage
The special train trip marked the end of the era for the HST as it’s now been withdrawn from service by the rail operator CrossCountry after more than 40 years of operation.
The journey was also to raise money for The Brain Tumour Charity in memory of a CrossCountry employee and to give fans of the HST the chance to take one last trip on the distinctive looking train.
The train started in Leeds at around 6.30 am, calling at Wakefield, Sheffield, Derby, Burton-on-Trent, Tamworth, Leamington Spa and Reading before arriving in Swanage at around 12.50 pm.
The route covered parts of the national network that have not hosted HSTs for many years. Ironically the train, famous for its top speed of 125 mph, had to stick to a limit of 25 mph on the Swanage Railway branch line.
Many of the passengers disembarked at Swanage and spent a few hours in the town or took a steam locomotive to Norden and back
Some stayed on in the air conditioned carriages and travelled to Bournemouth and back
Volunteer booking clerk at Swanage Railway Jeff Cole is reunited with the HST
“It’s comfortable, reliable and fast!
The sight of the HST brought back good memories for Swanage Railway volunteer Jeff Cole who travelled on a prototype HST in 1975 with the then Duke of Edinburgh.
Speaking to Swanage.News, Jeff said:
“In the 1970s I was working for a company called Colt International that made ventilation systems and I was part of a team that won an award by the Design Council for one of our products. The prize was a return trip on a prototype HST from Paddington Station in London to Bristol.
“I didn’t get to meet the Duke of Edinburgh but when we got to Bristol we did get to see the SS Great Britain – the first ocean going screw-propelled ship – that was just back from the Falklands War and then we were taken to Filton Airport to inspect a new Concorde plane. It was quite a trip!
“The HST is super – it’s comfortable, reliable and fast! I used it a lot for work, travelling from the South Coast to places like Scunthorpe and returning back, all within a day.
“It’s a groundbreaking product and one of the highlights of our railway history. It’s lasted nearly 50 years which shows just how good it is.”
HST arriving at Wareham station…
…and leaving Wareham station heading back to Leeds
“Our much-loved HST fleet has served us well”
The unusual spectacle of a HST attracted a lot of attention on Swanage station before it then took a special trip from Swanage to Bournemouth and back, before returning to Leeds.
The CrossCountry employee Jo Taylor who inspired the fundraising event, worked in both Bournemouth and Leeds over her fourteen years with the company.
Tom Joyner, CrossCountry’s managing director, said:
“Our much-loved HST fleet has served us well for over 40 years and it’s important to take time to commemorate their contribution to the CrossCountry network, as well as the generations of colleagues who have worked tirelessly to maintain them.
“We’re also pleased to be able to support The Brain Tumour Charity in this collaborative fundraising event, in memory of our colleague Jo Taylor who was a well-loved member of the CrossCountry family.
“We’re grateful to Swanage Railway for their support in hosting this trip – heritage lines are working railways and major tourist attractions providing valuable support for the local economies of the regions they serve.”
The contrast between Swanage Railway’s usual slam door carriages and the inter-city style of the HST carriages
Cross Country says that withdrawing the HSTs will enable it to run a more efficient service with fewer trains delivering the same number of seats
500 passengers arrived in Swanage
With around 500 passengers on the train and a large proportion disembarking at Swanage, the town was filled with lots of visitors keen to stretch their legs and enjoy lunch in the town.
Jeff Cole who works with his wife Helen in the Swanage Railway booking office added:
“It’s events like this that make you realise why the railway is so important to Swanage. Without the railway we wouldn’t be attracting so many visitors to our town.”
Watch the HST arrive in Swanage
Leaving Swanage viewed by crowds on Northbrook Bridge, with the T3 steam locomotive in the background
Corfe Castle and the HST
Heading over the River Frome through the Purbeck countryside