Iconic train leaves Edinburgh for last time after equivalent of 507 trips to the moon and back - Liam Rudden

FROM its smooth sleek lines to its distinctive yellow and turquoisey blue British Rail livery, everything about the Inter-City 125 was iconic.

Thursday, 19th December 2019, 4:57 pm
Updated Monday, 23rd December 2019, 11:46 am
LNERs Inter-City 125 Farewell Tour

Being old enough to remember the excitement when it was launched in 1976, a thrill only surpassed two years later when it finally entered passenger service, I found myself onboard for the first time when visiting relations in London.

It’s hard to convey the impact the Inter-City 125, the first HST (high speed train) had on rail travel - it was a futuristic experience in every sense, a glimpse of what was to come and nothing since - with the possible exception of LNER’s Azuma launch - has come close to matching the buzz created by the arrival of the Inter-City 125.

It featured on billboards, in news items and there were adverts on the TV. Clever product placement at the time saw it pop up in any number of telly programmes.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

I recall seeing it advertised outside a railway station in the first episode of the BBC’s post-apocalyptic drama Survivors any wondering when I’d get the chance to get onboard.

And of course Blue Peter had one of the new power cars named in its honour - the Blue Peter II.

Record-breaking, the Inter-City125 still holds the World Speed Record for diesel traction - 144 mph with passengers and 148 without in 1987 - but on Sunday, 15 December, the last LNER HST was withdrawn from service after travelling from King’s Cross to Leeds.

This week, London North Eastern Railways returned one Inter-City 125 to its former glory, refurbished and painted by hand in the retro colours of British Rail.

The buzz as that train pulled into the Waverley ahead of the first leg of its Farewell Tour on Wednesday was palpable.

A short time later, with everyone on board, we were piped on our way, The Northern Lights leg of the tour, taking in Edinburgh, Dundee, Arbroath, Aberdeen and Inverness has begun.

Peopled by press, enthusiasts and LNER staff, all visibly delighted to be part of such a historic occasion, it powered across the Forth Bridge, through the countryside, across the Tay Bridge and beyond.

All along the route it was greeted with snapping cameras as fans, rail staff and travellers alike lined platforms and bridges to wave it on its way, an indication of the love for the train and an era of rail travel that is still fondly remembered by many.

It was new timetables introduced on 8 May 1978 that saw the Inter-City 125 introduced to the East Coast Line, cutting 38 minutes from the Flying Scotsman’s journey time.

One amazing pub quiz fact revealed on the Farewell Tour was that over four decades, LNER’s Fleet of HSTs have travelled more than 242.5 million miles - if that’s difficult to imagine, it’s the equivalent of 507 trips to the moon and back.

Settling back, surrounded by advertisements of the day, as the Inter-City 125 headed north there was time to reflect on the impact this HST has had on rail travel.

This journey may have been the last to be undertaken by one of LNER’s diesel powered fleet, but without its ground-breaking influence, its electric counterparts of today would not be half as effective.

And full kudos to LNER for rolling back time for a day or two and inviting us to ‘let’s go ‘round again’ and journey like it was 1978.