The tieTesting the prototype HST in 1973

Often said to have been a stopgap before the introduction of the Advanced Passenger Train, the prototype High Speed Diesel Train (HSDT), as it was originally known, owed a great deal of its design to the Western Region of BR. A large number of design staff at the RTC in the early 1970's came from Swindon and the BT10 (or DOC3) bogie was certainly of WR parentage.

The power cars were equipped with Paxman Valenta 12RP200L, 2,250 HP 12-cylinder marine engines chosen for their high power to weight ratio but although the vehicles had been built with sufficient room for a much larger 16-cylinder version these were never fitted.

Authorised in August 1970, only 22 months later the prototype vehicles arrived at the RTC in the summer of 1972 where they underwent safety checks in the specialist workshop. Later the train was instrumented prior to starting its intensive and stringent type testing.

Click on the picture for a bigger image - All photos are the author's unless otherwise credited.

Early proposal for power car Here's an interesting drawing of the initial design of power car which is totally different from what finally emerged from Crewe Author's collection

Actual power car

And the final design for the prototype HST power car

Author's collection

The original design of nose cone fitted to E3173 and pictured on test in 1970

RailwayDave Flickr

This is a composite picture of the original publicity material for the HSDT from 1972. Unfortunately it doesn't join very well!

Author's collection

Under construction One of the power cars receives its power unit at BREL's Crewe  Works 

Author's collection

Inside Crewe works

Another view inside the works 

Author's collection

Mk3 coach A sectioned elevation of the Mk3 coach

Author's collection

Model A model of the prototype HST

Author's collection

Once the power cars were completed at Crewe they were hauled to Derby where they were assembled with the Mk3 coaches which were built in the C&W Works to form the complete unit.

For some details of the train consist and what happened to the vehicles look here

RTC Spring 1972 One of the two HST prototype power cars 41 001 pictured in the loop at the top of the RTC yard having just arrived from Crewe on 11th June 1972. Note the brake van! 41 002 arrived a couple of months later. Fresh out of the Works Pictured fresh from the C & W Works, in the consist of the Mk2D acceptance trials train, E12002 is seen parked in St Andrews Goods Yard during the spring of 1972. The first of several Mk3 coaches which were to form the prototype HST set. Note the new Post Office building under construction in the left background.

Author's collection

E12000 A closer view of E12000 at Cricklewood after a trial run - note the running number in the toilet window - an idea which was soon abandoned. Note the C1 route restriction code later amended to C3. 

Author's collection

RTC 1972 Later in the summer pictured in the RTC yard the coaches had lost their 2nd class logos.  Note that E12000 is equipped with buffers - later HST Mk3's just had a buckeye coupling
Inside the coach BR test engineers set up their equipment inside one of the coaches which was fitted with dust covers to protect the seats RTC sidings Derby 41 001 at the head of the set stands on the Way & Works Sidings at the RTC at Derby during its early testing days.

Colin Marsden

In the yard 41 001 in the yard at RTC being shunted into the workshop with one of the coaches

BR Official

Passing RTC Feb 73 On a misty day in February 1973 the HST set passes the RTC yard on its first run - note ex-LMS Dynamometer Car - now Test Car No:3 - behind the leading power car.
Passing RTC Feb 73 Leaving a nice trail of smoke the HST disappears towards Trent Junction Passing EDU A black and white version taken a few seconds later. Note ex-WR Test Car 4 on the right with the wasp striped corridor door.

Mick Wright

In RTC sidings Another shot at the Technical Centre sees the unit standing in the sidings outside the EDU with the Vehicles Lab in the background Vehicles Lab Pictured next to its revolutionary rival APT-E in the Vehicles Laboratory workshop at the Research Division, Derby in October 1974.

Author's collection

NRM March 2005 Here is 41 001 at the NRM in March 2005 Bogie A close-up of the power bogie at the NRM
York 2003 The rear of each power car was equipped with a driving position complete with windscreen, wiper, horn etc York 2003

The guard's door at the rear

The prototype HST 252 001 in shortened form stands at Holwell run round loop on the Old Dalby test track about to depart on a northbound test run in the mid-1970's. Judging by the equipment mounted on the front buffer beam it appears to be an aerodynamic test run. The second coach was later to become Lab Coach 'Argus'. 

Alan Rimmer

Power car 41001 with a single coach being hauled somewhere on the Old Dalby test track probably in late 1972 and possibly at Folly Hall Lane bridge

Andy Fisher

The Mk1 buffet car with BT10 bogies in RTC sidings

Peter Fox

The unit underwent a number of high speed runs on the ECML between York and Darlington commencing on 5th May 1973. During June the set ran up to 140 mile/h and on June 12th attained a world speed record for diesel traction of 143.2 mile/h in the Northallerton area.

The emblem at the head of the page is taken from the special commemorative tie which was issued after the event.

The conditions! The information label which accompanied the tie - the money went to charity Neville Hill, Leeds June 73 During the type testing on ECML the unit was based at Leeds Neville Hill depot where it is pictured in June 1973 after the high speed run
York Platform 3 June 73 The last coach and rear power car of the prototype set pictured at platform 8 (the present platform 3) at York about to depart for Neville Hill after a high speed dash up the main line from Darlington. Family Gathering The BR testing engineers pose for a group photo at York towards the end of the high speed testing of the prototype Class 252 HST in the summer of 1973

Author's collection

Pictured at York Station  in the summer of 1973 

David Wharton collection

York The rear of the set at York Station  in the summer of 1973 

David Wharton collection

Mk1 buffet The Mk1 buffet pictured on the Midland line loco-hauled with a few other interesting coaches. Unfortunately another poor image Publicity shot

This is a publicity photograph, probably taken on the ECML between York and Darlington

Author's collection

This shows the train on an early run down the Midland line - note Test Car 3 at the rear and the Mk1 buffet car in the formation. The buffet car was specially mounted on Mk3 bogies

BR official

Midland Another shot showing the Mk1 buffet and Test Car 3 at the rear of the train

Colin Marsden

Heading north through Newark Northgate on 3rd May 1973 with ex- LMS Dynamometer Car (Now TC3) visible in the formation

Gordon Lacy

Heading south on the same day

Gordon Lacy

Neville Hill here we come Southbound from York in June 1973 probably heading for Leeds after finishing testing for the day

Norman Preedy

E10000 A Mk3 2nd class buffet E10000 was later included in the formation and is pictured on 11th November 1974 in Longsight Carriage sheds after being removed from the HST set. This was later converted into R&DD Lab Coach 15 'Argus' and later became DM&EE's Test Car 4. It survived being cut up in 2003 and ended up in the NMT.

A J Sparks

Beattock Station Down Loop The set also ventured onto the WCML. It is pictured here in the Down Loop at Beattock Station in March 1974 short-formed into a 2 + 2 set for reasons lost in the mists of time.

Mick Wright

Inside OOC Testing was also carried out on the Western Region based at Old Oak Common depot. Here's re-numbered power car 43001 on set no:252 001 sticking out of the Paint Shop at OOC in 1974.

Martyn Chapman

OOC 1974 Inside the shop is coach No: W41001 marshalled next to the CM&EE's ex LMS Test Car No:3. Note that these first Mk3 coaches had buffers fitted unlike their successors in HST formations. Note the coach now carries the C3 route restriction code. Martyn Chapman Bristol

Approaching Bristol TM from the west on December 17th 1974 on test

G Roy Haunsell

Heading south through Welwyn North in summer 1973 for a press run from KX

Graeme Herrington

Heading south on to Welwyn Viaduct in summer 1973 for a press run from KX

Graeme Herrington

Heading north from Welwyn Viaduct in summer 1973 on a press run from KX

Graeme Herrington

Press run WR

Here it is on 28th January 1975 pictured at Tavistock Jcn on the Up Relief line. It is thought to be on a Press special but has instrumentation fitted in the cab (perhaps an intercom) evidenced by the cables.

Exe Rail

Heading south from Welwyn GC on ECML

Frank Cheevers


In service

Following completion of over 100,000 miles during its type testing and evaluation phase, mainly run on ECML the unit moved to the WR in late 1974 and entered passenger service on the Western Region of BR on 5th May 1975 running initially between London Paddington, Bristol and Weston-Super-Mare

On 8th January 1973 the set passes Westbourne Park on the WR heading west

Malcolm Ravensdale

At the bottom of the Lickey Bank approaching Bromsgrove on 9th December 1974 en route from Derby RTC to Old Oak Common

Photo courtesy Bob Dunn via John Burns

Driver training On 24th March 1975 the set passes Southall, probably on a driver training run

Ian Walmsley

First day in service On 5th May 1975 prototype set 252 001 stands in platform 4 at Paddington on its first day in service.

Colin Marsden

At Swindon with a service to Bristol on 15th May 1975

Jon Porter

Paddington On 17th May 1975 the set is captured again at Paddington with a service to Bristol

Ian Walmsley

At the buffer stops The rear power car now numbered W43001 at Paddington on the same day.

Ian Walmsley

Bath The prototype 252 set leaves Bath en route to Bristol in the first days of service running

Author's collection

13.48 Weston Super Mare to Paddington approaching Twyford on 20th February 1975

Richard Clayton

Another shot of the prototype HST passing Twyford on 20th February 1975

Richard Clayton

Near Box Tunnel On 7th July 1975 the unit is pictured near Box Tunnel

Ivo Peters

Arriving Swindon In September 1976 set 252 001 rolls into Swindon's platform 3 with a Down service including production Mk3 coaches. By this time the original livery was looking decidedly jaded.

Pete Piszczek

Approaching Paddington 252 001 approaching Paddington.


252 001 arriving at Reading sometime in 1975

Honest John

Passing Reading 252 001 in original livery heads a London-bound service on the Up Through road at Reading sometime in 1976.

Pete Piszczek

Bristol Parked on the centre road next to platform 13 at Bristol TM

Andy Kirkham

Passing Southall in 1975

Garry Brookes


252 001 High Speed Train passes through Keynsham Station in June 1975.

K H Cribb

252001 leads the set off the Royal Albert Bridge sometime in 1975


Together In August 1975, the set is pictured in platform 3 at Swindon on the 10.15 Paddington to Weston super Mare service alongside the APT-E train . Note the black marks over the roof left by the exhaust on the trailing power car. This was later overcome on the production power cars by the fitting of a cowling above the cab roof, which deflected a flow of clean air beneath the exhaust flow.

BR Official

Shildon 1975

The HST was included in the celebrations to mark 150 years since the opening of the Stockton & Darlington Railway at Shildon, Co. Durham on 31st August 1975 where it was the last in the cavalcade of rolling stock.

At Heighington crossing over to the Down line

Peter Rose

Shildon 1975 The HST passes 8 MP as it completes the procession

BR Official

252001 at Shildon on 24th August 1975

David Ford Collection

Shildon 1975 After the procession Exhibit No:34 is pictured alongside Locomotion

BR Official

Another shot of 252001 leading the HST in the procession on 31st August 1975

Dave Stacey


Following the widespread introduction of production HST's the prototype power cars were withdrawn from service in late 1976 and returned to the RTC at Derby where they were taken into Departmental stock. They were re-numbered as ADB975812/3 and used for a number of years to haul various test trains. There was even talk of converting them to straight electric traction when the 'electric HST' was being considered, but it was not to be.

Second life

Old Dalby Here is the prototype short-formed at Holwell on the Old Dalby test track whilst undertaking some test work in the mid-1970's 

Alan Rimmer

Wigan On 17th May 1978 one of the power cars heads a test train with two APT-P power cars in the formation through Wigan North Western station.

David N Clough

Derby Another view of the APT-P power car test train leaving Derby on an unknown date

Authors collection

Test Train Here a special test train is pictured at Sydney Gardens, Bath in July 1978 with one of the power cars and including Lab One in the formation

Ivo Peters

Goods Road at Derby Another test train is pictured at Derby with the prototype power cars and some APT-P vehicles in March 1979.

Garry Brookes

Way & Works The two powers cars pictured on the Way & Works sidings at Derby in the late 1970's


Derby-1980 Here are the two power cars, now in departmental use, pictured on the Goods lines outside the Locomotive Works at Derby in April 1980

Dave Godfrey

Etches Park The two power cars were often stabled at the back of Etches Park depot in Derby, where they were pictured in April 1980.

Dave Godfrey

Etches Park 1980 A close up of one of the power cars shows that it now has two headlights fitted behind the front panel - possibly for test train work, the original set number has now been removed but it carries no departmental number.

Dave Godfrey

Scrap Road In March 1983 the two power cars are pictured out of use on the scrap road at Derby Locomotive Works. Their fate would be quite different, one was scrapped at Rotherham in 1990 and the other still survives today as part of the national collection at NRM and is now fully operational and based at the Great Central (Nottingham) Railway ay Ruddington.

Adrian Healey

Together In October 1986 975813 was still to be found inside the works, alongside one of the APT-P power cars, both awaiting their fate.

John Glynn

The return The surviving power car is pictured back at Old Oak Common, 26 years after the previous OOC photos, attending the August 2000 open day

Duncan Milburn


Plans were announced by the 125 Group in May 2011 to return 41001 to service, under the banner of Project Miller (named after Terry Miller, formerly Chief Engineer (Traction & Rolling Stock) for British Rail).

The power car was on long term loan based at the Great Central (Nottingham) Railway at Ruddington but in July 2019 the vehicle was recalled by NRM due to 'repeated breaches of the conditions' in the loan agreement

What a shame it won't be seen on the main line or preserved railways in future!

At the GCR and fully restored

Paul Biggs

 More pictures will be added as time permits


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