Monday 4th October 1976 saw a new high-speed train go into service for the first time. Powered by two diesel engines the trains were capable to a top speed of 140mph which, at that time, made it the fasted diesel powered train in the world. It is recorded that, on this first journey it arrived 3 minutes early at Bristol!
So what was involved in creating this new wonder? Well British Railways was creating and introducing the Inter-City 125 trains so as to provide a regular high speed service between Cardiff, Bristol and London. This was the first traveler but British Rail planed to extend the HST service to other major cities over the following two/three years. Powered by two diesel motors the Inter-City 125 had already recorded a top speed of over 140mph in trial runs, making it the fastest diesel-powered train in the world.
It was recognised that most other countries had developed electrically powered high-speed trains but the cost of electrification on Britain’s network was considered, at the time, to be prohibitive. The diesel-powered 125 was a new product from existing technology and was a reasonable stopgap. The absence of an official ceremony by British Rail to mark this initial occasion meant that few passengers on the trip were aware they were making history on the morning when the 08.05 train left Paddington on time and headed west.
However, it dose appear that most of the travellers did appreciate some improvement in comfort – the carriages featured aircraft-like seating, with sliding electric doors at each end. Not only was this comfort welcome – hot food could be promptly served from an on-board kitchen with the aid of a state-of-the-art microwave oven!