The age of the train

Not everything Britain designed and built in the 1970s was rubbish. For every Austin Allegro and Morris Marina, there was a Concorde and the surprisingly good, but admittedly far less iconic, Leyland Roadtrain truck (designed by Tom Karen, who only received an OBE for his services to design in 2018 – at the age of 92!). To be fair, Harris Mann’s original design for the Allegro was sharp and good-looking – it was only when BL’s engineers got involved that it became bloated and dumpy looking. And to be fair (again), most cars in the 1970s were rubbish – it wasn’t a British thing, more a 1970s thing.

Of course, there was also the HST.

Almost 45 years after it was launched, it still doesn’t look out of place amongst the likes of the Voyager of 2001, the Pendolino of 2002, and even the Azuma of 2017. Just imagine how futuristic the HST must’ve looked in 1976 when Britain had spent years being hauled by locomotives with all the streamlining and attractiveness of a breeze block.

Still in use here in the south-west, albeit in somewhat truncated-looking four-car format, which does little to emphasise its streamlined elegance (thankfully, CrossCountry operate it in a much sexier-looking seven-car format), and now with electric doors that sit inside the main body which do even less to emphasise its streamlined elegance. For a few quid more, a ‘plug’ design would have been far more respectful.

The HST’s brilliant designer, Kenneth Grange, also famous for his Kodak cameras, Anglepoise lamps and Kenwood mixers, amongst many other things, and surely the finest British industrial designer of all time, was knighted in 2013. The HST is so good that one knighthood doesn’t quite seem enough. I’d award him at least a knighthood-and-a-half, maybe even a double-knighthood.

Photo: HST 43002 ‘Sir Kenneth Grange’ looking resplendent in original livery – even with what looks like a dead pheasant on its nose.