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Grand Central Cab Ride

January 27th, 2017

Thanks to a former Chair of Velocity, in partnership with Grand Central Trains, a couple of lucky competition winners were able to ride in the cab of a Class 43 High Speed Train from York to London Kings Cross. Chair Peter Nathanail, who accompanied the group, talks about the experience. After a very early 03:30 start, involving a Megabus coach to Leeds and then a Transdev CityZap bus from Leeds to York, we arrived at York railway station in good time for our 10:27 service to London. We were met by a very hospitable gentleman from Grand Central, who arranged teas and coffees in the buffet car and then took us to meet the driver. There was no doubt that this was a proper train; HSTs formed the backbone of the British Rail InterCity network, and even 30 years later they are still delivering exceptional levels of speed, comfort and reliability.

Upon getting into the cab we were welcomed by the driver, who was curious to know how we had managed to get ourselves such a coveted experience. I took the second-mans seat for the first part of the journey, gaining a drivers-eye view of the southbound East Coast Main Line. As we left York we picked up speed, and as we left the confines of the station we were soon travelling at speeds approaching 125 miles per hour. The driver gave us a run down of the equipment in the cab, demonstrating the dead man’s pedal and the Automatic Warning System that alerts drivers to red and amber signals. Each of these signals must be acknowledged by the driver to avoid the brakes being applied, whilst green signals merely produce an audible "ding" to inform the driver that the road ahead is clear.

I vacated my second mans seat halfway through the journey to allow someone else to rest their legs, but continued to enjoy fantastic views as we sped through stations such as Newark Northgate, Grantham and Peterborough at high speed. The non-stop nature of the trip really added to the experience. All too soon we were arriving into London Kings Cross, but fortunately after a quick lunch break we were able to return northbound in the cab of the 12:53 service.

The return journey was just as spectacular, with a different driver sharing stories of his time in the rail industry. He pointed out various diversionary routes used by Grand Central in the event of planned or emergency line closures, and explained the procedure surrounding this; all drivers must retain knowledge about every section of track that they driver over. Fortunately (or perhaps unfortunately!) the line was clear for our return journey, so no diversions were necessary, and we arrived right time at 14:47. The opportunity to see the East Coast Main Line from the best seat of the train was simply too good to pass up, and I am very grateful to Grand Central for arranging it for us.

Photo credit: Grand Central