Philippa (Pip) and Emma - BR HST 125 Intercity 'set'

Pip & Emma are the NWR's most modern engines - read what Sir RIchard has to say about them!

Pip and Emma are, despite their strong personalities, not a 'curio' like the majority of our North Western fleet on Sodor. They are, however, seen as a novelty in the region - as the only 'modern' high speed train on our network.


Pip and Emma were one of the latter batches of the HST 125s, built by BREL in 1980 for the Western Region of British Railways. They were completely standard units and used considerably through a long and successful career, with little event or mishap. In 1987, they first visited Sodor. Their tale is a rather long one.


Pip and Emma were at Barrow in Furness when Gordon arrived with the Wild Nor' Wester', a fairly standard day with little exception - however, a Railtour was standing at Platform 3 with a failed BR Class 127. They were due to go to Carlisle. The foreman at Barrow requested Gordon pull the train, something my Father allowed very happily, of course, if a replacement train could be provided. There was one train available, a BR HST Set with a failed cooling unit (with Emma's engine as opposed to Pip's) - however, the people at the shed wryly  suggested it would put up with 'The Fat Controller's timetables' (Harrumph!) easily and thus, Pip and Emma were sent to Sodor to run the service.


Pip and Emma's time there was troublesome. While running the train back to Tidmouth Pip broke down herself, and they were left two miles from Kellsthorpe with both engines out of order. James was stopped at Kellsthorpe Road station with a stopping train and informed of the situation -  he thus had to push the high speed train to Killdane, run around it and take it, with his stopping train, back to Tidmouth station. They were welcomed regardless, and made good friends with our fleet, despite their embarrassment.


It wasn't until 1995 that we next saw Pip and Emma. The Railway Series was at a golden jubilee, fifty years since the first stories of our railway were published, and we were due a visit from none other than Prince Charles himself. The celebration was riddled with trouble, from rabbits burrowing under the Ffarquhar Branch to Edward losing a wheel. However, it all turned out fairly in the end - and we took lend of Pip and Emma to carry Prince Charles in the most modern way plausible! Pip and Emma, did a fine job, and were welcomed back to the island for a second time - this time, with no embarrassing failures. This was Gordon's first meeting with the pair, and while the others were worried he might offend them in his usual pompous way he too got on fine with them, warming to idea of high speed trains becoming a more regular fixture on the mainland.


In 2006, when my father retired and I came into position, it became clear the NWR was running a touch too antiquated. Our timetables for the "Wild Nor'  Wester" were too slow, due to the requirement of swopping over to the mainland train at Barrow-in-Furness. Things needed to change, and in 2007, my first anniversary of taking over the North Western Railway, infrastructure went into a large-scale modernisation effect on the Main line. Piece by piece our older pieces of line had signal systems replaced and updated, new lines laid and tighter, more troublesome curves replaced for smoother stretches. Old buildings were either restored or in some cases rebuilt, and our land agreements changed to ensure further leniency when updating our old trackside facilities. All the engines knew something was afoot but nobody dare ask quite what. It wasn't until 2011 that the reason for the work became clear, as Pip and Emma arrived, having officially been purchased from their now privatised operators (after a lot of haggling - as is the Hatt way!). These modifications are actually ongoing - and are scheduled to completion by 2015.


Pip and Emma, on a technical front, are no longer using the Paxman Valenta engines they were originally fitted with, as, like most of the HSTs on the Privatised network, they were fitted by their previous operators with the newer MTU 16V 4000 engines. Many people will likely groan at the concept, but they hold their place nicely.


Pip and Emma have proven themselves time and time again as more than a worthy replacement on the Wild Nor' Wester service to Gordon, and their direct services to London are now the highest prestige in the NWR's schedule. They are easily one of the finest purchases the railway has made in years - even if one does say so myself - and proof that the North Western Railway isn't all stuck in the last century...(only a majority!)

Find out more about Pip & Emma and their origins on the internet's definitive Awdry Railway Series website - The Real Lives of Thomas The Tank Engine.

The website of the 125 Group – the only group dedicated to following the Intercity 125 (HST).

Click the link above for relevant books and products about Pip & Emma and the Intercity HST 125s!


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