By Angus Montgomery, former Editor, Design Week
Intercity 125 designer and RSA Royal Designer for Industry, Sir Kenneth Grange has had a train named after him to mark 40 years since the iconic design first took to the tracks.
Grange received the honour at an event held at GWR’s St Philips Marsh Depot in Bristol to mark the anniversary of the train going into service in 1976.
The Intercity 125 was the first high-speed train to go into service in the UK and is capable of hitting speeds of up to 125mph in regular service. The train is still in regular use by most UK rail companies.
British Rail had, in the 1970s, already been looking to develop a new high-speed train, but according to a 2011 interview with the Financial Times, the impetus for the Intercity 125 project came from Grange himself.
The designer told the FT’s Edwin Heathcote: “I’d been approached by British Rail in 1968 to design a livery for a new train. It was a bloody ugly thing, it looked like a barrel with a port-hole at the front, but I’d learned never to say no to a commission.
“I’d done some bits and pieces for British Rail by then already – I had a bit of a track record. So, without permission, we started working on a new design, on what a train could be. We tested models in a wind tunnel (slipping the lab technicians at Imperial College a fiver) and we took along the new models, along with all the wind-tunnel information to British Rail.”
When Heathcote later asked Grange which of his designs he is most proud of, the designer said: “The train still takes some beating. There’s nothing like having to live with your designs and it sounds arrogant but there’s not much I would change about it today.”
After four decades in service the Intercity 125 has stood the test of time, though finally it is now set to be replaced on the UK’s rail tracks. Designing for longevity is as important today as it’s ever been.
We salute you Sir Kenneth, for this latest tribute in a remarkable career, and for being at the forefront of British design for well over fifty years.
This article originally appeared in Design Week