The history of 43089 can be traced back to Christmas Eve 1974 when BR placed lot number 30895 for the construction of 43056-123 by BREL at Crewe Works. 43089 was released from Crewe on 20 May 1978 and was initially delivered to Heaton depot in Newcastle for acceptance, being taken into stock on 5 June, formed in set 254017, as part of the fleet that was to revolutionise East Coast Inter-City services. In common with many East Coast power cars, its stay at Heaton was brief, moving on to Edinburgh Craigentinny depot four months later as the fleet was re-allocated to their permanent homes. Although primarily an East Coast power car, the introduction of HSTs to the Midland Main Line in 1982 saw sets provided from an expanded East Coast fleet meaning it was entirely possible to see Scottish power cars working from St Pancras.

It remained an East Coast machine until electrification through to Edinburgh saw it transferred to Laira depot to provide additional HST sets for both the Great Western route and to resource the Euston to Holyhead service group – 43089 was, in fact, nominally allocated to the West Coast pool, but was not dedicated to the route, being in a common operating fleet with the Great Western power cars.

Rio powercar 43089 seen at Dore West Junction heading to Manchester ©Tony Shaw

May 1993 saw a large re-organisation of HST fleet allocations and 43089 moved to the Cross-Country (XC) fleet and it remained an XC fleet member for almost a decade, based variously at Neville Hill, Laira and Craigentinny. The break-up of BR for privatisation, saw the XC pool change ownership to the new Porterbrook leasing business, with Virgin Train winning the XC franchise with a promise of total fleet replacement, although not before 43089 had received Virgin’s red livery in March 1999.

A realisation that insufficient new Voyagers had been ordered prompted a decision to retain some HST sets with XC and a new pool, christened “Challenger”, was set up based at Manchester Longsight with the intention that it would be refurbished for continued XC use. This never happened, though, and a requirement for an alternative service to Manchester from St. Pancras during West Coast Route Modernisation, saw 43089 re-allocated to Midland Mainline’s “Project Rio” fleet for the new service, gaining Midland Mainline blue livery in advance of transfer. The “Rio” service ran for around 15 months, with the power car fleet gaining “Rio” themed names shortly before the service ended. Thus 43089 gained a name for the first time, becoming “Rio Thunderer”. 43089 was retained by Midland Mainline after the “Rio” service finished to provide cover for various modification programmes, eventually being taken off lease in November 2005.

EMT Powercar 43089 waits to escape Skegness on a Summer Saturday special ©Phil Cooke

Nominally stored at the Brush works in Loughborough, 43089 was converted for use as part of a highly innovative project between Brush, Porterbrook, Hitachi and Network Rail to create a hybrid train, using battery power from batteries located in a converted TGS vehicle. Launched on 3 May 2007 at the Great Central Railway, 43089 had been repainted into Network Rail’s yellow livery and carried superb “Hayabusa” nameplates – “Hayabusa” being Japanese for a peregrine falcon – highly appropriate given the involvement of Brush and Hitachi.

Successfully tested on the New Measurement Train for over a year, once the project ended 43089 was in demand from several operators, with East Midlands Trains being successful and taking it on lease. Following a repaint into corporate colours it was put to work, still retaining its Valenta engine, the last power car without buffers to retain a Valenta. An engine failure in August 2009 saw it called in to Neville Hill for conversion to VP185 power, eventually emerging in November 2010. Passing to the new East Midlands Railway franchise, it was taken off lease as part of the rundown of the VP185 fleet. Generously donated to 125 Group by Porterbrook, ownership was transferred to us on 27 August 2020. In September 2020, 43089 spent a short period on temporary hire to DATS before moving to Midland Railway – Butterley where it is currently available for service.