A significant landmark in the history of our nation’s railways will be reached on Saturday with the last timetabled services out of Paddington operated by the iconic High Speed Trains.

One of the very last will be the 6.22pm train to Hereford, passing through Oxford at 7.20pm.

It is expected that this will form part of a memorable line-up of HSTs at Paddington, hopefully side by side on platforms 1 to 4, also involving the 6.03pm to Plymouth, the 6.15pm to Cheltenham and the 6.30pm to Exeter St David’s.

It was as long ago as 1976 that the HSTs, otherwise known as InterCity 125s, first became a familiar sight at Paddington.

This means that there has been an impressive 43 years of service by the trains whose two power cars, incidentally, are properly called – rather appropriately – Class 43s.

Oxford passengers have been using them from the start, though not initially on through services. There was generally a change to a local train at Didcot.

Though there was some criticism of the HSTs in the early days – chiefly for the smell of burning when they braked – they soon became popular with passengers.

They were certainly more comfortable – particularly in first-class – than the class 800 diesel/electric hybrids that have replaced them. Their seats have rightly been described as having all the comfort of an ironing board.

The 800s are timetabled at much slower speeds than were once achieved by the HSTs, and – be it noted – in the days of the much-maligned British Rail.

The archive photograph on this page shows a notable exploit in the history of services between Oxford and Paddington.

It was taken in May 1982 when BR introduced a new lunchtime (12.05pm) train, travelling non-stop to London in a record time of 43 minutes.

I was in the cab for the first run which, regrettably, did not go according to plan.

This will be seen from the first paragraph of my Oxford Mail story about the occasion: “British Rail’s much vaunted high-speed shuttle service from Oxford to London got off to an inauspicious start when its star train limped into Paddington 16 minutes late.”

This was the result – in a formula well understood by seasoned rail travellers – of signal failures and delays caused by track maintenance.

The run was not without excitement, though. I was particularly thrilled to have roared through Reading at 100mph, something no trains do today.

The first to experience this – though I doubt if he realised it – was the Chinese leader Chairman Hua Guofeng. He paid a visit to Oxford in November 1979, returning from which he was treated to the first non-stop HST run to Paddington.

His train covered the distance in just 39 minutes, travelling at an average speed of 97 mph. This was a very significant advance on the previous record time of 50 minutes.

It seems reasonable to suppose that Oxford travellers in 1982 were given some 39-minute runs as well. As I pointed out in my Oxford Mail story, the 43 minutes allowed for the 12.05 train included four minutes of recovery time which would not always have been needed.

Our files at Newspaper House do not make clear how long the non-stop service lasted.

Certainly, it had ceased before 1987 when, in May, British Rail boasted, erroneously, of what was called “the fastest ever” Oxford to Paddington time of 45 minutes.

This was the 8.31am departure, renamed The Cathedrals Express, in honour of the three cathedral cities (Hereford, Worcester and Oxford) that it linked.

This revived the name of a train that ran along the route in the steam days of the 1950s.

The first HST Cathedrals Express was waved off at Oxford by a party that included the Dean of Christ Church, the Very Rev Eric Heaton.

Ceremony of a similar sort followed the naming of a Class 43 power car (43198) Oxfordshire 2007.

This took place (in 2007) on platform 1, significantly shorter in those days before the extensions made when the Chiltern services to Marylebone began.

So short was it, in fact, that it was only able to accommodate a one-coach train. This looked a very odd sight indeed as it set off – a power car at each end – after the ceremony, for further highjinks at the Great Western Society’s Didcot headquarters.

I was aboard, sitting beside the crime writer Colin Dexter. During a wide-ranging conversation he revealed to me for the first time that he shared my dislike of the novels of Oxford-born Dorothy L. Sayers.

Oxfordshire 2007 is understood to be one of the power cars being retained by the Great Western Railway for use on four-car local services in the West Country.

Other of the HSTs displaced from Paddington are being sent to Scotland where, following refurbishment, they will be used between Edinburgh and Aberdeen.