The cash-strapped heritage line has sold "Black Five" 45110, an LMS Stanier Class engine, to an unnamed buyer.
Managers at the heritage line say that the railway would not have been in a position to consider the locomotive’s restoration in the foreseeable future, and that the revenue generated by the sale will play an important part in securing the visitor attraction's finances.
In April, the SVR launched a £1.5 million Survival Fund appeal, to enable it to re-instate the cash reserve it had traditionally held in the bank before the financial challenges of the Covid pandemic and rapidly escalating running costs.
At the time, managing director Jonathan ‘Gus’ Dunster warned that without an urgent injection of cash “we won’t be able to lift the railway out of the financial difficulties it’s now facing”.
The appeal has so far raised more than £400,000, and this will be boosted by the sale of 45110.
Chris Walton, the chairman of SVR (Holdings) Plc said he was aware that the sale of the rolling stock would "upset" some people.
He said: "We know that some people may be upset that this particular locomotive has left the SVR. However, it’s clear that selling it was absolutely the right thing to do.
"The board believes that it is in the best interests of both the railway and the locomotive itself for us to move 45110 on to a new owner.
"This significantly increases the chances of the loco being restored and back in steam in the near to medium term, and of course the funds we have received will help a great deal to improve the SVR’s financial position, as we plan for 2024, in the expectation that this will also be a challenging year.
“The loco left the SVR by road on August 15, with the timing of the announcement restricted as a condition of the sale. I’m pleased to add that after discussions with the new owner, it is possible that the loco will return to the SVR for a future event.”
‘Black Five’ 45110 was one of the last steam locomotives to be used by British Railways. It worked the final return portion of the 'Fifteen Guinea Special', the last steam passenger service run by BR on 11th August 1968.
The loco has not operated since 2008, and after stints on display in both Barrow Hill Engine Shed and the SVR’s Engine House at Highley, it has spent the past four years in storage at Kidderminster carriage shed.
One of the pioneering preservationists at the SVR in the 1960s, David Williams, said restoration of the locomotive would have cost more than £1 million.
He said: "“45110 is of course an iconic engine, and many people at the SVR have a strong and understandable emotional attachment to it. However, its sale now vastly increases the chances of its restoration and return to service. When you look at the bigger picture, that’s clearly for the greater good of the heritage railway movement.
“We know that an expensive restoration, costing in the region of £1 million would be unthinkable for the SVR in its current financial circumstances. The railway needs to focus on building up its reserves once more so that it’s in good shape to thrive in the future, and this sale will contribute towards that end.”
This is not the first time the SVR has disposed of locomotives it owned. In 1994 it sold 45690 ‘Leander’ and 45699 ‘Galatea’. The railway has already confirmed that it is considering sales of other surplus rolling stock.