Following an extensive consultation exercise with the membership, the West Somerset Railway Association (WSRA) Committee has agreed to sell its small but popular steam locomotive, former GWR 0-6-0PT no 6412, to the South Devon Railway after almost 90% of WSRA members expressed a view in favour of the sale.
The pannier tank loco, which has been on the line since it re-opened in 1976 and also starred in the TV series "The Flockton Flyer", will now be heading further West again following a £160,000 offer from the Buckfastleigh based line.
The loco is actually returning ‘home’ because it was originally sold by the Dart Valley Railway, who used to operate the South Devon line, to the WSRA for just £6,000 when the WSR was getting set up, so the WSRA has significantly recouped its investment over the years.
The decision to sell the engine, which is now considered to be underpowered for the heavy trains on today's West Somerset Railway, stimulated much debate. The monies raised from the sale will go to help fund the overhaul of the WSRA's other ex GWR locomotives, Nos. 4561 and newly acquired 7821 Ditcheat Manor.
WSRA Chairman Robin White comments: "At the WSRA Committee meeting on Saturday 11 October, we decided to sell locomotive 6412 to the South Devon Railway for the £160,000 they offered after a major consultation exercise with our members.
“I received 316 e-mails or letters from WSRA members on the subject and, of these, 284 were in favour of the sale, with 25 against and seven people took the trouble to write to say that they were undecided. That means almost 90% of those who responded were in favour of the sale.
“Of more importance than the numbers, however, was the fact that no one suggested any alternative financial logic which would give 6412 a sensible place on the WSR of the early 21st century. Sadly, our steam enginemen courses and running the Quantock Belle, however popular they may be, are just not enough to pay for the engine’s upkeep.
“I have valued all of the communications I have received from the very shortest e-mail of only five characters, which was ‘Sell!’ to the careful four-page letters two members sent me. I have tried to acknowledge them all.
“It’s important that everyone realises 6412 will not be far away, will be well looked after at the SDR, and I am sure we will see her back here occasionally in the future. Now the task is to ensure that 7821 and 4561 will be working on the WSR again soon.”
Commenting on the acquisition, SDR Trust Chairman Alan Taylor said: “We’re very pleased that 6412 will be returning to its home turf again, hopefully just in time for our 40th anniversary season in 2009, but it’ll be quite some time before it returns to traffic because the boiler requires some costly work.
“The engine has a strong link with the South Devon line because it hauled the opening special train in 1969, so we’ll be launching a fund raising appeal soon because we know people will be keen to see it operating auto trains here and running in a branch line environment.”
Even earlier Story: SDR announces it'smade an offer for the WSR GWR 0-6-0 pannier tank 6412