A STEAM locomotive seen speeding across the Severn Valley Railway was an 1896-built train preparing to launch London Underground’s 150th anniversary celebrations.

The Metropolitan Railway E Class 0-4-4T “Met 1” arrived at the railway on Tuesday, November 27, shrouded in secrecy.

After running light engine trials for a day between Bridgnorth and Highley, the SVR authorised a session of running up to 50mph for three miles between Bewdley and Kidderminster - that is twice the railway’s regular speed limit for passenger trains.

The spot was chosen by Transport for London - who are busy preparing for January, 2013’s tube party - because it is free of footpath and level crossings.

During a special train running on London Underground’s overground lines next year, the locomotive is not expected to exceed 35mph.

SVR operations manager Phil Brown, who handled the secretive arrangements for the trials, said: “We were asked by TfL not to publicise what we were doing.

“They are looking for a really big hoorah when the engine is seen for the first time in January with its newly restored 1892 four-wheel passenger coach, Met 353 and the 1898-built Chesham set of former Met Railway carriages.”

Met 1 left the SVR on a road transporter on Monday morning last week, December 3, and was believed to be being delivered to London Underground’s tube-train workshops in Middlesex.

Despite being overhauled and finished in glossy Met Railway red livery, the specialist lining-out and numbering of the engine is still to be completed.

That has fuelled speculation that it may not emerge next month as Met 1 but in its former incarnation as “L44” - the guise which it worked London Transport’s final regular steam passenger turn in 1961.

TfL heritage operations manager Andy Barr said: “The co-operation and support we received from the SVR was one of the key factors which made the running-in trials such a success.

“We are very grateful for the contribution made by all the crews.”