Hunslet 3806 ‘Wilbert’ is a Hunslet Austerity 0-6-0 Saddle Tank built by the Hunslet engine company at its Leeds works in 1953. The loco was originally purchased by the National Coal Board. Not much is known about this locomotives working history.
Its life in preservation started after it was purchased from Rugely, Staffordshire by a group of members and delivered to Parkend in 1976, and then left on a short piece of track north of the level crossing. It remained there after the mass movement of stock to Norchard on 16 January 1978 and was later moved to Norchard for full restoration. At this point the members who purchased the locomotive were allocated shares in Forest of Dean Railway Ltd and it became the first steam locomotive owned by the Company.
In August 1981 the Rev. W. Awdry named the loco “G.B. Keeling” after the first Chief Mechanical Engineer of the Severn & Wye Railway following a members’ ballot for a name for the engine. On September 13th 1987 the Rev. W. Awdry named it “Wilbert”, in his honour, following a major overhaul and repainting. On November 8th 1983 “G.B. Keeling” hauled the Royal Train on DFR when HRH the Duke of Gloucester visited the railway to present the Wye-Dean Attractions Group Trophy to the railway for the Most Significantly Developed Tourist Attraction in the Region.
Wilbert performed admirably when the line to Lydney Lakeside (now St.Mary’s Halt) opened with “City of Truro” on September 8th 1991. It hauled the first members and fare paying passengers to Lakeside on September 14th-15th when it became possible to us the platform.
The locomotive had a further overhaul completed in 2012, in which it was again outshopped in navy blue with red lining livery. It is now operational and one of the railways regularly used engines, alongside fleetmate GWR 4575 Praire tank ‘5541’.
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