This locomotive was built in 1953 for the National Coal Board (NCB) by the Hunslet Engine Company to the design used to supply to the Ministry of Defence and is thus regarded as an Austerity type locomotive.
See LNER class J94 for details.
Not much is know about this locomotives life whilst owned by the NCB although it was employed for a time as a shunter at a Staffordshire colliery. It ended its working life at Rugely Colliery.
It was purchased for preservation by a group of Dean Forest Railway Society members in 1973. It was delivered to Parkend in 1976 where it was left on a short piece of track but was moved to Norchard in January 1978 and some time later restoration work commenced in earnest. At this time the members who had bought the locomotive exchanged the ownership for shares in Forest of Dean Railway Ltd at which point it became the first locomotive owned by the Dean Forest Railway.
In 1981 it was given the name G B Keeling (after the first Chief Mechanical Engineer of the Severn & Wye Railway) but in 1987 was re-named Rev Wilbert Awdry after the president of the railway at that time. He was also the author of the Thomas the tank Engine books.
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 and it became the first steam locomotive owned by the Company.
In September 1987, Awdry (Wilbert Vere Awdry OBE) chose to name the engine Wilbert in his honour after a major overhaul and repainting.
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.
In July 2012, Wilbert was sent to the Weardale Railway, originally for a three-month loan period. However, the period was extended for another three months and Wilbert returned to the DFR in January 2013.
The locomotive was withdrawn from service for major repairs in 2016.
In February 2021 it was reported that as part of plans to return the locomotive to service the Dean Foresr Railway Society had acquired a 50% stake in the locomotive. The society then took responsibility for the heavy overhaul that was necessary.