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Wilbert, formerly named "G.B. Keeling", is a saddle tank engine named after the Thin Clergyman (Wilbert Awdry), who was a one-time president of the Dean Forest Railway.


The Railway Series

In 1993, Donald and Douglas were both becoming overworked, so in order to ease their workload, the Fat Controller arranged for Wilbert to come to his railway to help them on the Little Western until he could afford another engine like him. However, after Percy had an accident with some porridge, Wilbert was relocated to the Ffarquhar Branch Line to do his work. [1]

Wilbert's first job was to work at the lead mines. While he was in the sheds, he told Thomas and Toby about Sixteen, a troublesome engine who wanted to pass a danger sign. Thomas also told Wilbert about many of the jobs that he had to carry out on the branch line. [2]

One day, after spending too much time chatting to James at Knapford, Wilbert had neglected to take on more water. He stopped at the dairy to refill on water, but accidentally stopped at the wrong hosepipe; instead of taking on water, his tanks were filled with milk. Thomas joked about this when he brought Wilbert back to Ffarquhar. [3]

After Percy returned from Crovan's Gate Works, the Fat Controller sent Wilbert to the Little Western to help the engines there. When he was about to take a ballast train, the coupling plate on the front ballast truck fell off. After spotting a coil of wire, Wilbert decided to use it to couple up to the damaged truck and managed to get his train to Tidmouth safely. Afterwards, Wilbert left Sodor and returned to the Dean Forest Railway. [4]


Wilbert is sensible and polite and does his best to work well. He is also clever and inventive, as seen when he suggested that signal-wire might be used to act as a coupling for a truck.

In the magazines, Wilbert is depicted as a very hard worker and a nature lover. When he wants a rest, he goes deep into the forest.

Technical Details

Real-life History

Wilbert was built by the Hunslet Engine Company in Leeds, England in 1953. He was purchased by the National Coal Board and worked as a shunter in a colliery in Staffordshire. He was bought by the Dean Forest Railway in 1976 and became the first steam engine owned by the Forest of Dean Railway Ltd.

In August 1981, the Rev. W. Awdry christened the engine "G.B. Keeling", after the first Chief Mechanical Engineer on the Severn and Wye Railway after a members' ballot for the engine's name. On 8 November, 1983, G.B. Keeling hauled the royal train on the line when the Duke of Gloucester visited the railway.

On 13 September, 1987, the Rev. W. Awdry renamed the engine "Wilbert" in his honour after a major overhaul and repainting. On 8 September, 1991, Wilbert attended the opening of the line to Lydney Lakeside with City of Truro. In 2010, Wilbert underwent a major overhaul and returned to service in April 2012. His brother Sixteen shares the same Basis


Wilbert is painted navy blue with red lining and black wheels. He has a red nameplate with a gold boarder on the sides of his boiler with his name (Wilbert) and the words "Rev. W. Awdry" on them, also in gold. His buffer beams are painted red with silver buffers.


The Railway Series

Companion Volumes

A silhouette of Wilbert appears on some 1994 backcovers of Heinemann-published Railway Series books.

Thomas & Friends




Magazine Stories

Video Games

Official Description

From Official Media[1]

Wilbert: Wilbert the Forest Engine is a smart blue saddle-tank engine with six wheels. His line in the Forest was short, so he was delighted to help out Donald and Douglas on the branch lines.

Historical Note: Wilbert is a saddle-tank locomotive and is based on a design for the Ministry of Supply for the war effort, first introduced in 1943.

From Official Website[2][3]

Wilbert: Wilbert came to Sir Topham Hatt’s Railway to help out Thomas, Percy and Daisy while his line was being repaired. He has since returned to his home branch line, and is happy working in the Forest of Dean.

Fun Fact: Wilbert is a saddle tank engine similar to Percy, which is why they get along so well.

Audio Files


In Really Useful Engines and Other Stories Wilbert has a whistle which is a stock sound. It was also used for Percy in Triple Header from the same audio book.

First Used Last Used Sound Effect
Really Useful Engines and Other Stories Really Useful Engines and Other Stories

The real Wilbert appears in The Making of Thomas the Tank Engine documentary and emits his whistle.

First Used Last Used Sound Effect
The Making of Thomas the Tank Engine The Making of Thomas the Tank Engine


  • According to his hidden page on an older version of the UK Thomas and Friends website, Wilbert and Percy get along well as they are both saddle tank engines [5].
  • The 1994 edition of The Railway Series book, Troublesome Engines has a silhouette of Wilbert pulling two coaches on the back cover.
  • DJ Models had manufactured OO gauge models of Wilbert, in limited numbers of 200 to support the Dean Forest Railway.


Range Released Discontinued Highlights Photo
Same model as Sixteen
Wooden Railway
Trading Cards


* RWS only | ** T&F only