S7 Hunslet 1215 of 1916 ‘WDLR303’

Hunslet with fake ‘steam’ (an oily rag in the smokebox)

 

This is a very rare and historic steam loco. Like a number of the diesel and petrol fleet, it was ordered for the War Department Light Railways (WDLR) during the First World War. 145 of this type of loco were ordered. It left the Leeds works of the Hunslet Engine Company on 12/8/1916, and was subsequently noted operating at Boisleux-au-Mont in the Pas-de-Calais with troops from the American Expeditionary Force.

After the war, Hunslet bought back the locomotive, rebuilt it, and sold it to the Engineering Supply Company of Brisbane, Australia. They sold it onto Gibson & Howes Ltd at Bingera Sugar Mill, Bundaberg, for use on the vast network of sugar cane railways in Queensland. Named ‘Hunslet’, it was reboiled in 1942, and worked until 1956 when it was sold to the Invicta Sugar Mill. Invicta’s own loco (HE 1226) needed a new boiler, and so the cab and tanks from HE 1226 were fitted to HE 1215, which then worked for a further 8 years.

After storage, the loco was presented to the Rowes Bay Children’s Home in 1967. It stayed there until 1994, when an enthusiast bought the loco and started restoration. After some years of discussion, the War Office Locomotive Society managed to acquire the locomotive, and it was repatriated to the UK, arriving on the 16/9/2005. The loco has spent a period on display at the NRM’s Shildon annex. Before it’s arrival at Apedale on 13/7/2008, the loco also visited Leighton Buzzard and Hollycombe.

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