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Hunslet ‘Austerity’ WD192 ‘Waggoner’

Built: 1953
Wheel arrangement: 0-6-0 ST
Current status: In service

Built by the Hunslet Engine Co. as HE3792 it was delivered to the Army in January 1953 and was one of the very final batch of 14 locomotives of the ‘Austerity’ type to be ordered by the War Department. Numbered WD192 it was put to work on the Longmoor Military Railway in Hampshire.

In July 1955 it was reported to be working at Histon and in May 1959 it was at Bicester. By May 1961 it was in store at the Royal Engineers Stores Depot, Long Marston, and in 1968 it was renumbered WD92 and named ‘Waggoner’ in recognition of its service with the Royal Corps of Transport.

In April 1969 the locomotive was stored at P&EE Shoeburyness. 1974 saw No.92 transferred to Marchwood Military Port, Southampton, in order to work the internal passenger train service. It continued to work around the dock yard system until 1979 when its ten-yearly boiler overhaul was due.

In 1977, Waggoner featured as the ‘spook train’ in the TV adaptation of Enid Blyton’s Five go off to Camp. The locomotive was made to look dirty (in keeping with a ghost train hidden in a tunnel for several years). After filming, the production company paid for the locomotive to be repainted, changing its appearance from Army green to a blue livery similar to that of the Longmoor Military Railway.

‘Waggoner’ returned to Shoeburyness for the boiler work and a heavy overhaul, a boiler repair facility was maintained at Shoeburyness by the Army Railway Organisation in order to repair the steam cranes that were still in use on the ranges there. The overhaul included a repaint into Longmoor Military Railway Oxford Blue livery, with red lining. On being declared fit for use ‘Waggoner’ was, along with sister engine WD198 ‘Royal Engineer’, passed into the care of the Royal Corps of Transport Institution which at that time had responsibility for historic Royal Corps of Transport artefacts.

Agreement was reached that the loco be retained and used at Shoeburyness as a VIP train with the historic ‘Kitchener’ coach, the MOD paying for its continued use and insurance. It was seldom steamed and fortunately spent most of its time stored under cover.

‘Waggoner’s very last task at Shoeburyness was to move the Army’s only surviving rail-borne gun, which had been parked on a short siding at Shoebury for many years. This 18″ gun had a total weight estimated at about 180 tons and it was known that at least one of the axles had seized solid. Immediately forward of the gun position the siding ran across a level crossing, which was set in concrete.

Due to the soft nature of the terrain, the track under the gun had sunk by at least a foot leaving a short, sharp climb up to the crossing. A pair of diesel locomotives had failed to budge this monster, but using a double coupling and full regulator, No.92 lifted the whole thing up and across the level crossing. Such is the power of steam! The Gun and its carriage were displayed for many years outside the Royal Artillery Barracks at Woolwich and has now been moved to the Royal School of Artillery at Larkhill in Wiltshire.

In June 1984 ‘Waggoner’ was taken to Rushmoor Arena, Aldershot for what proved to be the final Aldershot Army Show, where it was exhibited as part of the Royal Corps of Transport display. During the two-day show ‘Waggoner’ was kept in steam with the regulator handle bolted closed, the footplate being visited by over 50,000 people, most of whom contrived to blow the whistle!

This was to be its final steaming in Army hands and, after the show, ‘Waggoner’ was loaded onto a Royal Engineers trailer, (which had a stated maximum load capability of only 35 tons!), and was taken to the Museum of Army Transport, Beverley, for permanent exhibition.

Responsibility for both No.192 and No.198 passed to the National Army Museum in 2001. In the summer of 2003 the Museum of Army Transport was unfortunately forced to close by financial problems and, following a period in store, the National Army Museum decided to place ‘Waggoner’ on loan to the IWSR. where it can now be seen alongside sister engine WD198 ‘Royal Engineer’.

‘Waggoner’ was moved by road from Beverley to the Isle of Wight, arriving at Havenstreet on 26th February 2005. An initial inspection of the boiler and mechanical parts was carried out shortly after arrival and the work necessary to return her to service, including a boiler re-tube and the fitting of Westinghouse air brake equipment, was rapidly completed. ‘Waggoner’ was steamed for the first time in almost twenty two years during May 2006.

In May 2008 the National Army Museum transferred the ownership of both Army locomotives to the Isle of Wight Steam Railway.

‘Waggoner’ is currently out of service and undergoing a thorough overhaul, with the aim of her steaming again in 2022.

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