Fred Gilbert

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Fred Gilbert
Official positions held:
FR Soc. Director 1954 - 1964
FR Soc. Post 1954 - 1954
FR People | WHR People

In September 1951 Fred Gilbert attended the Bristol Meeting, which had been called by Leonard Heath Humphrys. From this meeting gradually evolved the embryo Society of which he became secretary. He had a dislike of "back-scratching" and hence his importance in the history of the "Society" and his burning desire to see the FR running again and in trustworthy hands was masked to the ordinary member by a gentle but firm anonymity. But it was that quiet elderly man at the back of the crowd who, when Secretary of the embryo Society set up in 1952, made the crucial steps in the FR's revival. He worked diligently at finding ways in which control of the then moribund railway could be achieved, holding meetings with the Company secretary Cynon Evan Davies and, at his own expense, commissioning his solicitors (L Taylor-Harris) to trace and start negotiations with the principal shareholders. The 1959 FR Magazine portrait said "it was he who played the largest part in preparing the ground for the final negotiations which culminated in the revival of the railway." Pegler reported that Fred Gilbert co-opted Tom King to the nascent FR Society committee. In June 1953 Fred Gilbert and Trevor Bailey visited the liquidator of the Welsh Highland Railway at Llandudno to see if might be possible to get control of the FR by a lease through some obscure powers that the liquidator might hold. It turned out to be a dead end.[1] Bill Broadbent described the critical role Gilbert played in forming the Society and taking over control of the FR.[2] He wrote, in talking about the 1952 public meeting in the Stephenson Locomotive Society's rooms in London:

"Mr Gilbert (his Christian name was Fred, and I was privileged to use it as a result of making several journeys in his company to Wales in our respective motor cars - he had a much-prized Standard Vanguard, then as now acknowledged as one of the better immediate post-war models) was leading the meeting and in due course got around to the business of panning out a committee from the 25 or so people present. There is no question in my store of memories that Fred Gilbert was the prime mover and inspiration of any co-ordinated action in the calling of this meeting, its outcome and the conduct of the Society's administrative affairs through the lean years leading up to June 1954. His part in laying the hard-core cannot be over-estimated. A bottle of milk raised to his lips with trembling hand was his only concession to the strain of giving his all to those early, frustrating days."

He was considerably older than the Pegler/Routly/Bailey generation and Alan Pegler recalls that they always knew him as "Mr. Gilbert" and never learned his christian name. [3] He says Gilbert was then (early 1950s) a builder with strong sentimental attachments to North Wales.

He made no secret of his disappointment that in the event the Society itself did not gain control of the Company. Upon the incorporation of the Society as a Company Limited by Guarantee at the end of 1954 he relinquished the post of secretary, but became a director, a position which he held until 1964. He was also editor of the Festiniog Railway Magazine from No. 1. in Summer 1958 to No. 16 in the Spring of 1962. Fred Gilbert, by then reported as having a newsagents business in Basingstoke, was in failing health and that forced him to resign in early 1964 from being a Director of the Society. [4]

For a picture of Fred Gilbert see the photograph of the presentation to Robert Evans where he is standing 2nd from the left.

He died in March 1965. [5]


  1. ^ Whitehouse P.B. (1963) Festiniog Railway Revival. p 59, Ian Allan, Hampton Court, Surrey, UK.
  2. ^ Broadbent W in Great Railway Eras, Festiniog 1946 - 1955: The Pioneers' Stories (2007) Davies M and Mitchell V, pages 16 - 84, Middleton Press, Midhurst, West Sussex, GU29 9AZ.
  3. ^ "Looking Back", Ffestiniog Railway Magazine, Issue 225, page(s): 637
  4. ^ "Society Notices", Ffestiniog Railway Magazine, Issue 024, page(s): 006
  5. ^ "Obituary", Ffestiniog Railway Magazine, Issue 029, page(s): 020

See also[edit]