4079 Pendennis Castle was completed at Swindon in February 1924 and began working life at Old Oak Common where it was employed on routes to South Wales and the West Country. In 1950 4079 was allocated to Gloucester shed before moving on to Bath Road Bristol in 1959 and then Bristol Saint Philip’s Marsh from where she was withdrawn in 1964.
Pendennis Castle’s claim to fame dates from 1925 when the GWR lent the locomotive to the London & North Eastern Railway for trials against Sir Nigel Gresley’s mighty new pacifics. Working 16-coach trains on the East Coast main line from Kings Cross, the stalwart Castle covered itself in soot and glory, thoroughly out-performing its larger competitors. Its exploits were the talk of every schoolboy in Britain and the GWR rather cheekily sent Pendennis Castle to stand alongside Flying Scotsman at the 1925 British Empire Exhibition at Wembley with a notice proclaiming it to be the most powerful passenger express locomotive in Britain.
BR motive power depot allocations since 1948.
|October 1952||Stafford Road|
|June 1957||Bristol Bath Road|
|January 1961||St Phillips Marsh|
|November 1963||St Phillips Marsh|
Whilst at Swindon 4079 was put into store for almost a year.
In May 1964 it was one of four Castle class locomotives to haul farewell runs from Paddington to Plymouth and attained a speed of 96mph at the time. However, it failed when its firebars melted.
After withdrawal in 1964, Pendennis Castle was purchased for preservation by Mike Higson and appeared at one of the Great Western Society’s first open days in 1965. It was soon sold to the Hon. John Gretton and Sir William McAlpine and was based at Didcot just before the GWS established Didcot Railway Centre. In 1977 the locomotive was sold again, this time to Hamersley Iron Company – one of the largest iron ore producers in Australia – for use on excursion trains on the company’s 240-mile ore-carrying railway in the Pilbara region of Western Australia.
4079 left England on 29 May 1977. In Australia, it was looked after by the Pilbara Railways Historical Society, formed by Hamersley employees, and worked many excursion trains through the Chichester Ranges. A highlight of the Australian sojourn was a visit to Perth in 1989 to operate alongside its old rival Flying Scotsman as the climax of a tour during the country’s bicentennial celebrations. However, vastly increasing traffic on the Hamersley railway combined with operational difficulties resulted in 4079 being stored out of use for several years, 4079 final steaming in Australia took place in October 1994. Whilst in Australia it was given the name River Fe (River of Iron) by its new owner in 1978.
With prospects for an operational future in Australia looking uncertain, Hamersley Iron began to consider the options. The main concern was to find a new home that could offer a secure future, which would recognise the significance of its English heritage and provide a high degree of public accessibility. It was also important that the engine should not become a stand-alone exhibit, but should play its part in illustrating the wider picture of GWR locomotive development.
The decision to offer Pendennis Castle to the Great Western Society was made in the first days of 2000. In return, the society agreed to arrange and pay for the repatriation, and to restore it to full main-line running condition.
The locomotive was formally presented to the Society by Hamersley Iron on 19 April. Following a 10-week voyage Pendennis Castle finally regained British soil on 8 July 2000, just over 23 years after it left. The cost of bringing the locomotive back to Britain had been met by generous donations from British enthusiasts and a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Pendennis Castle’s route was via the Pacific Rim, the Panama Canal, the Eastern Seaboard of the USA and across the Atlantic – the opposite way to her outward journey – making 4079 the first 4-6-0 steam locomotive to circumnavigate the world, and only the second steam locomotive to do so after Flying Scotsman.
4079 is now being restored at Didcot where in October 2015 the boiler was temporarily returned to the frames twelve years after being removed. It was only temporary to whilst pipes and other fittings were attached to the locomotive. The tender for 4079 was completed in September 2015 but remains behind 5051 Drysllwyn Castle until 4079 is ready to be reunited with it.
During 2016 work continued on restoring 4079 with much of the effort being associated with the boiler cladding. The boiler itself was previously carried by 5086 Viscount Horne which this locomotive acquired when it was altered from a Star class engine in 1937.
It is anticipated that the locomotive will not steam again until at least 2018. By early 2017 work on the boiler at Didcot was nearing a stage where it could be hydraulically and steam tested but there is still much work to be done on other areas of the locomotive. Funds are also still required to fit 4079 with the Train Protection & Warning System and On-Train Monitoring Recorder required to allow it to operate on the main line.
In September 2020 it was anticipated that the boiler would be steamed out of the frames in the following month and the locomotive would be back in steam in 2921.
When completed the locomotive will be outshopped in 1920 GWR livery.
|Home Base||Current Status||Owner|
|Didcot Railway Centre||Under overhaul||
Great Western Society
- 4073 Caerphilly Castle
- 5029 Nunney Castle
- 5043 Earl of Mount Edgcumbe
- 5051 Drysllwyn Castle (Earl Bathhurst)
- 5080 Defiant (Ogmore Castle)
- 7027 Thornbury Castle
- 7029 Clun Castle