GWR 4073 Class 4079 Pendennis Castle
The locomotive became famous in 1925 when the GWR lent her to the LNER as part of trials against the LNER's then new A1 Pacific Class, a famous example being LNER 4472 Flying Scotsman. Running from King's Cross to Grantham, and King's Cross to Doncaster, she made the ascent from King's Cross to Finsbury Park regularly in less than six minutes, a feat that the Pacifics were unable to match. Pendennis Castle was also shown to be more economical in both coal and water on the test runs, her superiority in burning unfamiliar Yorkshire coal being measured at 3.7lb per mile.
Before returning to the GWR, the locomotive attended the second Wembley Exhibition between May and October 1925, displayed next to Flying Scotsman, with a notice proclaiming it to be the most powerful passenger express locomotive in Britain.
Back at Old Oak Common, she continued to run the routes to South Wales and the West Country until after the GWR was nationalised post-World War II to become part of British Railways. In August 1950 she was allocated to Gloucester shed, in March 1959 to Bristol (Bath Road), and her last shed allocation was Bristol (Saint Philip's Marsh). She was withdrawn in May 1964.
Early preserved years
Acquired from BR in 1964 by Mike Higson, she was moved to Southall Railway Centre and appeared at one of the Great Western Society's first open days in 1965. After then being purchased by a partnership of the Honourable John Gretton and Sir Bill McAlpine, the locomotive was moved in 1967 to the former GWR depot at Didcot, taking up residence in the disused lifting shop. As the Great Western Society assembled and moved its collection there, the Castle made rare excursions at Didcot, and made her next public appearance in 1971.
In 1972 she moved to Market Overton, Rutland. After that project failed, and having been welded to the track by disillusioned project members, she moved to Steamtown, Carnforth where McAlpine held controlling-ownership. Being built to the larger GWR loading gauge, she was unable to run on the former London Midland and Scottish Railway tracks, and with tension growing between the owners, it was agreed to sell her.
In 1977, Pendennis Castle was sold to Hamersley Iron, one of the largest iron ore producers in Australia, which intended to run her on its 240 miles (390 km) ore-carrying Hamersley railway in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. The company-backed Pilbara Railways Historic Society wanted a steam locomotive, and chairman Sir Russell Madigan had promised them one, possibly Flying Scotsman.
When purchased by Hamersley Iron, Pendennis Castle was in need of considerable boiler repairs, which delayed her departure for Australia. On 29 May 1977, she made her farewell run in the UK, at the head of the Great Western Envoy from Birmingham to Didcot and return. The following day, she headed to Avonmouth, the port for Bristol, where she was loaded aboard the cargo vessel Mishref, and departed for Sydney, Australia, on 2 June 1977.
The Mishref arrived in Sydney on 13 July 1977, and the locomotive was unloaded in Darling Harbour. She was then towed to the carriage works in Eveleigh, where she was stored pending delivery to her ultimate destination, Dampier, Western Australia.
On 26 March 1978, Pendennis Castle was towed to Newcastle, New South Wales, and, together with three new GE C36-7 diesel locomotives, was loaded aboard the Iron Baron for the voyage to the Pilbara. On 29 April 1978, the locomotive was unloaded at Dampier. One week later, Hamersley Iron's Manager, Operations, Ian Burston, handed her over to the Pilbara Railways Historical Society.
On 12 October 1978, Pendennis Castle and two former NSW Railways passenger cars were named Rio Fe ("River of Iron") by Lady Turner, wife of Sir Mark Turner, chairman of Rio Tinto - Zinc Corporation, one of the major investors in Hamersley Iron. A brass plaque bearing the name Rio Fe was fitted above the locomotive's smokebox door. Pendennis Castle's first passenger carrying journey in Western Australia was a return trip from Dampier to Dugite on 7 November 1978, with the locomotive hauling two passenger cars.
Modified in 1980, Pendennis Castle was used for various other excursion trains on the company's ore-carrying railways. After further modifications, she was carried by road to Perth, Western Australia, where she had a historic reunion with Flying Scotsman on 17 September 1989. During the 1990s, after various difficulties and with the expiration of the boiler certificate, she made her final run on 14 October 1994. Hamersley Iron being unprepared to pay a repair bill of 240,000 Australian Dollars, and repairs becoming uneconomical after HI installed fully electronic signalling - which would have required the locomotive to run behind a GE Transportation Systems Dash 9 - resulted in the locomotive being stored for several years.
Return to the UK
In 1999, Hamersley Iron's parent, Rio Tinto Group, decided to find a secure home for the locomotive, an idea conceived and executed by Adrian Lumley-Smith who at the time was on secondment from the UK to Hamersley Iron. After agreement with the Great Western Society to restore her to running order, the locomotive was shipped back to the UK and taken to her former home at the Didcot Railway Centre.
Restoration was started in 2005, with the original intention that a return to main line service would take place in 2008. As of the start of 2013, restoration is still ongoing. It was announced in an issue of Steam Railway magazine that plans to run Pendennis Castle on an excursion trip with preserved sister 7029 Clun Castle to commemorate the end of steam and the end of the Castle Class on the Western Region in March 1967 would not go ahead as 4079 would not be restored in time for the anniversary in 2017.
- Joyce, John; Tilley, Allan (1980). Railways in the Pilbara (2nd ed.). Wembley, WA: J & A Publications. p. 61. ISBN 0959969926. OCLC 222691305.
- le Fleming, H.M. (November 1960) . White, D.E., ed. Part 8: Modern Passenger Classes. The Locomotives of the Great Western Railway (2nd ed.). Kenilworth: RCTS. p. H16. ISBN 0-901115-19-3.
- Hamersley Iron Pty. Ltd. (1985). Hamersley Iron Railway. Dampier, WA: Hamersley Iron Pty. Ltd. ISBN 0959064621.
- Willis Light Engineering Pty Ltd.; Pemberton Tramway Co (1989). Flying Scotsman, Pendennis Castle Reunion Tour, Western Australia, September-October, 1989: Official Commemorative Booklet. Melville, WA: Troubador Publications. OCLC 220543048.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to GWR 4073 Class 4079 Pendennis Castle.|
- Australian Steam: Pendennis Castle – includes images of Pendennis Castle in the Pilbara
- Description of 4079 at Didcot Railway Centre website.
- RailWA: 4472 Flying Scotsman and 4079 Pendennis Castle – images of 1989 reunion