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THE 4079 STORY

With ‘water gin’ in tow, Pendennis Castle passes an ironstone train as it steams through the northern Australian desert on Hamersley Iron’s Pilbara Mineral Railway. GWS COLLECTION

‘DOWN UNDER’ The engine that went

The Great Western Society has reached a crucial stage in the rebuilding of Pendennis Castle, the iconic locomotive The Railway Magazine helped repatriate from Australia in 2000. DREW FERMOR tells the story. Part 1: The Aussie Years

THE story of how one of the Great Western Railway’s most famous locomotives, No. 4079 Pendennis Castle, came to be in Australia is the stuff of legend. It all began when the Pilbara Railways Historical Society was formed by a group of employees of Hamersley Iron, a large mineral mining company based in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. They had the ambition of running heritage trains on the company’s railway, which extended for well over 650 miles from the port of Dampier to the ironstone mines at Tom Price and Paraburdoo. The society already had a growing collection of Hamersley’s old diesel locos plus three New South Wales Government Railways coaches, but what it really wanted was a steam locomotive. This was, however, a bit of a problem. Owing to the fact that the railways of Australia had been built with little thought to a common gauge, standard gauge steam was hard to come by at that time. An attempt to bring a 36-class 4-6-0 locomotive, No. 3642, to the line on a ten-year lease had failed due to pressure exerted by enthusiasts in its home state of New South Wales, so when Sir Russell Madigan, head of HI’s parent company, Conzinc Rio Tinto Australia, visited the HI facility he was told of the society’s ambitions and the problems they were having. As he left, he made a statement that stunned some and probably marked him as a bit eccentric to others: “Don’t worry boys,” he said, “I’ll buy you the Flying Scotsman!” The PHRS members thought he was joking, but not long afterwards a letter arrived

from Sir Russell containing the immortal words: “I couldn’t get you the Flying Scotsman – will Pendennis Castle do instead?” Isn’t it terrible when life throws up these little disappointments and difficult choices?! Needless to say, the reply was in the affirmative and, after a boiler overhaul at Carnforth depot in 1977 (including a new front tubeplate, firebox re-staying and re-tube) and a final railtour fittingly named ‘The Great Western Envoy’ on May 29 that year, the pride of the GWR went light engine to Avonmouth docks and was loaded by floating crane onto the m.v. Mishref bound for the Australian city of Sydney. Upon arrival ‘down under’ on July 14, the first problem was the fact that No. 4079 was not compatible with the exclusively air-braked

“Sorry lads, I couldn’t get you the Flying Scotsman. Will something called the Pendennis Castle do instead?”

36 • The Railway Magazine • April 2009

Left: Rusty, dusty but still proud: The faded condition of Pendennis Castle on its return from the desert.

rail network in Australia. This was overcome by tying a temporary through pipe to the loco with rope and attaching a series of goods wagons to provide braking power. It was then towed by a diesel-electric loco to Everleigh carriage works and placed in store, awaiting a sea journey to Dampier with a consignment of new diesels being delivered to HI. In order to be towed the 100 miles to Newcastle to board the ship Iron Baron, the loco was put into light steam for the first time in Australia and undertook the final leg of the journey on March 31, 1978. ‘Pendennis’ arrived at Dampier on April 29 and was delivered to the small museum at HI’s Seven Mile workshop. It is difficult to think of a more unlikely home for a GWR engine – much of the terrain around the area is scrub and desert, a far cry from the temperate green fields of home. There were a number of problems associated with running steam on the line, the main one being water. Although there are water supplies in the desert, they are all heavily