A STEAM locomotive built in 1924 has been restored after 21 years of voluntary work.

The 4079 Pendennis Castle, which was one of 10 "castle class" steam locomotives built by Charles Collett, was launched at Didcot Railway Centre on Saturday last week (2).

Lady Judith McAlpine launched the locomotive as her late husband Sir William McAlpine had taken a “keen interest” in its restoration after owning it for a decade in the Sixties.

It's the first time the locomotive, which could reach speeds of 100mph, has moved under its own steam for about 30 years. The Pendennis Castle has been stored in Didcot from 2001 where a team of volunteers have been working on restoring it.

Herald Series: Lady Judith McAlpine launching the locomotive on Saturday last week.Lady Judith McAlpine launching the locomotive on Saturday last week.

The 4079 Pendennis Castle hauled passengers for 40 years until it was withdrawn in 1964. The following year it was bought for preservation by Mike Higson, a bookseller and publisher from London, and it was restored at Swindon Works.

In 1966 the locomotive was sold to Hon Sir McAlpine, of Fawley Hill near Henley, and Hon John Gretton, of Stapleford Park near Melton Mowbray.

The pair stored it Didcot and then Carnforth before it left in Britain in 1977 to be ran on a private railway in Australia.

It was moved as Sir McAlpine had business interests with Hamersley Iron, a subsidiary of Rio Tinto, which mines iron ore in north western Australia.

The company iron ran a private railway with more than 1,000 miles of track to haul iron ore from the mines to the port at Dampier on the Australian north coast. The railway operators also used large steam locomotives for pleasure trips.

Sir McAlpine was asked to sell them the Flying Scotsman, another locomotive he had acquired in the Seventies, but he sold them Pendennis Castle instead.

The locomotive was withdrawn again in 1994 due to issues caused from the sand and new signalling on the railway being incompatible with it.

It was stored for several years and there was talk of putting it on a plinth. The locomotive was eventually offered to the Great Western Society at Didcot Railway Centre with the proviso that it was moved at no cost to Rio Tinto.

Herald Series: It is the first time the locomotive has moved under its own steam for almost 30 years.It is the first time the locomotive has moved under its own steam for almost 30 years.

The Great Western Society spent about £47,500 to move the locomotive which was raised by members of the society.

It arrived back in Didcot in 2001 and the restoration process began. Sir McAlpine took an interest in the progress but passed away in 2018 before the restoration was complete.

His widow, Lady Judith McAlpine, agreed to launch Pendennis Castle back into traffic and wore one of Sir William's hats so he would “have a part in the ceremony”.