IT was lovely – if slightly inconvenient – to see the snow last week: many of our visitors managed to get through it to come and see us and the centre did look beautiful.

I got my warm clothes out and wore one of my Didcot Railway Centre sweatshirts to meet some friends. I was a bit puzzled when they asked which castle had gone round the world and then I realised my sweatshirt was one of the commemorative ones we printed to celebrate the return of Castle Class steam engine No 4079 Pendennis Castle to Didcot. And yes – she has been round the world.

Pendennis Castle the engine was built in Swindon in 1924. In the following year the Great Western Railway lent her to the London & North Eastern Railway for trials against the new locomotives exemplified by No.4472 ‘Flying Scotsman’. Of course she outperformed her competitors and the GWR sent her 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.

At the end of steam in the 1960s Pendennis Castle changed hands a few times before being sold to Hamersley Iron for use on excursion trains on the company's 240-mile ore-carrying railway in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. She left England on May 29, 1977. One of the highlights was a visit to Perth in 1989 to operate alongside her old rival ‘Flying Scotsman’ as the climax of a tour during the country's bicentennial celebrations.

In the 1990s her owners started looking for a new home for Pendennis Castle that offered a secure future, recognised the significance of its English heritage and provide a high degree of public accessibility. Early in 2000 Pendennis Castle was offered to the Great Western Society for display at Didcot Railway Centre. In return, we agreed to arrange and pay for the repatriation and to restore her to running condition.

Pendennis Castle was formally presented to the Society by Hamersley Iron on April 19. Following a 10-week voyage she finally regained British soil on July 8 2000, 23 years, one month and eight days after she left. The cost of bringing her back had been met by generous donations from British enthusiasts and a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Pendennis Castle's route home 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 No.4079 the first 4-6-0 steam locomotive to circumnavigate the world, and only the second steam loco to do so after ‘Flying Scotsman’.