The International Steam Pages

Railways in South Africa June 2000

Donald Bell reports on his trip: (Notes from Memory as notebook stolen with bag on return to UK)


Has reportedly taken over the Voorbai shed operation (with its excessive staff levels?). 25 NC 3422 is being converted to oil firing at Dal Josefat to replace damaged 3417- RH con rod broke and damaged the boiler. The GO has its front tank off and repaired. Looks as if superheater/tube repairs are needed. Only the Maluti trip remains of the long distance tours. This will take the 26 to Bloemfontein - for hibernation?. RTC have cancelled the Zimbabwe sections of their tours and will run only within SA. On 16 June the George-Knysna trains were due to start from the new platform at the George Museum. Only one train per day during the SA Winter out/back from George. The steam freight is believed to continue. Not mentioned in SARail 1/2000- please confirm.

The impression given (hopefully wrong)was that THF would like to be rid of steam operations, take their pensions and go fishing.


Have stopped runnng through Zimbabwe to Vic Falls following floods and the economic/political situation in Zim. The Falls train now runs East from Pretoria, through the Kruger park and to Pietersburg. Passengers are then flown by vintage aircraft to the Falls.


19D 3322 SARAH JANE took a 6 coach train from Cape Town to Darling on 11 June. Oil fired , long tender and water tank. Loco ran LE from Dal Josefat, turned at Bellville and worked T/F into Cape Town. departure is from the short parcels platforms 27/28, North of the main line platforms. They are designated ‘Monument Station’. CT 1015 Darling 1245/1515 CT 1805. On the return loco was scheduled T/F to Kalabaskraal, then turned and ran forward to CT. The fare of R240 included lunch and a caberet by Pieter-Dirk Uys who has a theater (Eva’s Peron) at Darling. For UK readers Uys’ character Evita Bezuidenhout is a politicised answer to Dame Edna. Spiers also run regularly to Simonstown with steam and to Franschoek and their farm at Stellenbosch, usually with vintage 4E electric. Support them!


On 12/6 both trains of empties seen crossing the Oliphants River bridge near Vredendaal (0900,1200) had 216 wagons with 3x9E and a 34 at the head. The diesel was working and seemed to be remotely controlled. A 34 was seen on a southbound pw train.


This preservation group runs a trip every Sunday from Waterfall Boven down the escarpment to Waterfall Onder. Times Bo 1100 Ond 1130-1300 Bo 1330. This gives time for a walk or lunch at a local pub. The original alignment of the NZASM included a rack section. on 18/6 (Fathers day) 15F 2985 (stoker fired and long tender) took 7 suburban coaches (four were well filled) and two service vehicles. Photography is not easy as the line is mostly North of the road. Best spots are at Onder, and on the arch bridge nearing Bo. Other locos are a 15F hand fired and short tender, a 25NC with original tender BRAAMFONTEIN- blue deflectors and 46T 064T 230 JAN WINTERVOGEL. The tank faces downhill, the othrs uphill. All are well kept with polished brass pipework. The tank can work downhill, but has to be dragged back. Locos and stock are kept in the goods shed. About 8x 6E1 were on shed and several 36/37 diesels.

Spoornets 3 coach legal advice train ‘Law to the people’ arrived with a 6E1. About 1200 a short passenger train clmbed the escarpment with 3x6E1. One of the coaches was optimistically labelled Bulawayo. All four locos had been in steam on June 11.


Very little traffic was seen (none in fact) when driving from Newcastle to Ladysmith and Colenso to Hilton (this was the Monday after a public holiday weekend). Cato Ridge yard was full of coal wagons, and at 1500 2 diesels dragged a metro set towards Durban on the New line. Apparently there had been a derailment in the area. There had been recent traffic on the old line from Cato Ridge to Inchanga and Bothas Hill to Pinetown, but not over the middle section.


A freight was heard at Winterton on the Escourt-Bergville line at 1000 on 19/6. Branches West of PMB- Donnybrook, Underberg, Kokstad and Matatiele had all seen recent traffic, though the large facilities at Franklin and Donnybrook were deserted and eerily quiet. 4x35.6 locos were at Franklin depot 1600 21/6. Two of them were seen at Donnybrook 1530 22/6 with a freight to PMB.


Blue 19D (domeless) no 1 was in steam, working the mill yard on 21+22/6 but made no trip to the exchange sidings 0900-1100 21/6 nor 1630-1700 22/6 ACR:

Continues to defy the normal rules of economics and accounting. The banana express is usually diesel but when all three were OOU a Garratt was steamed. Diesel availability has been low recently and there was a derailment on 21/6. With the PE limestone traffic ceased, there must be some low mleage 91 in good condition that could be sent to ACR. The Road from Pt Shep to Harding has been badly damaged by havy road traffic. It was sad to drive 22/6 from Donnybrook to Ixopo and Umzinto beside the lifted ng line. I overtook 9 loaded lorries of Timber/Cane , mostly the largest and heaviest rigs with 3axle tractors and 4axle trailers. At least 12 empties were passed and 2 articulated tankers of milk for Clover Dairies. ACR’s best hope must be in getting the franchise for all South Coast freight. Don't bother to phone or fax them at present.


The 2’6" line from Nababeep to Port Nolloth was closed in 1944, though shunting at the mines continued until 1952. The formation can be traced between Nababeep and O’Kiep, and for about 30km North from Okiep towards Steinkopf (mostly West of the road). The stations at the top (Klipfontein) and bottom of the Anemeous pass can be seen. The track is used from the Jetty at pt Nolloth for about 200m to a storage yard for port equipment (anchors/bouys/fenders etc). The original wagons, with axle boxes dated 1896-1910 are used. They have one mine type Flunkey diesel, but this was OOU on June 12/13 awaiting a starter motor. The museum at Pt Nolloth has a short 4-wheel coach, and a fine drawing 1.5 inch to 1 foot of a 062 loco dated Nov 1890. Kitson 062 CLARA is preserved at the Nababeep mining museum with an open truck and two 4wheel coaches (one long w/b, one short). Both museums have photos and details of the line, as do the Okiep country hotel and the Lodge at Springbok. At OKiep is a restored, but non working Cornish beam engine of 1882 (the only intact one in the southern hemisphere) used to pump water from the mine. The Nababeep smelter and mine is due to close in 2002. At present semie refined ‘Blister’ copper in 17 tonne cubes or 850kg ingots is trucked to Bitterfontein. It is then railed to Cape Town for further refining overseas.


This metal processing plant on the Vredendaal-Bitterfontein line had a small white diesel at work on 12/6.

Rob Dickinson