The International Steam Pages

Steam in South Africa, January 2002

Click here for the 1999/2000 reports which are updated by this.

Donald Bell reports:

WELKOM AREA. 17/1/02

Loraine mine Allanridge (Target Gold) has closed and the railway lifted. The loco shed was well locked and in a compound, with track lifted. May still contain the steam locos which are to go to Sandstone (see below) The preserved 482T Loraine 1 (two smokebox plates NB 27090/51 and one cabside 27404/54) has been moved 50 metres and through 45 degrees since my last visit.

Free State Geduld is now called Matjhabeng mining (Anglo Gold). The North shaft (Nyala-ex Freddies 5) has closed. Centre cab B-B 2 worked from Kudu (FSG 4) shaft to reduction plant at Sable (FSG 1). Anglo Gold Rail Transport livery of Maroon/Gold/White. Similar locos 1 3 4 5 6 on shed. Steam loco 11 OOU (19BR?) plus two rod drive B+B: 4 (Anglo livery) 5 (President Brand). Nearby, by the Allanridge-Welkom roadbridge ,were 3 more steam OOU. Freegold North 6 (11 class) and 9 (482, 3BR) with similar Freestate Saaiplaas 9. Spoornet haul many of the intermine workings. 34031 was seen heading NE on the line from St Helena/President Brand to Matusi siding with internal wagons.

At President Brand (Freestate 1 plant) end cab B-B diesels were used (similar to class 91) one newly painted in Anglogold, with no number, one still marked President Brand 7. This headed towards the former Brand 2 site.

St Helena Mine (Harmony Gold). Class 16CR 462 locos. No 2 (tender 3) in steam due to work to shafts 2,4 and 8 during 2200-0600 nightshift. 4 OOU, 1 washout/superheater repairs, 6 heavy repair- drivers have been removed and turned.


42 Inch gauge equipment is stored under cover at Ficksburg station. Locos include 25NC (long tender) 3488, basically complete, O6OD 9 ex Free State Geduld, an Outside Cyl 060T, a tiny 040D marked WB, 15CA/B Rustenburg 4, Blue 15F 2915 (handfired), NRZ diesel 1207 (yellow) and a GMAM LINDY LOU, in Sandstone green livery. Coaches include Kitchen 288 (part of a twin set) Artic 14033, van 4574, suburban 5909, 4 steel clerestory saloons and three wooden bodied clerestory coaches painted blue (from Loraine?) plus two modern saloons, one of which is a bar car. Sandstone is said to have bought the 10CR and several 19D from Loraine, but these have not yet been delivered. At 0900 on 17/1 Spoornet freight of box vans with two diesels headed West at Ficksburg ,where there is an active container depot.

The estate, to the East of Ficksburg, on the Lesotho border is a series of commercial farms involved in cattle, wheat, maize, beans and fruit, with an emphasis on the organic. The driving force is businessman Wilfred Mole who has Richard Branson's skill in attracting positive publicity, but hopefully delivers more beef than the bearded wonder . A large collection of agricultural machinery has been assembled. 2ft gauge rail track has been laid for 4km SE from the central complex to Groot Draai farm, and 3km NW to Mooihoek. This is being extended by a further 3-4km to Vailema siding on the Spoornet Ficksburg-Bethlehem line. Track has been laid and ballasted as far as the crossing of the access road, and trackbed has been cleared for the rest of the route. Due to be completed by mid April. The line is used to bring grain from the fields to Dryers/silos and will be used to bring in railborne fertiliser. Visitors can be taken on either agricultural or heritage tours by arrangement. Phone 051 933 3009/2235 or 082 990 5639. Steam charters can be arranged for R1000. A festival is planned for April 19-21 2002 with all locos in steam and an attempt to have a record 400 tractors of various vintages working together. An archive and library has been established under the control of Eric Conradie, former THF librarian. The company is negotiating to take over the Bethlehem-Bloem line, which could be the future for 1065mm steam preservation in South Africa. The Railway and steam workshops are under control of Gabor Kovaks, toolmaker and live steam enthusiast, who moved to Ficksburg recently from Johannesburg. His German birthplace, Hungarian passport and South African accent caused apoplexy among British immigration officials on a recent trip to UK. He was extremely helpful on my 17 Jan visit. Steam powered road and farm engines include examples by Fowler, Marshall, Robey and Ransome, plus a borehole drilling machine. Visitors can be taken round the estate in a 1950 AEC Regal single deck bus in t he livery of Bedwas and Machen UDC, Wales (destination blind BASSALEG)

Locos on site include 042T NG1 (AB 1459/1916) NG16 4 (SAR 153) in Green, NG16A 155 in Red (front unit from 113) and 060 Hunslet diesel 3 (6355/64) originally at Doornkoop sugar, latterly at Midmar. A recent arrival is 440 Lawley from Roodepoort (probably ex SAR 106, Falcon 232/1895 with a 1941 Bagnall boiler). Seemingly in sound condition, it should be running by April. Much equipment came from Midmar, including a well restored passenger/guards van, and two open coaches being converted to covered. NG16 113 is at Bloemfontein being overhauled


Running two trains per day (plus one one freight) each way, SuX

From 15 May to 15 Aug reduced winter service. One train only MWFO, from George am, Knysna pm. Thus no trains at weekends. Locos working 19B 1412, 19D 2698, 24 3606. Spare 19D 3324. 19B is in good condition and worked the heaviest trains. 24 are not considered powerful enough for freight and 19B/D are used where possible. On 18/1 2698 returned from Knysna with 1 load of timber and two of refuse containers. 7 wagons of timber at Rugtevlei were ignored. Passenger loadings have been good over the Christmas holidays.

THF GOLDEN THREAD. The trip 15-20/1 had 18 passengers, an improvement on the past two weeks. It is not now allowed to Knysna (bridge /sleeper problems for GMAM , double heading banned and banking not acceptable). Passengers take the regular service to Knysna on Friday, then steam hauled to Albertina on Saturday with a day diesel run on to Worcester. Steam locos are liable to be substituted by diesels for fire risk or steam failures (or because Voorbaai have rostered a diesel crew to work a steam loco back from Oudtshoorn).


GMAM 4128 working Golden Thread, 4122 in steam spare.

In works GMAM 4070 (oil fired, nearly ready) Blue 19D 2749.

Working order. GL 2351, 19C 2439 (tender 2640), GEA 4023, 19D 2683,2640, 24 3632/35/68/75/93. Diesels 32042/47. OOU 15CA 2054, GMAM 4072 (dsm) 19D 3322 + another, 24 3683 +3660 (green). NRZ 508/615

DAL JOSEFAT, 20/1/02

25NC 3422 (Oil) working Golden Thread Worcester to Cape Town. GF/GO at Worcester. 25NC(coal) 3407 retubing. Locos in working order 16D/DA 860/879. 15F 3153 (coal) 2916 (oil). 19D 2649 (oil) 3321 (coal) 3334 (oil) 15A 1970, 26 3450

Industrial steam survives here (15th April 2001), Geoff Pethick reports "I was in Welkom on Thursday and paid a quick visit to St Helena. Four locos remain in the fleet of 16CR's No. 1 (ex SAR 821) was in steam in the shed yard, and with very little in the way of leaking steam, a noticeable difference to previous visits.  No 2 (ex SAR 819) was in the loco shed with the rear driving wheels half removed (or replaced if you are an optimist). It appears to have been repainted and seemed in good condition. A newly refurbished mine built tender was outside, presumably this combination will take over the workload shortly. No. 4 (ex SAR 839) was dumped outside the shed, now a source of spare parts. I had the opportunity to inspect the boiler records for this loco with a view to getting it purchased a bout three years ago, and the firebox was giving continual problems, such that it requires very heavy repairs to get it recertified. The sort of repairs that in its main line days would have seen a new firebox fitted. No. 6 (ex SAR 817) was at the rear of the shed with all driving wheels out, looking rather tatty. Any future plans for this loco are unknown. This operation always looks like it is on borrowed time yet continues to soldier on, the more surprising since Loco No. 1 was built in 1919. outside Cuba and Java, it must be one of the world's oldest working industrial locomotives." Martin Potts (17th May 2001) tells me that the owners of St. Helena, Gold Fields Ltd, have declared the mine uneconomic and it will almost close shortly.

Some years ago CRJ110 confirmed steam continued at a number of industrial locations and I have now (8th July 1999) updated this courtesy of Trevor Staats including Loraine Gold Mine, (Allanridge, operations ceased in 1999 and locos mothballed but may yet see re-use with new owners ), SAICCOR, (Umkomass), GVPM (Grootvlei - the last real steam location in the former Transvaal - but this closed in 1998 with locos donated for preservation), St Helena Gold Mines Ltd (Welkom) -  see above - although it has now finished at Rustenberg Platinum Mines and Greenside Colliery, (Blackhill) (both confirmed in WS 97/1). Of course the George-Knysna line continues semi-preserved (see Duncan Cotterill's July 1998 report) and there are numerous main line specials. Justin Miles established a Garden route website (but it died with the trains) for this nearly real railway, possibly including a webcam. W L Gwyer adds "I thought your readers may be interested to know that the SAR steam operation at George is alive and well. I was there during the week of March 13th 2000. 4 engines were in steam 2 each of 19D 4-8-2's and 24 2-8-4's. Two handled the passenger trains, one switched the yard and the other remained on standby. The trains were well patronized and I have to say the ride to Knysna is spectacular to say the least - well worth the 50 Rand (less than $10.00 US) round trip ticket!"

Rob Dickinson