VANISHING STEAM - South African Tourist Corporation
VANISHING STEAM - South African Tourist Corporation


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1. Railway bookstall and Post Office, Jeppe Station, Johannesburg, 1892.
2, 3, 4 & 5. From South Africa's railway past: exhibits at the Johannesburg. Railway Museum 6. Johannesburg Station today.
7. Old steam shed, Ladysmith, Natal.

1. A 25C in the Karoo with the "parcels train"'
2. The "Apple Express"
3. Narrow gauge Garratt in Natal
4. A GMA on the Pietermaritzburg-Franklin line 5. A 25C between De Aar and Kimberley
6. A Class 24 with freight train on the George-Knysna
Centrespread: A Class 24 with mixed train crossing the Kaaimans River Mouth between George and Knysna.

1. A 25NC
2. 15A No 1970 (known as "Milly") at De Aar 3. A GEA arriving at George from the Outeniqua
4. A 25NC in the Karoo
5. Mecca for rail fans: the little station in the Karoo through which nearly 50 steam trains pass in the course of a day
6. Country road
7. Double-headed freight train with two 198's on the Lootsberg Pass between Middelburg and Graaff Reinet
8. Loco cab fittings
9. An NGG 16 on the Estcourt-Weenen line 10. Building up the fire of a GMAM
11. The main street of Fauresmith in the Orange Free State. The locomotive is a Class 24 12. A 15CA at Pretoria

Centrespread: A 19 D with freight train chugs through vineyards in the Western Cape Province.

    With 2 000 steam locomotives still in service, the RSA today must be one of the most rewarding and attractive countries in which a rail fan can spend a vacation.
  Although not many mainline trains are still being steam hauled, owing to the rapid spread of overhead wires for electric traction and the introduction of diesel locomotives, steam locomotives continue to give excellent service on certain sections of the main lines as well as on the many country lines serving the smaller towns and districts away from mainline routes.
    They are, for instance, very much in service out of Bloemfontein and between Kimberley and Beaufort West, where the mighty class 25 and 25NG still hold sway. In the Cape Midlands, too, between Worcester and Mossel Bay, the massive class GEA and GMAM Garratt locomotives thunder up and down the mountain passes, and the GEA locomotives take the trains from Mossel Bay over the Outeniqua Mountains to Oudtshoorn. Many 19B and 19D locomotives also serve this area.
    The picturesque line between George and Knysna is worked exclusively by the class 24 locomotives, a ubiquitous branch line engine which can be found all over the RSA.
    The famous class 15F locomotives work in all the provinces of the country from the Cape to the Northern Transvaal.
    In the Eastern Transvaal the 15CA locomotives
hold a virtual monopoly, while the class 14R are predominant in Natal.
    The few remaining tank locomotives still working on the South African Railways can be found in Durban; giving good service even now is the class H2 - built as long ago as 1901.
    One of the RSA's famous trains is the so-called "Apple Express", which works the Port Elizabeth-Avontuur line through the fruit producing Langkloof. 285 kilometres in length, this line is the longest 2'0" gauge railway in the world.
    It is worked by both straight and Garratt Types - the "straights" being the class NG.15 and the Garratts the class NG/G.16. Each year from about the beginning of May to the end of January (that is, between apple seasons) the Apple, Express is converted into a passenger train on Saturdays if the demand for seats warrants this, and excursions are run from Port Elizabeth to Loerie and back again.
    The delightful little coaches that are attached date back to the old Cape Government Railway days.

    The Estcourt-Weenen, Port Shepstone-Harding, Donnybrook-Umzinto and Umlaas Road-Mid Ilovo' lines (all in Natal) are also 2'0" gauge. A veteran passenger coach is attached to the Estcourt-Weenen train, but passengers are not conveyed over the other three lines.
    South Africa might well be considered Garratt country, with 15 different classes for the normal 3'6" gauge and at least four 2'0" gauge classes having been introduced. And although many of these have been withdrawn, a considerable number are still in service and will remain for years to come.
    To combat the serious water restrictions in the Karoo, the enormous class 25 condensing locomotives were introduced, no less than 90 being placed in service. So effective were they over this arid section that it was possible to close down a number of watering stations.
    They were at the time of their introduction in 1953, the most powerful non -articulated 3'6" gauge locomotive n the world - and the longest, having an overall length of 107'6". An almost identical locomotive but without the condensing equipment, the class. 25NC, was ordered at the same time, fifty of them being put into service.
    An excellent place to see and photograph these behemoths at work is a small station named Kraankuil about half way between Kimberley and De Aar.
    Visiting locomotive enthusiasts often wonder what the reasons were for the adoption of the 3'6" gauge instead of the 4'8" gauge so common in the rest of the world. It was chiefly a matter of economics, due to the terrain of this sub-continent.
    There is no gradual rise from the coast to the interior: the coastal plains end somewhat abruptly against great mountain ranges and escarpments which mark the edge of the high  central plateau known as the Highveld.
    In order to surmount these natural obstacles it was necessary to build many embankments, bridges and tunnels The necessary earthworks were enormously expensive, and to keep within the bounds of available finances it was decided to adopt the smaller gauge.
    It must be remembered that at the time this decision was made, diamonds had only just been found in the Kimberley area and the goldfields of the Witwatersrand had yet to be discovered. South Africa was at that time largely dependent on the products of the land for its wealth, and a tight rein had to be kept on expenditure.
    Visiting enthusiasts who wish to know more about steam in operation, past and present, are strongly advised to get in touch with the Railway Society of Southern Africa whose members will be happy to assist in any way possible. The address is: The Secretary, R.S.S.A., P.O. Box 9775, Johannesburg.
    The South African Railways operates all internal rail services as well as numerous motor coach tours to places of interest in every part of the RSA. Moreover its Publicity and Travel Department functions as a wholesale travel agency, offering and arranging every type of tour to suit individuals and groups.
    With its specialised knowledge of trains and steam engines, the SAR Publicity and Travel Department frequently organises tours to suit the requirements of steam train enthusiasts. Anyone seeking information about these special tours should contact the Manager, Publicity and Travel Department, South African Railways, P.O. Box 1111, Johannesburg, who would be glad to undertake tour arrangements for prospective visitors.