Modderpoort - Bloemfontein - De Brug - 16 June 1999
Pictures copyright © 1999-2007 - Trevor Staats
|Whilst many people would have been watching the inauguration of
new South African President Thabo Mbeki today, the fact that a
public holiday coincided with some steam action around Bloemfontein
was the reason that Courtenay Champion and myself found ourselves in
Modderpoort at sunrise. To say it was rather chilly was an
understatement! The sun slowly crept over the horizon, and around
that time 16DA 876 and 16E 857 made their appearance, both locos in
magnificent clean condition. There were a few other linesiders
present, including David Benn, Jean Dulez and Dennis Moore.
The 16DA had arrived tender-first, so the 16E set off to turn on the triangle, photographed by a number of passengers from the train, all struggling to get their shutter fingers to work in the cold. The first shot of the day was to be a false arrival at Modderpoort, so the locos backed the train around the curve. It turned out to be a very false arrival, as the locos slipped to a stand just short of the home signal... Second try was more successful (silhouette shot below), and the frozen passengers re-embarked for a shot of coffee or brandy, as we set of for the next spot.
We picked a spot off a farm road not far from Modderpoort, from where we could see the train approaching from a distance. Both locos working hard, the occasional wheelslip, columns of steam rising above, and trailing off into the distance. Next spot was Hoogfontein. As we waited for the train, we looked around to see a strange sight. It appeared to be a well-known gricer from Johannesburg who had fastened himself to the top of the barbed-wire fence. Fortunately he extracted himself before the train arrived! Another fine sight as the train climbed past towards Hoogfontein.
The train stopped for water at Marseilles, and a false start was organised. As usual, the clouds covered the sun just as the train was called through, to the dismay of the members in the packed photo line! A quick drive to Waghorn to see the train thunder through, only to have it reverse back minutes later, the organisers deciding that this would make a great runpast location.
The 16's cooled their heels at Thaba Nchu for a while to cross a freight, whilst we tried to find a spot on the other side. We followed a few farm roads, then when they ran out, we drove on, eventually finding a reasonable position near a farm called Israelspoort. After that we caught the train near Sannaspos and followed it into Bloemfontein. Took some nice pacing footage of the 16E stepping it out and the 16DA racing along in front.
A quick bash at Bloemfontein shed revealed the following: 15F 3040, 23 3300, 26 3450 (in steam), 25NC 3454 (in steam), 24 3688, 25NC 3410 and work being done on ex-REGM GMAM R9. There were three 11th classes at the shed, as well as the array of dumped locos by the coal stage. 3454 was due to take a mixed train out to De Brug, where 15AR 1850 would take over for the trip back.
We waited by the showgrounds curve for quite some time, then convinced ourselves that we'd missed it, so drove back to the station to check. No train. We drove to De Brug to check, just a lone 15AR waiting there. We drove back to Kloofeind, and there appeared to be people waiting for the train, so we set up and waited again. Soon 3454 came rushing past, on a grand load of 6 wagons and a suburban coach.
By the time De Brug was reached, time and sunlight were running out. The train had to be at Olienhoutplaat in time to cross the Diamond Express, and the sun was already low. The passengers were anxious to get some of the glint shots the line is famous for, so the train was not remarshalled, the 15AR coupled on and away they went. A false departure, and a number of runpasts further down the line provided the glints the passengers were after, although it seems all were not in agreement as to where the photo line(s) should be. Things got quite heated at one point! The sun was almost gone as the passengers re-embarked for the trip back to Bloemfontein. The 15AR hustled off at great speed to make the crossing, and we pointed the car north on the N1. As we did battle with the heavy trucks clogging the highway, many with no tail lights, we thought of the train's passengers settling down for their evening meal in a comfortable dining coach, the rhythmic sound of the wheels on the rails, anticipating their next day of rail adventure!
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