Union Limited Maluti 7 June 1999 Photos and Report
All photographs copyright © 1999 as credited.
|I took a leisurely Sunday afternoon drive to De Aar last Sunday
(6 June). Popped into Beaconsfield shed on the way to find 3450
simmering at the coal stage, gleaming red in the setting sun. The
Red Devil was looking good, brass and copper polished up nicely, a
fresh coat of paint and nice & clean. The loco is not lined with
white any more, and now carries "Red Devil" deflector plates and THF
number plates. The "No." and "3450" plates from the buffer beam are
no longer there. The wheels are red with black tyres. The cab was
immaculate, all the gauges, handles, spindles etc. gleaming brass,
and a nice thick fire burning on the grate. There is still exhaust
steam being piped in beneath the grate, couldn't see if standard or
pinhole grates are in, nor what type of blast pipes were installed.
Apparently it has a standard 25NC superheater header now rather than
the larger GMAM model fitted originally. 5 leaking washout plugs
were noticed on closer inspection but otherwise the loco looked
Drove on to a chilly De Aar, via the railway route. Had a few runpasts along the way (a few buck runing past the car!), narrowly avoiding a hard meeting with a springbok (?) leaping across the road near Behrshoek. A couple of trains seen near Kimberley, but all else quiet.
Spent the night at the Hydra Guest House, which is a group of ex-Eskom houses now being used as accommodation. I had an entire 3 bedroom house to myself for R60, highly recommended!
Driving into De Aar on Monday morning, I could see huge clouds of steam rising from the loco shed area. The Red Devil had been brought down light engine overnight, and was blowing down, creating huge clouds of steam. The rails were coated in ice, the loco cab was the only place to be! A few other chilly gricers were taking some night shots as well. The train was due out at 7:05, so we headed up towards Behrshoek. Trying to judge where the train would be at sunrise was tricky, not helped by the fact that the train appeared to have left early. We set up between Behrshoek and Perdevlei and waited...
"3 degrees below zero, air clear and still, not a cloud to be seen, just minutes before sunrise. A steam plume appears on the distant veld, racing along the flat. Soon, the exhaust of a hard working loco echoes from the hills, the steam plume expands. An exchange of whistles as another train is passed, exhaust sound growing louder and faster. The headlight shines from around the curve, the loco barking its imminent passing to the empty Karoo. The sun crests the horizon, the train approaches, and there it is... The Red Devil, staccato exhaust creating huge plumes of sculpted steam, hanging in the freezing air, tinged gold by the rising sun. And with a rush of noise, wind and flailing side rods, the machine has passed, the harsh bark fading into the comparatively soft whisper of the coaches following dutifully behind. Then it's gone, the smell of coal smoke lingers, the steam cloud slowly dissipates, and the Karoo continues waking from its cold slumber..."
Got a bit carried away there, but it was a great way to see the sun rise! A runpast (or run forward rather) was held at Behrshoek, the train inspector wouldn't allow the train to push back, so the passengers had to walk ahead and the train then moved past. Another runpast at Houtkraal, then a speedy run up towards Potfontein. It was a gricing scene from days of yore - railfans speeding along the dirt road, chasing a Red Devil in full cry, trying to get far enough ahead for the next shot. There were some interesting displays of railfan driving as well. A gent from the UK in a hired Golf was stuck at Houtkraal, the positive lead had come loose off the battery. A little later the same car was seen sliding around a corner in an interesting manner. It takes quite a lot of practice to master the art of keeping the car on the road at 120km/h, driving through thick dust, taking the curves on loose gravel, changing film and trying to look at the Red Devil as you drive alongside! The true masters can also take video of the loco pacing at the same time.
A couple of shots later and we took to the service road from Kraankuil to Orange River. This road was even better (?) than the main road. We had no chance of catching the train before Orange River, but we hurried nonetheless. Where the farm roads cross the track, the service roads cross the embankments at right angles. I glanced in my mirror to see the Golf behind me launch into the air in true rally style. How he kept control of the landing is beyond me! A little further on, water had carved a nice deep channel in the road - again cars all over the place! I saw that the Golf arrived at Orange River minus a hubcap and part of the front spoiler. Mr. Avis will be happy! The road was too much for Tony Attwell's tyre, so he and Jean pulled out of the race for quick repairs...
A pause at Orange River to take water and clean fire, then another 20 minutes or so while a diesel freight passed and cleared the section. A false start was made for the passengers. Shots were taken at Orange River Cutting, Enslin and one or two in-between places before missing the train totally at Beaconsfield South!
A trip to the shed found 3300 at the coal stage, ready to go. SteamNet 2000's locos were looking clean and painted. 3467, 3441 and another NC "Anne" (no number), plus a class 11, and a big surprise was the NRZ 15A class #398 - when did this loco arrive in South Africa? I believe the 15's are out of the SAR loading gauge...
A quick fill up of petrol and film followed, and while waiting near Kimberley for the 23, David Benn noticed that my front tyre was also the worse for wear after the rugged roads. A quick change (thanks for the assistance guys - much appreciated!), and the next stop was Perdeberg. We couldn't find the way in to the S-curves there as the roads have changed, and the service road had been dug up not 10 minutes before by a guy on a tractor. They were laying cable or something. So we went for second prize, the bridge over the Modder River. The 23 eventually arrived, got some shots of it on the bridge, then the train stopped and disgorged all the passengers for a runpast. We dashed to the other side of the river for another shot. No smoke but pleasant enough.
Further shots were at Immigrant, Petrusburg then De Brug, where a water stop was made. The sun was dipping low as the train left De Brug, giving a strong glint, then the final shot was at Driekloof, seconds before the sun turned in, another passable glint, although the smoke drifting in front of the sun dulled the golden light somewhat...
Altogether a good day, a bit long after finally arriving back in Pretoria at 10:00 pm. Round trip was a total of around 1800 km.
All pictures captured from digital video. Pictures copyright (c) 1999 Trevor Staats
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