My favourite locomotive; Susan, was a regular on my daily trips to work when I was stationed at Germiston Telecomms Depot during 1985/86. She usually lived on a short spur at the end of the mainline platform and served as the pilot loco for Germiston. When I left the railways I also left Susan behind, never considering that one day she too would face possible extinction.
I was very glad to hear that she still survives, and was fortunate enough to see her make her debut at Reefsteamers after a long period of being “unroadworthy”. She is still a perky loco, and as shiney now as she was in 1986. I hope that she lives for much longer, and that the effort put into her by Reefsteamers does prove to be worthwhile.
She was built in 1919 as a 12A by North British Locomotive Works for service for heavy coal trains on the Germiston to Witbank line. Along with her sisters she was reboilered a few years later with a new boiler (Her current boiler was installed in 1955) and redesignated 12AR. Susan eventually fortunately found employment in the 1980’s as the Germiston Station pilot, which was where I saw her many years ago. Unlike many other steam engines she never really retired, but was withdrawn from service with long standing issues. Reefsteamers repaired and returned her to steam in 2009. She was recertified in June 2012 which gives her a few years of life before major work is required in 3-6 years.
She is the last remaining class 12AR in the world (and the only one), and is the second oldest operating mainline locomotive in South Africa. She a firm favourite with everybody, and is a tribute to those who built her, and those who maintain and drive her. Long may she grace us with her presence.
Update: Susan celebrated her 100th birthday in 2019, sadly shortly thereafter it was announced that the Board of Directors voted that Reefsteamers be placed into voluntary liquidation, with the depot closing on 16 December 2019.
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