Month: September 2010

Friends of the Rail to Cullinan

I had always had a hunkering to go on a Friends of the Rail trip, but never seemed to do it, until one day Reefsteamers was offered seats on the 150th Celebration of Steam Railways in South Africa trip to Cullinan.
This trip took place on 26 September 2010 from Hermanstad to Cullinan, and I was really looking forward to seeing their train as it had magnificent vintage slam door suburban coaches. I had always wanted to ride in one of them and this was my chance.
The loco up front was 19D-2650 “Cheugnette”. We were blessed with great weather were soon ready to go.

Friends of the Rail (aka FotR) operates out of Hermanstad in Pretoria, and they have a very nice collection of rolling stock and loco’s at their disposal. Unfortunately though, Pretoria is a bit out of my range, and I had only visited their site once before (and nobody had been home).

And then we were off. I do not know the route that the train takes, although I do recall we went past Capital Park and Hercules, although where they fit into it is beyond me. I had also never ridden behind a 19D and she was really romping up front, she had a wonderful whistle too and the coaches were a pleasure to travel in.


At some point we stopped. The line is a busy commuter line too, and naturally precedence is given to Metrorail. We were passed by a 10M5 here, and it was interesting to see the difference between two the generations of suburban traction.


From here we had a clean run to Reyton where we collected the Staff which gave us permission to use that line. A few years ago a 15F operated by FotR derailed on the way to Cullinan after sleeper theft, but we were fortunate that all sleepers were intact as we wound our way into the sleepy mining town.

Once we were alongside a short ceremony was held to celebrate the 150th Celebration of Steam Railways in South Africa. It also gave me an opportunity to have a look at the whole train without a platform in the way. Unfortunately the light post I could do nothing about.

 And there were photo opportunities with Cheugnette.


At this point I headed off to the local cemetery and to do some sight seeing. The town isn’t really very big, and one of the major attractions is a large hole (and you cannot even see that properly).  There is also a very strong military heritage to the town, but I did not have the time to explore it.



I soon ran out of things to see so headed back to the station where our loco was being serviced and having a drink of water.

Once that was completed she was turned around and then ran back down the line to be at the front of the train in readiness for our return.

A few last minute photo opportunities were provided and then we were ready to leave.

There were quite a few linesiders on the way back and I bet they got better pics than I did, the curvature of the track did not give me enough of a view of the loco ahead, so opportunities were few and far between. 

And of course as we got closer to Pretoria we started to encounter many of the Gautrain works that were extending to Hatfield. The Gautrain was still a few months away from being in operation, and I believe that some great images have been taken on this stretch of track of the Gautrain since it opened. 
 And there are still remnants to be seen of the old South African Railways along this route, even if they are long disused watertanks and SAR liveried coaches.
The end destination was in sight, all that was left was to shunt into the Hermanstad and disembark.
It was over. Time to head off home. I had a long drive back to Johannesburg, and it was getting dark quickly. Hopefully my GPS would not get me lost like it did last time I was here. Well done Friends of the Rail for great trip, and long may you go on preserving this heritage.
DRW ©  2010 – 2019. Images recreated 10/03/2016

Visiting Vic’s Viking Garage

SAAF, South African Air ForceMany years ago there was a garage in Johannesburg that had a Vickers Viking on it’s roof. I kid you not, it was one heck of a landmark and everybody knew about it, but nobody could really tell you where it was! Somewhere near “Uncle Charlie’s” was the closest you could get to a reply. The fact remains though; the garage, situated in what is now Devland had this vintage Vickers Viking on it’s roof, and in 1987 that aircraft was removed and taken for “restoration” and replaced with a vintage Avro Shackleton.

I recall as a boy seeing the Viking but naturally no adults would stop the car and let you out so that you could go explore it, so it is just a vague memory.  In 2010 however I decided to go find this Shackleton and see whether it still existed, and what it looked like now, so many years after the fact.

Google Earth was duly consulted and the co-ordinates are:  26° 16.644’S  27° 56.683’E and you can actually see the aircraft on the satellite view.

However, finding the garage was a different ballgame so I asked the kind lady in the GPS to take me there. “Turn left” was all she said (as she always does). Eventually I spotted my target in the distance and “turned left”.

The aircraft has been in a number of liveries as far as I can see, from her original SAAF colours, right through to a red livery and of course the current one, and probably a few other permutations along the way.  

But what about the Viking? According to  She was “built at the Vickers-Armstrongs factory in Weybridge, England, c/n 121 first took to the air on 30 August 1946, registered as G-AHOT with British European Airways and was used in the 1948 Berlin Airlift. On 26 September 1954 she was sold to Trek Airways, registered ZS-DKH and operated in Protea Airways colours, a second airline of Trek, and for many years, transported hundreds of passengers on leisurely and scenic flights between South Africa and Europe. She even starred in the film, “Kimberly Jim” with the late Jim Reeves. After 13.881 flying hours she was disassembled and transported by road to Armadale south of Johannesburg, where, in January 1963 she was lifted on to the roof of the Vic de Villiers “Vic’s Viking Service Station” where she became a famous, if forlorn, landmark.” 

Now the name Weybridge rings a bell, because Weybridge is also home to Brooklands Museum which I visited in January 2015 and they too have a Vickers Viking under restoration.

This particular aircraft is G-AGRU and there is an interesting footnote to the information sheet situated at the aircraft.

I can neither confirm or deny what the state of ZS-DKH is, the website that used to have information about her is giving me a 403 error. I have heard rumours that she was due to be taken to Rand Airport, but I will believe that when it actually happens. (or has it happened?)

As for our lonely Shackleton, she is SAAF 1723 and has been grounded since 22 November 1977.

Sadly, this lonely bird will never fly again, and in at some point she will be either stolen, dismantled or stripped for scrap metal. 

However, if you do want to see a Shackleton in her original glory then take a trip up to Swartkops AFB where sister aircraft 1721 is kept.

Although often described as “a hundred thousand rivets flying in close formation” these aircraft kept watch over our seas, and today these two examples are just some of the few remnants of a unique aircraft that performed it’s job and has become an icon.

Vic De Villiers may have swapped out one old aircraft for another, but his foresight has kept this aircraft from becoming yet another image in a book or on a website. Hopefully one day that Viking will emerge too, and take her place in a museum.

Now if only I could find Uncle Charlies? Lady in the GPS where are you??

DRW. ©  2016-2020. Retrospectively created 06/06/2016

SIA Evaluation: Sanrasm North Site

On 10 September 2010 I was unofficially included in the team that went to Sanrasm to evaluate the collection and make recommendations. These are the images taken at North Site. The biggest obstacle that was faced was that North Site was no longer connected to South Site or to the line to Magaliesburg that divided the two sites. Moving anything would involve a crane, and there weren’t really funds to do this. Some very difficult decisions had to be made though, and I am glad that logic finally overcame pig headedness. In my opinion North Site had the real gems, but the conditions of the equipment realistically made them only fit for scrap. The coaches were rotten, the locos rusted away, and the chopped up Garrett collection still angered everybody.

These are probably amongst the last images taken of these two sites before they started being rationalised.

Class 1 No.1277

Fireless locos

The “shed”

Henschel tank loco

Derelict steam rollers

Class 13, ex H2 Tank

O&K 0-4-0 Well-Tank

Torpedo tender

Steam roller

1/2/3 class balcony 6086

Engineers caboose

Scrap line

Engineers caboose

2nd Class E-16 8868

0-10-0 Henschel Diesel 18489

Hopper wagon

Breakdown crane

4 Wheeler

abandoned water tank

S class tender

Fireless loco

Drakensburg SB Van

Underground loco

Bag van

Avonside 0-4-0 side-tank 1624

Class S -367

DRW ©  2009-2019. Retrospectively created 12/06/2017