Category: Heritage Rail

Retrospective: By train to Magaliesburg 12AR-1535

One of the more obscure centenary celebrations coming up is that of 12AR-1535 “Susan”. This steam engine is the only remaining member of the SAR Class 12AR in the world, as well as being Reefsteamers’ oldest operating locomotive and the second oldest operating main line locomotive in South Africa.  
She was built in 1919 by the North British Locomotive Works in Glasgow and joined her sisters in South Africa for service on the Germiston-Witbank line moving heavy trainloads of coal. She first entered traffic on 15 March 1920. The sisters were all reboilered at some point in their lives, and 1535 was reboilered in 1944, although her existing boiler was commissioned in 1955. 

Boiler plate of 1535

I first encountered her in 1985 when I was posted to the Germiston Telecommunications Depot. At the time she was the “station pilot” for Germiston Station, and she shone so much that she could blind you in the sun. She never really retired from service and was not restored from scrap or in a derelict condition. Fortunately her original service in Germiston means that she is really back home in the depot where she worked for so many years. I have a soft spot for her and enjoyed linesiding this small wheeled “4-8-2 Mountain” as she spent her retirement running heritage train for Reefsteamers. 
According to the EXIF data on the image below, Susan was brought back into steam on 28 March 2009 and I was present for a photography session with the people who had walked with her to that point.

(1500×1092). Back in steam. 28/03/2009

You can read more about her history on the relevant Reefsteamers page. Special thanks for Lee Gates for his work on that page and his continued posts on social media. 
 
It is not very often (especially in South Africa) that a steam working steam engine reaches her centenary, and with this in mind I am reposting the blogpost about the trip I did 10 years ago on 4 April 2019.  

By train to Magaliesburg. 12AR-1535

I got the opportunity to travel with Susan on 4 April 2009 from Maraisburg Station to Magaliesburg. The same consist as before was used and the schedule was almost identical to my previous trip with Elize. Some of the images used here were taken linesiding or when I intercepted other trips at Magaliesburg.


The two images above were taken on another trip that she made on 27 April 2009, I would definitely not stand here taking pics if I had been travelling on the train.
 
And then we were off,  eventually passing through Roodepoort Station where the plinthed 10BR slowly moulders away in the parking lot.

Through to Krugersdorp where we could pick up any passengers that had wanted to join there,

Past Millsite and the rows of derelicts that were not as fortunate as Susan was, and any goods wagons that were being shunted, 

and then past the disgrace that was Sanrasm.

And once that was past you could really relax and enjoy the ride for awhile and listen to the loco in front. At some point you would start the long climb towards the grain silos,

and then power along towards the end destination,
although the cutting really was the first sign that we had almost arrived.

This time around I had opted for lunch at the hotel, but I did not bail out there, but hung around at the station for awhile to watch them turn Susan. 

 

I then had to make a mad dash down the hill for my belated lunch at the hotel.
 
Arriving back suitably satiated, I discovered that Susan had been turned and was now on the opposite end of the train in readiness for our trip back.

And as usual, there was brightwork to be polished. These preserved loco’s are always turned out very well because they showcase our proud steam heritage. Susan, as station pilot in Germiston, was always in a supershine condition, there was a lot of pride in these machines, and that is still true today.

The sitters were empty as the passengers did their thing at the picnic area, quite a few were already tanked up before we arrived and they would sleep the return journey away. 
The passing of some Class 34’s really provided a photo opportunity, although I know which is the more handsome engine out of all those in Magaliesburg on that day.
Then the passengers were roused and the whistle blew and we were off, pausing at the hotel to collect a few more errant people before attempting the level crossing on our way out of the town. 
In 2011 I was in the area and stood at the level crossing watching this spirited departure which is available on Youtube, and it amazed me how even though the loco had started moving drivers still try to get across in front of her! You do not tackle a steam engine with a car because you will loose. 
Unfortunately though we literally crawled through the cutting and the hills, and I asked some of the guys why this had happened, and it turned out that the coal was of poor quality so she was really struggling. Susan is a freight loco with lots of power, but even poor coal can turn a steamer into a snail. I did take some video of the climb and pullaway, so all is not lost
 
And even today people wave at steam engines going past, because it is just something that is done. I feel sorry for those who have never experienced steam trains because they have lost a little bit of magic. Fortunately most people opted to relax on the trip home, and the kids stopped with the “pooop pooop” imitations and I was able to get some peace. I was not really in a mood to take too many pics, besides, everything you see here is very similar to what you saw in the other trip post. 
Even the desolate landscape that we passed just after Millsite was devoid of life, but then that area has been ravaged by mining and will take many years to rehabilitate, assuming that even happens in the first place.
And eventually we were home. The sun was low on the horizon and the people who climbed off were much more subdued than those that had climbed on this morning. Even Susan seemed tired, and she still had a long way to go before she could be bedded down for the night,
 
 
 More video: 
 
DRW © 2009-2019 Created 04/04/2009. images recreated 07/03/2016, edited and reposted as a retrospect on 04/04/2019
Updated: 07/04/2019 — 13:05

Back to Bristol (1)

Since getting back from Bristol last month my mind was flooded with thoughts of places that I had not seen. And of course there were all of those Wallace and Gromit sculptures just waiting for my camera. I was also running out of time till the weather changes and the days get shorter, and some other bad news that I won’t dwell upon yet. I decided that today was suitable seeing as it seemed like a nice day to hit the town. I downloaded a map of where the sculptures were (amazing to see how many I had probably walked past) and plotted a rough course that would take in the Quaker Burial Ground, the harbour, Queen’s Square, College Green, The cenotaph area, and anything that caught my fancy along the way. A revisit to Bristol Cathedral was a must too, and I was hoping to get some decent pics of the building and the parts I had not been able to access on my last visit.

Right.. off we go! 

Aschurch for Tewkesbury was gloomy and grey and when I arrived in Bristol it was gloomy and grey too, but it looked like it was going to clear. At Temple Meads I espied another of those thumping great Class 800 electro diesels and I was hoping to get a pic of either end or the middle bit. But as luck would have it, the one end was in a no go area of the platform while the middle bit was blocked off by a whole wodge of people having a conflab. Best I could do was…

I did not feel like walking to the opposite end of the train so decided to head off onto my destination instead, stocking up with a bacon buttie along the way.  My first destination would take me past St Mary Redcliffe, and as usual I tried for a better photograph of the church, this time I may have gotten it right too! Unfortunately that white pole ruins the pics… 

It is a beautiful building and worthy of being a cathedral. But it is awkward to photograph because of the 89 metre spire, which makes it the tallest building in Bristol. I visited the church way back in September 2015, and again last month and I always find something interesting in it. 

The reason I was here was to photograph the Old Quaker Burial Ground close by. It was purchased by the Quakers in 165 and was used for burials until 1923 and was donated to the city of Bristol in 1950. It is also known as “Recliffe Pit” and enclosed within the site is a hermit’s cave which was established here in 1346 by Thomas Lord Berkeley. 

The cave is really the only thing to see in the burial ground, 

I get the impression that this is really somewhat of an awkward space, but I believe it is quite popular with residents in the area, but I deplore the way those headstone are stacked behind the gate.

My first objective completed I headed for the harbour to see how many of the sculptures I could get. I had been this way before so it was not all new territory. But it is a harbour, and that is enough for me, even though there are no real ships worth seeing in it. There are however a number of interesting bridges…

I was aiming for the opposite side of the harbour and crossed the Redcliffe Bridge. and walked along the quayside which is now a mooring place for pleasure craft as commercial activity ceased in Bristol Docks many years ago. I really wanted to cross to the other side at the Prince Street Swing Bridge which would take me to the Museum area where I wanted to be. But, I spotted a certain dog perched on the bow of one of the ferries. 

And then I was at the bridge with the museum in sight, but it was closed, as it was only 8.30 in the morning! As to to be expected I was running very early, and the harbour was blissfully peaceful compared to the chaos of last month. 

I had a look at the Mayflower, which is supposedly the world’s oldest steam tug and the oldest ship afloat in the harbour. She was built in 1861 and worked all her life on the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal. I have however yet to see her move. Outboard of her is the firefloat Pyronaut. 

and there goes Gromit on his way to the Great Britain side of the harbour. It is possible to ride the ferry from the harbour entrance all the way to Temple Meads Station, and one day I am going to do it!

I had already photographed the one Gromit in the “M Shed Museum” so wasn’t concerned about the museum being closed (Gromitronic). My map however listed three in the immediate area of the the museum, and I found one of them next to the museum.

(29) Alex the Lion. Designed by DreamWorks

And, a short hop across the road and I had Space Oddi-tea in the bag too, although it was probably a tea bag.

(30) Space Oddi-tea. Designed by Cary’s Ink. (Wapping Wharf)

I was also pleased to see the small Avonside tank engine being prepped for the days run. If things went well maybe I could go for a trip on her.

It was time to move on and cross back to the other side of the harbour, although I really wanted a pic across the water of the Lloyds Amphitheatre. The people in front are upright paddle boarders, and it looks waaaay to unsteady for me (and slow..)

Back the way I came, and there were two reminders that people may overlook in the harbour. The first is a proper dockyard crane. These are becoming increasingly rare, and I am glad that some have survived in the harbour.

The second is probably missed by many people, but it is a reminder that the city of Bristol had a part to play in the slave trade.

The last time I had seen Prince Street Swing Bridge had been in October 2015 and it was in the process of renovation. It is such an important bridge that a temporary structure had to be fabricated to carry the load while renovations were happening.

You can see how the sky is starting to lighten up too. That was a good sign, although it would also mean that it was going to be a hot and sticky day. I had to turn left after I crossed the bridge to where my next sculpture was. I am not sure how I missed him last month though, considering I was standing almost next to it. The bronze is of the Venetian Navigator John Cabot (Giovanni Caboto; (1450 – 1500), who sailed with his ship Matthew to America in 1497.

(24) Honeydew. Designed by the Yogscast (Narrow Quay)

John Cabot Giovanni Caboto; (1450 – c. 1500)

Having visited this pair I now had to make a slight detour to Queens Square which was not too far away (fortunately), and where I would find (25) Bristol’s Own

(25) Bristol’s Own. Designed by Susan Webber (Queens Square)

Actually I enjoyed this slight detour because I was able to photograph some really interesting buildings. The pink building below is called the Merchant Venturers Almshouses, and it was built around 1696 by the Society of Merchant Venturers for convalescent and old sailors to see out their days, Today it is private accommodation

The building below is marked “Bristol Free Library” and it is now a Chinese Restaurant. The building dates from 1738–40.

And then there is the Bristol Old Vic, unfortunately it was undergoing some sort of construction or renovation so I could not get a better image of it.

Back on the trail I crossed Pero’s Bridge, it is the one with all the padlocks; where is my bolt cutter?? The bridge is named after  Pero Jones, who lived from around 1753 to 1798, having arrived in Bristol probably from the Caribbean in 1783, as the slave of the merchant John Pinney. 

There were two sculptures in the vicinity that I was after, and I managed to snag both, although one was in a window and was not really easy to photograph., and I have no idea how I managed to miss the other the previous time I was here.

(23) Feathertron 3000 Designed by JamFactory X Jimmy 2 Eggs (Bristol Energy Hub)

(17). Long John Wallace. Cascade Steps, Painted by Elaine Carr

Time was marching and I was now heading towards the College Green where the cathedral was. I really wanted to relook the cathedral as I had missed part of it last month, and I wanted to try for a better photograph of it. I am happy to report I succeeded in that endeavour.

I am not adding in images of the Cathedral here but will add them into the original Cathedral visit post.

My map said that there was another sculpture at the Mariott Royal Hotel, but I could not find it. A chance encounter with another hunter explained that the sculpture was inside the hotel and not outside. Now the hotel is really an outstanding building, situated on that fork in the road.

What I did not know at the time was that the building above is a later addition to the hotel, and the  original hotel below celebrated its 150th anniversary in April 2018.

Built between 1863 – 1868,  By WH Hawtin, it opened on 23 March 1868 and was named the Royal Hotel and it is a grade II listed building.  The Sculpture is found by following a set of paw prints…. and what a find it was.

(18) Prima Featherina. Painted by Ruth Broadway. (Bristol Royal Marriott Hotel)

Feathers McGraw never looked this good.. or bad… The sculpture is on a turntable so it was quite an interesting one to view. 

That really concludes this portion of the blogpost. Part 2 will carry on in the cathedral area before heading back towards Cabot Circus and Castle Park. 

forwardbut

DRW © 2018 – 2019. Created 04/08/2018

Updated: 04/01/2019 — 06:54

Shipshape and Bristol Fashion (3) The Harbour

The Harbour Festival at Bristol was the clincher when I was making plans for a visit, although I had done quite a bit of sniffing around in it before.  My agenda had two points in it: I wanted to get images of the Great Britain from opposite where she was berthed, and I wanted to go as far as I could towards the exit channel. I entered the harbour from behind the cathedral and that put me in Millennium Square. It was very crowded and noisy and I was not really interested in much that was going on there, although the huge silver ball was kind of fascinating..

However, as they say in the classics.. “It’s all very well, but what does it do?” I do not know, but it does seem to have an exit from the building it is attached to. Parts of the square were fenced off so I headed to the water, having to make a large detour to get there. When I got there I discovered that they had blocked off the waterside path too, which was extremely irritating because they had also cut off access to the bridge that crosses the harbour. I thought that Balmoral was berthed near the bridge which is why I wanted to go there, but it turns out she was not, and was berthed opposite the Great Britain. With access cut off to the bridge I decided to try for my Great Britain shots so headed towards Balmoral in the distance.

Great Britain on the left, Balmoral on the right

The right bank was relatively quiet, but I could not find the spot to catch the ferry that runs from behind Temple Meads station to the opposite end of the harbour. I was prepared to grab that ferry and to travel with it to my destination but could not find a berth to do it from. The one area had a lot of small craft in it, including some lovely steam pinnaces.

I would have loved to have gone on one, but as a solo traveller you really end up filling in odd spaces, and besides no matter how hard I looked nowhere was there a sign that said where they were going or how often they ran.

I continued my walk… and spotted the John King approaching.  She is a steel hulled tug built in 1935 by Charles Hill & Sons Ltd. of Bristol for Kings Tugs Ltd. She was purchased in 1995 by the Bristol Industrial Museum and is kept in working condition and will continue to be part of the new Museum of Bristol.  She is a handsome old lady, and it was nice to see her still running up and down.

I finally reached Balmoral, I had last visited her in 2015, and was hoping to get onboard to have a look at the wheelhouse that I had been unable to see then because it was so crowded and it appears as if it was still crowded! 

However, the little old lady at the gangplank was doing her best to not let me see the wheelhouse, insisting that I needed to go with the guide (who was leaning on the opposite rail studiously ignoring us). Nothing I said could persuade her to let me go have a look so I left very disappointed and without reaching that goal. This has really ended my interest in this vessel, and as much as they are looking for funds frankly it is no way to treat somebody that would be a potential future passenger. 

Berthed in front of the Balmoral was “Bee”, which is  a 1970’s built supply tender, and between the two ships I could see the Great Britain in her drydock. I had achieved my one aim, everything from here on was a bonus.

I was starting to get peckish though and fortunately I spotted a nearby crepe seller. I had had my first crepe in Bristol and was chuffed that I could have my second in the same harbour. 

Bee and Balmoral

Suitably supplied I continued my walk, but was still not sure of how far away the bridge over the harbour was. I spotted a ferry stop and decided to catch it and see where it goes. The boat was crowded and lots of space was taken up by one guy who was sitting on the bench with his legs taking up 3 seats while he took selfies and filmed randomly. I was at least able to catch up on my crepe while we continued towards the bridge over the harbour. Behind us the Matthew was rapidly approaching in that sneaky way that sailing ships seem to have. She is a reconstruction of John Cabot’s ship.

And while we turned Matthew continued her voyage and you can see the bridge across the harbour in front of her. That was the spot I was aiming for originally. 

I decided to bail out at the Great Britain as the area in front of it was a large boatyard and I would have had to make another detour around it to access the Great Britain. I had visited her before, in fact I even used to have a ticket that allowed me free visits for a year, but it expired a long time ago. I really just wanted that bow shot of her which I now had.

I walked around the shop before heading back to the other bridge across the harbour. This place got more crowded as I got closer, and somewhere in that mass of humanity was a steam engine with wagons and a brake van. 

I had heard the engine while on the opposite bank so was curious to see what was providing motive power.

As I approached the Fairbairn Steam Crane there was no sight of the train, but sooner or later though I would be bound to see her. Unfortunately the crane was not in steam and I did not get to have a look around her interior. The sailing ship is Pelican of London, a reasonably new vessel built in 1948 in France as a double-beam Arctic fishing trawler. She was rebuilt as a main mast barquentine, and as of 2012, operated as a sail training vessel by the charity Adventure Under Sail

Close to the crane was a modern vessel: Graham Robertson,  a multi-role Damen Shoalbuster 2308S tug. She is quite an adaptable ship, as she was modified to undertake a multifunctional role that includes towing, pilotage, plough dredging and survey duties.

And then, over the cacophony of noise I heard a steam whistle.. I had to make a decision quickly. Would I watch John King coming alongside? or would I see what the steam engine was? John King temporarily won.

but it was a close won race

The loco turned out to be an Avonside 0-6-0ST, of 1917, works number 1764. Operating as S3 “Portbury”

It was quite an experience seeing this train safely pass through the throngs, although she was helped by men with flags and high vis vests! Given that many people are much too busy on their phones this can be a decidedly difficult operation. 

By the time I had finished with the museum the “Carboard Boat Race” was in full swing, and this part of the harbour was jammed packed. There were 3 small naval craft berthed up close to the bridge and I threaded my way towards them. The more modern ships were HMS Ranger (outboard) and HMS Smiter (inboard). Both are Archer Class patrol ships, and are used to provide sea training to members of  University Royal Naval Units.

Astern of them was “Pride of Bristol”, the former Royal Naval Tender RMAS Loyal Supporter (A107). She is operated by the Pride of Bristol Trust, and was built in 1982 by Richard Dunston Ltd. Yard T1370. 

I was fortunate enough to get on board her but she is reasonably cramped and one person could really cause a spanner in the works by standing in the wrong spot. I did manage to get in her wheelhouse!

From her decks I could see the other ships berthed across from us, and there were two sailing ships amongst them. The ship below is the Etoile Molene, a 1954 built vessel that was initially used to fish for tuna in the Bay of Biscay and then for trawling in Ireland. 

Astern of her was Iris, a 1916 traditional Dutch herring-lugger.

Unfortunately I did not take specific images of her, but as you can see the sky was clouding up and I was starting to consider raising anchor and heading home. I really just want to look at one more oddity I saw in 2015.

She was still where I saw her last, although I do not know whether she had deteriorated since then or not, or even whether she was in use.

Some digging provided me with more info: she is the former John Sebastian “Light Vessel 55” (LV55) and was purchased by the Cabot Cruising Club in 1954. She was built in 1885  by Charles Hill & Sons, Albion Yard, Bristol, for Trinity House and has a double skinned iron hull with wooden beams. She 31.39 metres long, 7.37 metres wide and has a draft of 3.66 metres.  She would have been manned by a crew of 11 men (master and six ratings on board and a master and three ratings ashore). The lantern is not the original one though, it is just a facsimile, although it does work.

The building in the background is the former General Hospital which is now yuppie pads by the looks of it. 

That more or less concluded my Bristol expedition of 2018, I returned via St Mary Redcliffe, and popped in for a visit.

On my way back I paused at the original Brunel station, it was being used as a car park at the time, but I believe there are plans for this space.

I then went to have a look at the bridge where the ferry starts from. It is quite a quirky bridge and one day I may walk to the other side and see what lies there.

At the station I saw one of the new smarmy Class 800 electro-diesel intercity trains that were being  built by Hitachi, but could not investigate further as my own train arrived at the same time.

My day was done. I have 700 images to process and it has taken me longer to do these 3 blog posts that it took to do the trip! I may have to relook that. 

I will probably revisit Bristol again, there is a lot that I would like to relook, in December CWGC will be unveiling replacement headstones for the men buried in Soldier’s Corner in Arnos Vale, so may go down for that although the days are way too short for an extended trip. I will see how it goes. 

There are a number of drawcards for a return trip, I would really like to photograph more of the Wallace and Gromit statues and visit the Quaker Burial Ground which is opposite St Mary Redcliffe. I would also like to try look around the area where the cenotaph is, and of course the Wills Tower is a drawcard, it is just a pity there is that hill….  

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Updated: 04/01/2019 — 06:55
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