She is an impressive lady, and about as hi-tech as the old SAR locos got. Originally designed as a Class 25 Condenser, these class 25’s were used extensively on the long stretches in the Karoo where water is scarce. They re-used their water and were extremely efficient. This particular 25 is number 3472, and somewhere along the line she lost her condensing capability and was converted into a normal class 25. She is a bit too big and heavy on coal and water for day trips, but she makes up for it by being visually very impressive and a firm favourite amongst steam buffs.
One of my all time favourite steam engines in South Africa is 12AR-1535 “Susan”. The pair of us go a long way back to my days when I worked in Germiston. Like me, she is still around, albeit she is much better looking. I did a Magaliesburg trip with her in 2009 and whenever I have grave hunting to do in the area I would try to tie it in when a steam engine is in the area and try get some pics too. This is more of a photo essay type post, there is not a lot to say.
My favourite spot for line siding is near a set of grain silo’s at the top of a hill with a view of the mine dumps of Randfontein in the distance and a long climb up to where I would be patiently waiting.
I would be armed with rough timings as to where the train would be, the last known point probably being Krugersdorp station. After that anything is possible. At parts the line is a single one so any oncoming trains from Magaliesburg side could mean a delay near Millsite. On this particular day a diesel with a load of empty wagons came trundling past but stopped on the downward slope. Which meant my train was on the stretch between Millsite and Battery. If you can zoom in far enough you can sometimes spot the train travelling along the flat section before turning into the uphill stretch.
Eventually there was movement and I could turn on the video camera and start filming. It is very possible that I have video of the event, but finding it is a whole different kettle of fish
Look, here is our train climbing the hill. I seem tor recall that I had problems with the video camera on this occasion, so only a few stills exist. Sadly though, Susan was not making clouds of smoke like she is supposed to.
The goods train on the other line continued its journey towards Randfontein once the line was completely clear.
Once the train was past I hopped into my car and barrelled along to Magaliesburg, There is no guarantee that you will get there before the train does either. I generally was not interested in catching her at the station, I had bigger fish to fry. Once the train has offloaded her passengers at the hotel she then faces a long upward slog and a left turn immediately at the top of the hill.
By the magic of television, the video of this hill climb does exist on my youtube channel. You can also click on the pic below and theoretically it will open in a new window.
Previously the train would spend the afternoon at the station, with passengers using the facilities at the station, but Reefsteamers started using a place called Vlakdrift instead and the loco would continue from here to Vlakdrift.
Once the train had stopped Susan was uncoupled and run around to be serviced.
At this point I left the area and went gravehunting close by, the intention being to catch up with the train a bit later, or go home when I was done. It really depended on time.
And while I was rooting through the veldt traffic would occasionally pass me on the single line to Krugersdorp or in the other direction (I believe the line eventually ends up in Botswana).
I seem to recall on this particular trip I wanted to watch the pull away at the station so made sure I was in position round about the time the train was ready to leave Magaliesburg.
Lo and behold, there is video of her arrival at the hotel and if you stick around long enough there is her pull away too (1.18 minutes into the video), or you can cheat and click on the link below for the edited version.
There is even video of her passing through Witpoortjie. Those were good memories that helped me reconnect with steam and our rare steam heritage in South Africa. I really enjoyed linesiding, although did not always have the patience to do it regularly. I had to be able to tie it into some other activity. This time around I was just lucky to get some interesting footage of a machine that still succeeds in captivating everybody that sees it. Live steam has the ability to make people stop and stare, to forget about their cellphones and admire the elementalness of it. And every child instinctively knows how to make the noise of a steam whistle.
© DRW 2011-2018. Retrospectively created 05/06/2016
Between then and now a fire had decimated the undergrowth so I could at least see the graves. This little cem is part of the farm Steenkoppie. Almost within spitting distance is yet another Steenkoppie relic, and a bit further than that a much larger cem perched on a downslope on the same side of the Blaauwbank River as my old Zuickerboschfontein nemesis is. We were able to see 63 graves in that cem, but 95% were without markings.
This graveyard is identified and posted at Egssa as “Zuickerboschfontein 151, farm cemetery 2” We had to cross the river (Blauwbank?) to get to the cem, and it has a strange other worldliness about it, almost like an alien landscape.
One of the questions that cropped up during my explorations of the Jameson Raid remnants was the whereabouts of the grave of a certain “Trooper Black” that is listed as being buried at “Blaauwbank”. I no longer recall where this information pitched up, but Blaauwbank was a clue. At the time the only Blauuwbank that I was aware of was a mine that sat on a hill close to Magaliesburg Station, and my exploration of that did not provide any answers apart from a hint that there was a cemetery associated with the farm where the mine was. Further explorations then pointed to the derelict farmhouse and cemetery that was on the track leading up to the mine itself. I covered a some of that in the relevant blogpost at the time, this post is more about the derelict farmhouse.
Its a derelict for crying out loud, what could be so interesting about it?
Not much as it turns out. There is a bit of history floating around on the net, but today it is really just a pile of ruins, or should I say, at the date of this blog post it was more like a ruin being overtaken by the bush.
This is also the ruin that ate my camera! Sadly, the pics I took from the mine were in the camera when it went missing so I was never able to show the pics from that particular day, and there was no way I was going to take my strange car up that hill again.
Back to the farmhouse:
The building was a brick built single storey structure with a shallow roof and a front stoep. At some point it was supposedly used as a hotel and Paul Kruger stayed there.
All interior and exterior fittings like door frames, ceilings, roof etc. have been stolen over the years, and i have no idea when this place was abandoned.
Given the size of some of the trees I do suspect it has been derelict for quite some time.
Technically this building may be over 100 years old, and as such should have been protected as a heritage space, but it is not situated in the Northern suburbs of Johannesburg so has been forgotten completely.
There are other structure behind the ruin, and it was probably near one of these where my camera went awol.
I suspect these may have been stables of stores, maybe even ablutions? there is no real way of knowing.
The people who lived here were the Jennings family, or rather, that is what I can gather from the graveyard.
There was a low wall that ran in front of the property and the overgrown graveyard was right at the end of the wall. The grass was so high in places that I could not even see the wall.
The farmhouse may be found at Google Earth co-ordinates: 26° 0.252’S, 27° 31.759’E.
I revisited the farmhouse later in the year after a winter fire had burnt the grass and vegetation down and this is what it looked like; all a part of the cycle of growth in the veldt.
I boarded at the Reefsteamers Depot in Germiston so almost had the train to myself as we headed towards Park Station. It was the first time I had been through Germiston and Johannesburg stations since 1986.
How long ago was it that an SAR liveried train had stopped at this station? and how many memories were made at these main line platforms?
Braamfontein used to be a busy place, and I was trained at the apprentice school behind the station. There used to be a spur that turned right here and crossed into Milpark. That was where they made up the main line trains, and it was also used in January and July as the place where National Servicemen would start their two years military service from.
The weather was variable during the whole trip, starting out as grey and muggy, turning to sun and then rain and then sun which explains some of odd colours.
Mayfair Station was my link to the SAR network, and you could actually see the back of our house from a passing train. It was a busy commuter station, and I travelled in both directions from here. I last used the station in 1984. There was a lot of talk of widening the tracks in and out of the station and a lot of houses were expropriated, but the expected construction never happened.
Then we were passing through Krugersdorp, then passing Millsite and shortly after that the disgrace called Sanrasm, and then the long haul to Magalies, with its attendant curves and whistle blowing.
There were reportedly 600 people on board and it was a 16 coach consist, and probably one of the strangest trains to be seen by those who saw us go past. Steam engines still draw stares from those that have never seen them, or by those who remember them. Our Garratt was a rare beastie, and it was always difficult to know which way was the front.
On 10 September 2010 I was unofficially included in the team that went to Sanrasm to evaluate the collection and make recommendations. I will not go into the backdoor politics that had to happen to even get to this point, and neither will I name any names. 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.
These are probably amongst the last images taken of these two sites before they started being rationalised.
© DRW 2009-2018. Retrospectively created 12/06/2019
Past Millsite and the rows of derelicts that were not as fortunate as Susan was, and any goods wagons that were being shunted,
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,
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.
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.
This was my first train trip with Reefsteamers, and it took place on 7 March 2009 from Maraisburg Station to Magaliesburg.