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.
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.
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 2009.
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. (Roodepoort Station was severely damaged by fire in 2020)
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,
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 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.
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. Eventually we were back at Maraisburg and 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,
DRW © 2009-2022 Created 04/04/2009. images recreated 07/03/2016, edited and reposted as a retrospect on 04/04/2019