Tag: Class 12AR-1535

The End of Reefsteamers?

It was with shock that that I read the following this morning. 

=== REEFSTEAMERS – CEASING OF OPERATIONS ===

It is with sadness that I must announce that as of this evening, the Germiston-based Reefsteamers Association NPC will no longer be trading. The Board of Directors have unanimously voted to place Reefsteamers into voluntary liquidation. The depot is closed to visitors and members from 16 Dec Onwards. It is presently under paid 24/7 security courtesy of Sandstone Estates.

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Reefsteamers – Germiston Steam Loco Depot – South Africa

Regular followers of my blogs will know that I was involved with them for a few years before coming to the UK in 2013, I did work as a volunteer for awhile until I had to give it up because of neck problems. I also did quite a bit of line siding and of course loved that class 12AR “Susan” that they had. The irony is that just recently that loco celebrated her 100th birthday too. However, Reefsteamers is not the only heritage operation that has had to shut up shop. Friends of the Rail as well as Atlantic Rail have both shut up shop too, although both are now operating more or less under different organisations. 

The real tragedy behind Reefsteamers closure is not only the loss of skills and knowledge but also the closure of the historic depot in Germiston as well as the collection of steam engines stored there, some of which are privately owned. 

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Unfortunately heritage rail in South Africa is an expensive business, especially when you have to deal with Transnet and ever rising cost of operation. Coal and security are major outlays and of course keeping a steam engine working is difficult because many repairs are labour intensive and spares and skills are few.  

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I have created two gallery pages showcasing some of what I did photograph when I had access to the depot,  and I hope that the depot and its treasures can be saved, because once we loose the depot it is gone forever.  Use the arrow to access page 1.

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My steam trips with Reefsteamers and Friends of the Rail:

DRW © 2019. Created 15/12/2019

Updated: 15/02/2020 — 08:56

Linesiding 12AR-1535

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.

The area is called “Battery”, and I expect many many years ago there was even a station here. The derelict building certainly points to it.

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

Updated: 24/12/2017 — 19:15

Gravehunting in Magaliesburg

Lets face it, Magaliesburg is a small town stuck in a slightly different era. Its history isn’t really written down and finding anything about its past has been a pretty fruitless exercise. Looking at the area through Google Earth reveals heaps of abandoned and derelict structures, large tracts of open land and no way of knowing what it looked like before. 
My reason for the trip was two-fold. Firstly I wanted to photograph Susan on her day trip out to Vlakdrift. Although for some reason part of the video I shot did not come out. Still, I did get some great material. 

 
The second aim of my trip was to head out to the small cemetery I found last time I was in the area. I was defeated that time around by bees and thorn trees. 

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.

I also managed to get down to the Jennings Family cem (identified as “Zuickerboschfontein 151, Blauwbank farm cemetery 1”).  and the fire had revealed all the graves, it seems as if I had missed at least one during my last trip. I think I have them all now. The comparison between before and after the fire is quite amazing.
 
This is what the grass looked like before the fire. 
 
 
And after the fire. What a difference it made.  I have also had a better look around that rambling old derelict house, its amazing how the undergrowth is trying to bury it. From what I heard the place was intact not too many years back, but it has since been stripped of everything. I would have loved to have seen it in its heyday, especially the interiors as some of the rooms are tiny. 
 
  

 
There was no sign of my dropped camera either, so I was still very peeved at this place. I am going to have to go back to Magalies soon, probably this next weekend. Susan is rostered again, and I have a cem up near Bartons Folly to go photograph, and I need better GPS co-ordinates for Steenkoppie. Its all good fun though, and I have to admit that Saturday was a real scorcher. Is that a portent of the weather to come this summer? Its enough to drive me indoors. 
 
DRW © 2011-2018. Images recreated 18/03/2016, links recreated 03/03/2018
 
Updated: 04/03/2018 — 20:01
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