musings while allatsea

Musings of a curious individual

Tag: excursion

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

Preserved Ships: MV Balmoral

The Balmoral was not an excursion ship that I ever saw in Southampton, although that she was built for service between Southampton and Cowes in the Isle of White, as well as perform excursions around the South Coast. The MV Balmoral that this post is about is the vintage excursion ship owned by the MV Balmoral Fund Ltd and I first saw her in Bristol in January 2014. In fact I was not even aware that she was in Bristol at the time.

Unfortunately I was on my way to see the SS Great Britain, so did not take too many pics as I was on a tight schedule (which is dominated by the train timetable). I filed the information in the back of my mind with the intention of coming back one day.

Well this day was that “one day”; only it was now over 20 months later, and there was always the chance that the vessel would have shifted. I do know she had been active for awhile, and fortunately she was in the same spot as when I saw her last time. Unfortunately I was not as lucky with the light this time around, it was a grey and dreary day, although the harbour was really bustling as there was a heritage day event going on in the harbour.

There was a lot going on around the vessel, and there was a sign that indicated that you could go on board her. I weighed that up with what I wanted to see (a rare steam engine), and decided to come back to her once I had taken my pics. Time passed and by 13H45 I was alongside the Balmoral once again. I only had 15 minutes to spare before I left for the station, but with luck I could push it to 45 minutes if I caught a different train. The gangway guard laughed when he heard my predicament, he even knew what train I was after! (image below from 2018)

Then I was onboard the vessel, and it was time to look around.

On board she is really fitted out with lounges and seating areas, and while they are not ugly spaces I was not too enamoured with the colour schemes in some of the areas.



Naturally I headed for the bridge and wheelhouse, but hit a snag. There were at least 6 people in it, and one standing blocking the door, so I could not even get a look into it.

I headed down to the foredeck to look around, hoping that the wheelhouse would be vacated before train time came along, but it did not look as if anybody was going to budge.
The upper decks are not as nice as on Shieldhall, but they are full of the tiddley bits that make ships so interesting


I have no idea what had been going on on the aft decks, but it was obvious that I was not going to get any further than where I took the image from. I headed back inside again, to the forward facing lounge, and it was not a big space at all. In fact I think it could get very crowded in there.

The engine room was also open, but the doors were shut and a private group seemed to be visiting. I hung around a bit then went walkies again and returned, but nothing was budging in there, and the wheelhouse was still full of people so realistically there was not much else to see, unless I could get into some area where I was not allowed. It was time I took my leave. I was already running a few minutes late, so really had to leave now or hang around for how long waiting to get to the bridge or engine room.

The “Famous Bow Shot” above was taken in 2014 from the bridge that is almost in spitting distance of the ship, the bridge was undergoing refurbishment at the time and a temporary walk way enables people to cross the river. The image below is from 2018 and the vessel had been moved from the position by the bridge to further down the harbour

My images were dictated by the weather, but it does give me incentive to return to Bristol to rectify the situation, hopefully next time will not be 20 months away.  If I had the opportunity I would definitely go on her for a short jaunt, although I think it could be very crowded on a busy day.

Farewell Balmoral, I hope to see you again soon.

**UPDATE 21/07/2018**

I was in Bristol once again for the Harbour Festival and was hoping to get on board her. She was not in the space where I had last seen her last but berthed almost opposite the Great Britain. Unfortunately the woman who was at the gangplank was not ready to let me see the wheelhouse, and insisted that I have a guide with. The only problem being that the guide was standing at the opposite rail watching what was going on. She was not willing to call him and neither was I able to persuade her to let me go  on board and grab the guide and get it done with. The problem with waiting for more people to pitch was that I would still have the same problem of too many people in too small a space. I gave up and left and have now closed the book on the ship.  

© DRW 2015-2018. Images migrated 02/05/2016. Some images replaced 22/08/2018 and page updated.

Updated: 22/07/2018 — 16:40

By train to Magaliesburg: GMAM-4079

This trip actually happened on 6 November 2010, and was previously documented at my website, but I have since decided that rather than loose all of these train trip posts I would reproduce them here. The train was operated by Reefsteamers.
This trip took place on 6 November 2010 from Germiston to Magaliesburg. This was the first outing of the GMAM – 4079 “Lyndie Lou” since she was re-certified. Unlike previous trips that started at Maraisburg, this time around the trip started out at Park (Johannesburg) Station before heading to Magaliesburg where passengers would be disembarked, before continuing west until we reached “Swallows Inn” where the train would unload the balance, before continuing to Vlakdrift where the loco would be serviced.
Fresh out of the shed and almost ready to go.

Fresh out of the shed and almost ready to go.

Shunting the water bottle


Shunting the water bottle

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.  

We also went past the apprentice school where I trained all those years ago, and through Braamfontein, Mayfair and Langlaagte, all my old stomping grounds.

Approaching Park Station

Approaching Park Station

Alongside the platform

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.

Approaching Braamfontein Station

Approaching Braamfontein Station

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.

 Approaching Mayfair Station

Approaching Mayfair Station

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.

One of my colleagues from work was at Magaliesburg Station to capture the train as it entered the station. The slog up the hill before the station is a good place to experience the loco working hard. Although I don’t think 4079 really struggled all that much. Special thanks to Clinton Hattingh for these images.
Then we were through the station and heading towards Swallows Inn. 
Here we disembarked, and the train headed on a bit further down the line for servicing and turning around.
I drifted around Swallows Inn, the service was poor, and I seem to think I spent most of my time waiting for my lunch to arrive. Next time I would just stay on the train and go do some photography instead. 
Then it was time to go and our train was ready to embark on the return trip, and this time we were water tank first.
The train is usually much quieter on the return trips. Too much alcohol has deadened the senses, children are worn out, and families sit huddled together. And of course the afternoon still stretched ahead. A lot can go wrong between here and Park Station, as has happened before. 
I enjoyed hanging out of the window and watching the loco in front, steamers are very alive, their noises change depending on how hard they work, and there are many tough grades in that area. But it was a reasonably uneventful trip home so far, and when we looked again we were in Krugersdorp.
And its beautiful old station building.
The scenery had changed now, from grass and veld to buildings, roads and cars. The sun was also leaving us, so photograhy was becoming more difficult, although there are some who love this low down sunset light.
And even I started to take fewer pics, although some of the results were quite interesting. A suburban coach refurb area near Langlaagte
People waiting for a train at Mayfair Station
And looking back towards the Nelson Mandela Bridge in Braamfontein.
And then we were at Park Station, and passengers were disembarking and I had the train to myself once more.
We wound our way past Ellis Park, Jeppe, George Goch, Denver, President and finally through Germiston Station before we came to the depot in Germiston yard. The lights were on, so somebody must be there. 
It is not a straight forward job to get into the depot, a lot of points have to be crossed and direction reverses made until the gate is reached. I climbed off the train and headed to my car. I had to drive back the way we had just come, while the Reefsteamers members had to shunt the train, tidy up and put the loco to bed before they could make their weary ways home. It was a long day, but it was also a glimpse into an era passed by.
I was also shooting video on that trip and these can be found on Youtube. I seem to recall there are 4 in total.
Special thanks to Les of Reefsteamers who found me a spot on the train, as well as Clinton Hattingh for the pics, and of course to the Reefsteamers crew who did such a great job.
DRW.  ©  2010-2019. Images recreated 10/03/2016
Updated: 09/04/2019 — 05:52

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
Updated: 09/04/2019 — 05:56

By train to Magaliesburg: 25NC-3472

This was my first train trip with Reefsteamers, and it took place on 7 March 2009 from Maraisburg Station to Magaliesburg.

The loco doing the hard work was 25NC-3472 “Elize” and the consist was daysitters, a catering car, a much used traveling bar, the catering coach “Kango”, compartmented coaches, a power car and a water tanker in case Elize got thirsty. 
Then the whistle blew and we were off, threading our way west via Krugersdorp and Millsite to Magaliesburg.
I hadn’t been through Krugersdorp Station since I was an apprentice in 1982 so it was an interesting pause for me, and of course 3 passing 6E1’s just made it so much better.
We stopped just outside Millsite and stood still while something was happening in front of us, the entrance to the loco depot was not too far off, and some of the things I spotted here I would later go investigate,
and of course once you pass Millsite you would come to Sanrasm, and that sad L-14 driving trailer that looked worse each time I saw it. I would do a lot of photography at Sanrasm, and watch it being demolished. 
After Millsite it was an almost clear run through to our destination, you leave “civilisation” behind and enter mining, and later agricultural area.  The trip is not too long though, it really depends on whether there are any other trains on the line at the time.
And of course once we reached the cutting we were almost there. It was just a matter of going through the level crossing and it would be time to get off. The level crossing is quite a good spot for photography, but you really have to get there long before the loco arrives, or ideally as she leaves, and of course be on the correct side of the track. There is a certain smugness about leaning out of the coach window and watching all the cars with their drivers staring back at you.
I had not made any prior lunch arrangements and really intended dwaaling around town to pass the time. There was an option of lunch at the hotel but you had to disembark at the stop before the long climb into Magaliesburg Station, and I really wanted to see them turn the loco around and clean the fire before thinking about food. I had been through here previously to do some gravehunting, so was not a total stranger to the sleepy town. 
Rationally though, there is not a lot happening at Magaliesburg, its the sort of place you can see in 10 minutes. The real history is not in the town, and the places I wanted to see you needed a car, with a GPS and a map to find. 
And then we had arrived. Grabbing my stuff I headed for the end of the train to see if I could catch them moving Elize onto the other line. She is a big loco, and as she went past you could see the sleepers sink into the trackbed, and hear the creaks as she passed.
Reversing down the track she would be turned at the triangle and serviced a bit off from the station. I did not follow her to the triangle but headed off in my own direction to find food and do my thing. I would be back by the time she had been turned and serviced.
In fact I was back a bit earlier (I said the town was small), so parked off after doing some photography. There was one interesting building which I photographed:
It was supposedly part of Johannesburg’s original station. However I could not really prove it, but I did see pics of it at Park station when it was used for the Rand Tram celebrations (1989?)
Then the whistle blew and we were off, first collecting our passengers at Magaliesburg Country Hotel,
then over the level crossing, and powering our way home.
The loco has quite a struggle leaving the immediate area of the station as she has to pick up speed to make the grades in this area, this is probably when you get to hear the best stack talk and feel the brute strength of the powerful old ladies of the rails.
I think it was at Tarlton where we stopped to let another train pass, the line is not really suited for heavy two way traffic and there are a number of spots where one train is able to pass another. I believe this line eventually ends up at Mafeking or Zeerust, and is not heavily used, although a number of container and fuel trains do use it. 
The line is not electrified either so is home to “paraffin burners” (as steam enthusiasts call diesels). 
Just pass the silos is a long downgrade which is quite a favourite spot for line siding, I would stand there myself for quite a few hours in later months, but I had not done that before so did not know about this spot. 
We were now close to Randfontein and many of the people were stirring from their alcohol induced slumbers, even the limp children were running around, having catnapped since we left Magaliesburg. It was getting decidedly noisy in our sitter coach.
As we went through Millsite I managed to grab a few shots of the old coal stage that still stood there, and if my memory serves me right it was demolished not too long after I took these images. There was a Garrat standing next to the stage, and I wonder if she managed to survive the breaking up of the coal stage? Then we were going through Krugersdorp once again, passing some toasters along the way.
Our final destination was Maraisburg, and it had been a long and hot day. I was covered in specks of soot and ash, and my camera lens was making odd noises, but it was worth it! 
I disembarked and watched the train pull away and carry on with its journey back to Germiston. I would take 3 trips with Reefsteamers to Magaliesburg, and ended up line siding on a few occasions. It was nice to feel the sway of a train beneath my feet,  it had been way too long since I had last experienced that feeling. 
DR Walker. © 2009-2018 Images recreated 07/03/2016
Updated: 24/12/2017 — 10:11
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