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