Tag: Reefsteamers

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

Stuck in the mud!

It was one of those days. My gut instinct was telling me “don’t go to Reefsteamers today”, while my gut was telling me “you need exercise!” . The reason for heading out to Germiston was the Easter Train operated by Reefsteamers that was due to depart at 10.30 on a round trip. Not much else was going on because it was a public holiday so off I went.

Everything went well until I came to the abysmal track that is used by RS as a road to access the depot.  In rainy season this track is a quagmire. We hadn’t had rain in yonks so the assumption was that that the road was passable. The first giant puddle should have served as a warning, but I didn’t really have any problems with it. The next puddle was a different puddle altogether, it was more like a bog and I ended up bogged down to running board level halfway through.

Now people may scoff at my strange car, but the yellow peril and I have been to many odd places where cars like mine should not go. The situation was bad, this road is literally in the middle of nowhere, with a squatter camp close by and nothing between it and the depot. I tried a few movements to try gauge how badly I was stuck, but the mud was very deep and I was soon up to my ankles in it. Fortunately I was wearing boots or my shoes would still be in Germiston. 
 
I decided to lock up and try for help from RS, but they were busy trying to get the train underway and there was no help forthcoming from them. I never really had a good relationship with RS, the days when I was working at the depot I kind of did my own thing and nobody really took  much notice of me. I also recall the one meeting I attended that pretty much killed it off for me. Back to the car I trudged, noting an even bigger puddle a few bends further on. There was no way I would have gotten through that one either! What worried me was the type of puddle I was in, that yellow mud was mine sand, so it was probable that the water was upwelling acid mine drainage, after all, we hadn’t had rain here in ages. 
 
I tried packing stones and bricks and rubble behind the wheels but to no avail, and eventually I decided to call my insurance company for help. Fortunately they had a roadside assistance that would send out a tow truck to yank me out. While I was waiting, a train of 6E’s came howling along and I was able to capture them with my video camera, and, while I was filming, my cellphone rang. What amazed me was that over the noise of 4 electric units at 25 metres, the camera was able to record my ringtone, even with my phone in my pocket! The mike on that camera is a very selective one. Shortly thereafter, the tow truck arrived and dragged me out. Thank you MiWay Insurance and Easyway Towing for your help.
 
Looking back at it all now, I shouldn’t even have tried traversing that puddle/swamp/quagmire, but there is no real way of knowing the depth of these things until you are in them. Once I was back on the road I went around to the diesel depot gate and went to RS depot, passing by the one building that may have housed the DB for the telecom cables in that area. I was a regular visitor to these parts when I worked for the railways in Germiston.
 
At the depot there was no sign of the train. And nobody could tell me how long it would be before she arrived. I walked up and down, taking pics while I idled the time away.
 
I enjoy walking through the depot with its silent steam engines and empty coaches, its a place of reflection and wonder. When I used to come here in 1985 to do faults the depot was in full swing, with a busy coal stage,  bustling workshops and steam engines galore. Today it is like a ghost town. I stopped to visit “Susan”, the former station pilot from Germiston, she was in the workshop with her smoke box agape. This class 12AR is the only one left in the country, and amongst the 3 oldest working steam locomotives in South Africa. She is being prepped for her boiler inspection and we are all holding thumbs for her.
 
The one bright part of my wait was the arrival of two 6E1’s who made all the right noises. Part of the fascination with these units is the resistance blowers that makes their noise very distinctive. These units are destined for extinction as they slowly get withdrawn or rebuilt into 18E’s. These units, as well as my ringtone enhanced ones are available to see on my youtube channel
Some passing diesels helped entertain me until eventually I heard the distinctive steam whistle in the distance. Janine the 15F was in charge, but she was running tender so first photography wasn’t great. There isnt really much to see when the front of the loco is buried into the coupling of the first coach of the train. But I grabbed some video anyway.  Finally, after navigating the maze of points in the yard, Janine and train were safely inside the depot,
 
and I was able to film her as she was moved to another line inside the depot.  The train was 2 hours late due to a late departure and a delay at New Canada. That I am afraid is something outside of the control of anybody. 
 
Then it was time to head off home. My car was in dire need of a bath both inside and out. So was it’s owner. My jeans were destined for the dustbin and I was headed for the bath. I had aches and pains in place I forgot I had, and the photography had not been as good as I would have liked. Phew, what a day! 
© DRW 2012-2018. Images recreated 24/03/2016 
 
Updated: 26/12/2017 — 14:21

Linesiding and graves in the veldt

Saturday 01 October 2011.
This morning I decided to go do some linesiding. For those that are not in the know, its when you head out to some obscure section of railway, preferably on a hill, free of any obstructions, and then wait for your train to come along. Today’s steam engine was the very impressive Class 25NC-3472 Elize, operated by Reefsteamers.

http://www.reefsteamers.com

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. 

Sadly, today was lousy weatherwise, it was (still is for that matter), overcast and very windy, not really ideal photography weather at all. I was at my spot at roughly 09H45, waiting, kicking stones, taking long looks through the viewfinder and trying not be too bored. Geminis don’t do standing around very well. 
She finally came past about an hour later,  hurtling up the hill with nary a puff of smoke or steam. Then the chase was on, to reach Magaliesburg before she did.
By the time you reach the road that loco has a head start, and if nothing delays her at Tarlton theoretically you are cutting it close. However, today a bakkie decided that 30km/ph was the speed and a line of roughly 15 cars sat behind him as he dawdled along. Overtaking was not possible or advisable.  As I reached the last stretch to Magalies I saw the loco and her coaches approaching the level crossing, it was going to be a close one,  there were 4 cars in front of me, would I make it? Naturally I didn’t. There is no way I will try take on a thumping great steam powered engine in my tiddly car and I grabbed the camera and filmed her as she went through the level crossing, whistle screaming for everybody to get out of the way or get squished.
I ended up at my other fav spot near the goods shed, watching her tackle that hill from a standing start. I have to admit, steam engines still make for the best photography when it comes to effort. 15F-3046 Janine is fun to watch and feel on that hill, she shakes the building as she goes past.
 
There is video available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bZk1uHtO4do
 

16/06/2011 Linesiding at Vlakdrift

Once she was turned around (quite a process in itself), I was ready to head off gravehunting again and  I had scheduled two tasks for today. My first task was to get GPS co-ordinates for the one Steenkoppie site. Naturally my stupid GPS said I was somewhere in Roodepoort, its the same problem I had last time I tried to get these co-ordinates, only that time it said I was in Randfontein. After much ranting and raving at Garmin, the Tannie inside the GPS and thorn trees in general I was all finished, and I could head off to my next task which was roughly 14 kilos east of where I was.
 
I had been in this area before, investigating what I thought was the battlefield for Dwarsvlei (which it wasn’t). Those images are in my camera which went AWOL at Blaauwbank. For once the tannie in the GPS was right and I was soon standing at Weltevreden 493. As farm cemeteries go, this was a well maintained one. I have been in much worse.  Its quite interesting when you find these cemeteries to see the same surnames crop up. This one was predominantly Oosthuizen, Duvenhage and Viljoen. Now where had I see those names before? Cem photographed it was time to head home.
 
 

(1500 x 652)

All in all it was a productive day, all tasks were accomplished, more data was collected, a train was admired, batteries were flattened and the rain stayed away although the overcast conditions did not make for good photography. I don’t think that will be for long though, its looking pretty grim outside, and the weather forecast is for light rain. We will see what happens tomorrow……
 
DRW © 2011-2019. Images recreated 19/03/2016, link recreated 03/03/2018
Updated: 04/07/2019 — 08:03
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