Tag: Susan

The End of Reefsteamers?

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


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.


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

Photo Essay: Unloading the 19A

In November 2009 I was made aware of a semi derelict class 19A that was being shifted by road from the Cape to Reefsteamers in Germiston for possible restoration. I was definitely curious to see how this was done because it is not every day that a steam engine goes by road, and I would get the chance to look around my old stomping grounds in Germiston. 

My first destination was Reefsteamers because they would have to have a steam engine in steam to do the move.  The loco rostered for the move was former Germiston Station Pilot 12AR-1535 “Susan”

 She was simmering away at the top running shed, not quite ready to strut her stuff so I decided to head off to the area where the loco was to see the loco to be moved.

I used to know this area quite well because I was responsible for all the telecomms equipment in the depot during 1985/86, I knew many short cuts and paths that led between the various areas in the Germiston railway area, but it had been over 20 years since I had last been here, things had probably changed considerably.

However, by the time I got to the back of the station the loco and her tender had been offloaded from the two abnormal load vehicles that they had made the long journey on. I could not quite remember this line leading into the railway area though, but it looked familiar, I just could not quite work it into my memory from way back then.

The loco (19A-691) and her tender were in a sorry state and I could not help thinking that there was a lot of work involved to get her to a point where she would move again. Sadly derelict steam engines were a sight that I would see a lot of in my meanderings at Millsite and Sanrasm

Back at the former steam loco; Susan was ready to start moving and thread her way through the maze of lines to reach where we were. 

This area used to be the domain of the “S” Class shunting locos way back when. I recall how they used to pound along and then ram into a line of wagons, waking all the sleeping clerks in the railway area. There was always a pall of smoke over Germiston in those days from the steamers and steam depot. That pall has diminished, but so have the steamers.

After a long wait Susan made her appearance. How long had it been since a steam engine had run on these lines? 

The Reefsteamers crew were hard at work disconnecting the pistons from the drive wheels of the derelict. Sadly this made the poor old steamer look even more forlorn.

Susan now backed onto the tender and then extricated it from the spur and married it once again to the rest of the loco. A tender loco without a tender just does not look right.

And she is looking better already.

The two loco’s were now tender to tender. People were stopping to stare at this smoke belching machine, it had been many years since the depot had been populated with working steamers, nowadays only the growl of diesels would be heard with the occasional whine of a 6E. 

Everything was now connected and the strange train was ready to be moved back to the depot. 

I headed back to the depot too, hoping to get there before the train did, although the path to the depot would require a lot of backing and forthing to navigate the maze of points and lines. 

Finally our train appeared amongst the lines of wagons and slowly got closer, crossing and recrossing lines until they reached the gate into the depot

Some wag lit a few rags in the derelict, and a wisp of smoke trailed from her chimney,

There were sighs of relief all around at having brought this old lady safely inside the depot.

Susan, having done her work, would now have her fire drawn and would be returned to the running shed where she could continue her nap.

And what of the loco?

I saw her once more in January 2011, but never again,  I stopped going to Reefsteamers after April 2012, and as far as I am aware she is still there. The restoration did not happen and she continues to moulder away in the yard.

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Updated: 09/04/2019 — 06:03
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