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. Unfortunately Reefsteamers closed down in December 2019, and I have heard nothing further about what will happen to the depot and its irreplaceable contents. 

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