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The South African Railways Page

Compiled and hosted by David Forsyth, Ferroequinologist


Official Spoornet Site!
This page is solely for the purpose of furthering the cause of railway preservation and interest in South Africa.
It is not affiliated to nor sanctioned by any railway body in this country.

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Locomotive Details

Well, having taken a well deserved holiday during July, and having spent it riding trains of various kinds, it is only fair that you all reap some reward from it. So I'll start with some snippets of my trip and later as my film is developed, you'll even see some pictures!

We, that is my wife and 2 kids and I, travelled by car to Port Elizabeth and boarded the Southern Cross on Saturday morning. Boarding was an experience in itself, as we didn't even see the train until some 20 minutes after it was supposed to LEAVE. From what I overheard on a nearby Spoornet employees radio, there was something amiss with one of the scheduled locomotives, a Class 34 diesel. Having eventually been supplied with a train to board, we then waited patiently and eventually pulled out almost exactly an hour late. This, on a mainline passenger train that only runs once a week is reprehensible.

Notwithstanding, the train was fairly full to start with, and rapidly gained passengers in all classes along the way. I was surprised at how low the speed restrictions on much of the line are, but considering the curvature and overall bad state of the track, it is no wonder we did mostly around 40km/h. One good thing was that the steam heating system worked and quickly got the coupe a bit too warm if one didn't open a window to look out for a while. Locomotives where class 34 diesels of Co-Co arrangement, which did not seem to be struggling with the consist. The consist was, from locos to rear:

The coaches were a good mix of blue and grey Interpax, (hideous) Spoornet orange and blue/grey unmarked. Some were seriously scuffed, having lost most of their top layer of paint. Real shabby.

Arrival in George, our destination though the Southern Cross continues on to Cape Town, was still a full hour late, and given the recent snow falls in that area, bitterly cold. Fortunatly, a taxi had been arranged for us and was still waiting after an hour, at no extra charge (thanks Hennie, when in George fone 741111 and ask for code 185 to pick you up, any time, anywhere). Our rondavel was even colder, having been shut up all day, but that's another story......

This is just a fortaste of things to come. I have 6 rolls of film to process, and much comment to make, in the light of which my editorial below will become even more compelling.


This page is to satisfy my need to try to do something about the preservation of rail activity in South Africa. This preservation includes not only special steam operations which are disappearing, but also the preservation of normal daily rail operations, which are also fast disappearing, especially on branchlines. It seems to me that the rail authority does not have a vision of running a train service that serves the needs of the country as a high speed bulk carrier, but instead is comfortable in the unchallenging world of government ensured retirement packages!

I believe firmly that cutting branchlines is not the correct way to cut costs and improve the profit margin. Indeed, I believe that an aggressive expansion policy that seeks to win new business on every day of the year is required instead, so as to keep the existing personnel employed and to create the new jobs that are required in this country before peace can become a reality.

My proposed solution to the 'cost' of running marginal branchlines is to privatise them, either singly or in bunches. This will bring in new management methods and entrepeneurial spirit to regions where it is sadly lacking and provide healthy competition to the trucking and taxi organizations. Noting that it is essential to have operating branchlines in order to generate high levels of mainline traffic, both in goods and passenger services, means that a more cost effective way of providing low level passenger service than tacking coaches onto infrequent goods trains is required. To this end I propose the design and construction of bogie/genset units that can easily be fitted to existing passenger coach stock to provide tractive power similar to the USA's now extinct(?) 'doodlebug'. These units need to be capable of about 80km/h while pulling one or two other coaches in a mix of 2nd and 3rd class. Space could be provided in the traction coach for goods items up to the size of a bicycle (I'd love to be able to take the family to the coast for the day, using bicycles while there for free and easy transport). A prime target for conversion are recently decommisioned EMU sets, where the electrical gear and motors are already fitted.

Suggestions of practical alternatives will be appreciated, simple disagreement will be ignored (-:

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Last updated Saturday, October 19, 1996 - 3:52:44 PM
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