Bloemfontein must be the locomotive restoration capital of the world as Sandstone's diesel workshop outshopped one loco last week while the steam workshop managed two. Three in one week!

Looking at "modern" traction first, albeit from 1961, Zach van Staden's team completed the rebuild of the ex Rustenburg Platinum Bagnall 0-6-0DM built in 1961 as works no: 3204. Three locos of this type were acquired from the now defunct Alfred County Railway (ACR) who had purchased them after they were surplus to requirements at Rustenburg when the 2ft system closed. Being the only Bagnall diesel locos in South Africa they have great historical value. Out of the three, no:11 was chosen as the best candidate for restoration, it is likely that one more can be rebuilt from the other two with the third providing a source of parts. The locomotive is fitted with an 8 cylinder Gardiner 8L3 engine developing some 250 hp at sea level, around 230hp at altitude at 900rpm. The power unit was made up out of two engines as all the locos suffered engine and transmission failures at ACR. In fact the final drive and mechanical transmission was taken from another example. All the locomotives had stood in the corrosive sea air at Port Shepstone and had been vandalized so that all the cab area was rusted and the dashboard and control systems were missing.
Zach's team made up new deck plates for the cab, new steps and a complete dashboard. All the control systems and electrics were remade from scratch. The restoration took three years and is described by Zach as a "Murphy" job where everything that could go wrong did! For example, after fitting the oil cooler which entails about three hours work, it decided to leak which took another six hours of removal and refitting after repair!

The locomotive has been painted out in the Sandstone corporate colours of sand and maroon and has now been delivered to the Hoekfontein workshops at Sandstone Estates.

Compared with Sandstone's Hunslet diesel, the Bagnall is a massive loco on 2ft gauge and extremely powerful. It will be used on shunting duties and the occasional freight and passenger trains.

Just down the road at the steam workshops, Lukas Nel and his team have been equally busy with the outshopping of two locomotives that have been a long time in the restoration queue. Although completed almost simultaneously Illovo Sugar Estates no: 3, a Kerr Stuart built 0-4-2-PT of 1924 vintage, was finished slightly sooner. This locomotive was displayed in a small park at Illovo Sugar Estates after being retired from service and in 1988 was moved to the Midmar Historical Village. Although originally built as a pannier tank, it had been rebuilt at Illovo with side tanks. With the demise of the Midmar project Sandstone bought the loco in 1998. It was in very poor condition and was eventually transferred to Bloemfontein in 2007 for restoration. Although most photographs show the loco as ISE 3 with side tanks it was decided to rebuild it to its original specification and a number of drawings were obtained to assist.

The boiler was rebuilt at Keith Steven's workshop in Howick while Lukas and his team concentrated on the chassis and running gear. The locomotive was virtually refabricated. The frames were checked for alignment and rebuilt. New bufferbeams, frame stretchers, pannier tanks, cab and chimney were manufactured. All the boilermounts, piston and valve gear bushes were also remade from new while the cylinders were rebored with new pistons, piston rings, cylinder covers and drain cocks. On completion of this mammoth task, the boiler was reunited with the frames and the loco steam tested. As one of two Kerr Stuart "Darwin" class locomotives delivered to Illovo no; 4063 is a rare survivor of its type.

The second locomotive which was completed with 4063 is an O&K, work number 2510 dating back to 1907.

Of the 40hp type it was supplied new to Huletts Sugar in Kwa Zulu Natal but subsequently sold to Luipaardsvlei Estatates and Gold Mining Company near Krugersdorp where it became their number 4. From there it is thought that it was put on display at the Krugersdorp Game Reserve before being moved to the Orient Express Restaurant in Halfway House (later Midrand). Many will remember this establishment which became the Train Restaurant and the small red and blue loco parked outside the entrance.. When the restaurant closed in 2003, the loco was purchased by Sandstone. It was stored at Hoekfontein for some time before being transferred to Bloemfontein. As with 4063 it was in poor condition and Lukas Nel's team had a huge task ahead. The frames were in reasonable condition but the boiler needed extensive repairs and retubing and a complete new smoke box and associated piping had to be manufactured. New side tanks and cab were fabricated while the bufferbeams, buffers and running boards were also remade.

The cylinders were rebored but a complete set of motion had to be manufactured from scratch as well as pistons and valves. Having been vandalised while in Midrand all new boiler mounts were sourced while the ashpan, firebars and boiler cladding also had to be newly made. Having completed its steam test 2510 is now back at Sandstone with 4063 for commissioning.

Both locomotives represent significant pieces of history, particularly as survivors the Natal sugar industry rail network where many locos have been exported from South Africa.

The restoration of these three locomotives has been a tribute to the efforts of Zach van Staden and Lukas Nel and their teams who battled against all odds to effectively remake a slice of South Africa's rail heritage from a pile of scrap.

1 & 2 As delivered to Bloemfontein

The superb attention to detail by Zach and his team

The new dashboard being fabricated

The final drive

The loco being loaded for transport to Sandstone

On the sandstone rails

Driver henry Brown gives the Bagnall her first run

The dashboard completed

On the road.

ISE 3 at Midmar

2510/ 4063 After restoration.

4063 undergoing trials at Sandstone

O&K 2510