Rob Steiger started building his GEA in 2002 from original SAR drawings and worked feverishly on it, as we all know Rob to do, producing parts to show off every week. He machined all 16 spoked drivers by hand and had a rolling chassis by the time of the National Live Steam Meet in Pietermaritzburg in 2003.
After this the locomotive production virtually closed down, but only for a short while to make space for track building. Once the track was completed and the grand opening of the Albert Falls Miniature Railway was held, Rob got back to the business of making sworf.
Because of the layout of the Garratt cab, firing with coal would prove very difficult and so Rob converted it to oil fired. Now in South Africa were coal can just about be found at your local chemist, model engineers around here never looked into firing with anything other than coal. This case is somewhat different from the USA, one hardly ever sees coal fired locomotives there, so someone must have perfected the art of turning oil into steam, also making the driver/fireman’s’ job a bit easier.
Finding this information proved a bit tougher than expected, as even the mighty Google could not beat oil out of the internet, so he made his own version. And here it is:
Heritage Railway magazine has given us an excellent article on our recent 3’6” gauge locomotive moves to Sandstone. John Titlow, who attended Stars of Sandstone 2019, gives the in depth story. Click here to read.
Sandstone has just completed the moves by road transport of a number of steam locomotives from Bloemfontein to Sandstone Estates near Ficksburg. We featured these moves on our web site in a number of articles from August 20th 2021. Here is our picture gallery of the moves from our Railway Manager, Mr Gert Jubileus. Enjoy the read!
The Vickers VR180 Vigor was a British crawler tractor, built from 1951 to 1958 by Vickers-Armstrongs. During World War II, the company gained substantial experience in the design and construction of tanks and continuous track vehicles. After the war they developed a civilian crawler tractor that could be sold for use in peacetime reconstruction work. It was notable for the unusual sophistication of its chassis. All the components were of British design including the available attachments such as blades, towed scrapers and so on.
The tractor's most distinctive feature was its running gear: four full height road wheels also acting as rear drive sprocket, front idler and track return rollers. This was the same layout as the Tetrarch light tank, which Vickers-Armstrongs had developed in the 1930s.
In common with tanks of this period, but in contrast to crawler tractors, the suspension had considerable articulation and permitted high speeds. The Vigor was capable of nearly 10 mph, while the comparable Caterpillar D8 could only reach 5 mph. The four road wheels were linked as two bogies on each side. Pairs of bogies on opposite sides were linked by an articulated beam with a centre tilt pivot. This suspension required a flexible track, developed by Vickers, with rubber sealing washers between the moving parts. Wear to the rubber in service could make the track floppy, a drawback to the design. Together with the sophisticated suspension articulation, if not well-maintained, the Vigor was prone to throwing tracks when run at speed.
The vehicle chassis was fabricated in two pieces, mainly from large iron or steel castings. The nose of early models was distinctively solid and sloped, while other makers had a vertical radiator grille. Later models, after experience in Australia, also gained a lightweight steel grille for better ventilation. The chassis unbolted relatively quickly, two hours being cited, into front (engine) and rear (transmission) components.
The engine was a Rolls-Royce C6SFL 12.17l six-cylinder supercharged diesel. This engine was more powerful than other tractors of this age and weight, with 190 hp at the engine and 150 drawbar hp. However the fuel consumption was high, at 9.8 gallons per hour at full rate. Unusually this engine was of dry sump design allowing constant full pressure lubrication at all operating angles. The transmission was initially a three-speed manual and high-low-reverse splitter gearbox with a relatively small Borg & Beck 18 inch single plate dry clutch. This small clutch plate had a reputation for early failure if worked hard. An improvement from mid-production was the option of a Rolls-Royce hydraulic torque converter, the same converters Rolls-Royce were supplying with the same engines for the new British Rail DMU fleet. Towards the end of production a Cummins turbocharged diesel engine was an option.
A full range of accessories were offered: front dozer blades with cable or hydraulic lifts, rear ripper blades for breaking virgin bush such as farmland in Australia. Sadly the Vigor suffered many problems that were never satisfactorily addressed by the manufacturer such as instability as a bulldozer and eventually was unable to compete with US competition such as Caterpillar. Sales dwindled and production ended.
Production of the VR180 ran from 1952 to 1958, with approximately 1,500 built.
Sandstone’s example is serial number 2132 and was used in the construction of the Kariba Dam between 1955 and 1959 after which it was abandoned in the bush. It was recently rescued in Zimbabwe together with another smaller example. It is missing the bulldozer blade but a suitable example is being sought.
Sandstone’s latest restored steam locomotive will be hauling trains over the weekend. The 1968 Johannesburg built NGG16A number 155 will haul trains for the first time in 21 years!
Sandstone open at Cherry Festival Time! 19 to 20 November 2021 plus the launch of their latest steam locomotive, NGG16A number 155.
The Cherry Festival has not been confirmed for Ficksburg in 2021 due to the Covid 19 pandemic but a number of local establishments will be open over the weekend of Friday19th November and Saturday 20th November together with Sandstone who will be holding a steam festival over the two days. From the 19th November until 20th November Sandstone will be offering train rides together with opportunities to view the Sandstone Heritage collection.
Entrance is R250 for adults and R140 for children under 12. Trains will run from 10h00 on Friday 19th and from 10h00 on Saturday 21st November.
Please note that strict Covid 19 protocols will be followed and no one will be admitted if not wearing a mask. A screened temperature over 37 degrees will also result in non-admittance together with other members of the party.Click here to Read more
At time when tourism is under threat from the pandemic it is good to see positive publicity for attractions in South Africa. Rove SA online edition for September 2021, recently covered a visit to Sandstone, enjoy the read!
The last Sandstone locomotive has now left Transnet’s Bloemfontein Depot and has arrived at Sandstone Estates near Ficksburg. This is 11th Class number 929.
Designed by P.A. Hyde for the Central South African Railways (CSAR), these engines of the “Mikado” wheel arrangement were the only such type to run on the Cape gauge in South Africa apart from two experimental engines on the Cape Government Railways. The last examples were withdrawn by 1975. Nevertheless many were sold to mining operations both in the Transvaal and Orange Free State. Sandstone’s No. 929 became Freegold’s President Steyn Mine No. 6. In 1991, records show it “out of use” so it is possible it saw little if any service during that period. No. 929 was acquired from the President Steyn Mine by the Transnet Foundation in the early ‘90s and was subsequently sold to the UK-based North British Locomotive Preservation Group. Plans to export the loco to the UK fell through and Sandstone acquired the locomotive in 2013.
Our photo gallery shows number 929 being loaded together with its tender and arriving at Sandstone.
We received this excellent video of GMAM 4114 arriving at Sandstone which shows the sheer size of the multi axle trailer. Those who know the area will recognise that the truck is coming from the Bethlehem direction! Purely a navigation error as the convoy missed the turn into Sandstone Estates from Ficksburg and had to proceed as far as Fouriesburg where the road widens at a major intersection in order to turn around for Sandstone. Enjoy the video.