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South African Railways Class NG6 4-4-0 "Lawley"

Ex SAR number 106 Falcon 233/1895

Updated - 15th May 2006

Acknowledged as one of the jewels of the Sandstone collection, this locomotive, although included under the SAR section, began its life in Mozambique and also worked in industry in South Africa in its 111-year career.
In 1892 construction began of a 2ft gauge railway between Beira and Umtali (now Mutare) in the then Rhodesia. Pauling & Co. who were the builders, subcontracted the work on the 370 km line to Alfred Lawley. 42 locomotives were ordered of the F2 and slightly more powerful F4 class from Falcon Engine and Car Works of Loughborough, England although D. Drummond and Sons of Glasgow also built some. Works number 233 was of the F2 class and became Beira Railway number 7 (BR7). With reference to the contractor, the locomotives became known as "Lawleys". From the beginning they were not really up to the task in hand and when the line was regauged to 3'6" in 1900, the entire class of F2 and F4 units were stored at Vila Machado, near Beira, where they remained for some 13 years.

The advent of the First World War and South Africa's involvement in the then German South West Africa, highlighted a need for further narrow gauge engines to replace those destroyed by the retreating German army. 13 locos were purchased from Vila Machado and sent to South Africa for refurbishment. After 13 years in the bush they had deteriorated significantly and had been stripped of many parts and fittings. In fact none of these locos ever saw service in SWA, being confined, instead, to South Africa where they were classified NG6. BR7 was sent to the SAR Durban workshops for repair. Although maintaining its Class F2 identity it emerged with a number of "modifications" to the boiler, smokebox and fittings plus a bogie tender instead of the original 6 wheel version. It was now numbered as SAR number 106. Much research has been done into number 106's whereabouts after leaving Durban workshops but in February 1916 it was at Umlaas Road on the Mid Illovo branch. What work it may have done is unknown but the SAR CME put in writing to the SAR General Manager that the NG6 class were not very satisfactory in service and were to be sold to industry as offers arose. By 1917 only one had been sold and the CME suggested scrapping the rest but, given the costs incurred in refurbishing them, this was declined. Number 106 was stored again at Durban in 1923 and 1924.

At this time a 2ft branch was being constructed from Upington to Kakamas which was the lifeline for number 106. After further repairs at Pietermaritzburg it was despatched to Upington. By 1930 it was working on the Fort Beaufort to Seymour barnch where it remained until 1934. From here number 106 was sold to Zebedelia Sugar Estates where it became their number 4. When the Estate closed in 1959 the Lawley had become number 5. This change of identity gave rise to the puzzle that was to ensue over its identity in later years. The locomotive was modified during its years at Zebedelia and also received a new boiler in 1942. Both Zebedelia number 4 and number 5 (the old number 4) were sold to Dryden Engineering in 1959. Number 4 being presented to the James Hall Museum in Johannesburg and Number 5 to the Rand Society of Model Engineers (RSME) in Florida, Johannesburg. In 2001 Sandstone purchased this locomotive and it began its restoration at the Hoekfontein workshops. During the time it was stripped it was inspected by loco historian, John Middleton, who positively identified it as works number 233, BR7 and Class NG6 number 106.

In April 2002 the locomotive made its debut at the Great 400 Working event at Sandstone Estates hauling the Press train. Since 2002 the locomotive has been refitted with vacuum brake gear and is an extremely popular attraction for both enthusiasts and the public.

The Lawley is painted in authentic Beira Railway green, this colour having been discovered under many layers of paint on the tender toolbox. It is numbered BR7 in brass numerals with "Beira Railway" in similar brass lettering on the tender. It weighs 22 tons in working order. Capable of pulling two passenger coaches, BR7 is confined to the Mooihoek to Grootdraai section due to the steep gradients beyond Mooihoek, on the line to Vailima.


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