RN20 - Rescue of equipment from Sena Sugar Estates MozambiqueClick here to view gallery
For many years railway enthusiasts have been aware of the locomotives and other equipment at the old Sena Sugar Estates in Mozambique. In 1998 a large number of narrow gauge locomotives and some traction engines were purchased and shipped to England, where some were sold to collectors. This left some locomotives built by Peckett of Bristol, 18 Baguley Drewry 2 ft gauge diesels and a few assorted dismantled locomotives. The Pecketts and the diesels were retained for the possible reinstatement of the sugar estate railway should it ever be restored to use.
During early 2002 rumours began to reach Sandstone Heritage Trust that these locomotives, and a number of other historic items may be sold for scrap, or otherwise disposed of. It was now or never to save them for posterity.
In September 2002 a party from Sandstone visited Sena Sugar Estates at the reopened mill at Marromeu, and the still derelict Luabo mill.
Flying from Beira in the Sena chartered Czech built twin engined aircraft it was apparent what a huge railway system there must have been at Marromeu. As we flew over the reopened mill we could see piles of scrap and the locomotives outside the loco shed. After landing on the dirt strip at Marromeu, with shacks virtually up to the sides of the strip, the end of which is graced by a badly damaged Russian Antonov transport plane, we proceeded on a tour of the area before arriving at the mill.
At the old mainline interchange yard were numerous overgrown and derelict wagons, the connection to the interior having been destroyed during the war. A couple of 3ft gauge Fowler locomotives were seen, remnants of the old Caia Marromeu Railway, as well as piles of cane trucks, rails and other scrap - it seemed we were just in time.
We had a good nights sleep in some of the mill's staff accommodation, very deluxe too, and one of the few places in Mozambique where you can drink the tap water, the mill having its own water purification plant. Being in the middle of nowhere it also has its own power generators and everything else required to sustain life there.
For many years the locomotives were kept under cover in the loco shed, but were recently moved out into the open as the shed was required for mechanics involved in repairing the large fleet of road vehicles and trailers involved in transporting the raw cane from the fields.
There were four 2ft gauge Pecketts outside .
11 0-6-0ST 2143 1953
12 0-6-0ST 2144 1953
13 0-6-0ST 2145 1953 Purchased by an American collector.
14 0-6-0ST 2161 1957
Although in relatively good exterior condition all the brass fittings and worksplates were missing, and we are going to have to source replacements. No. 14 is of particular interest being the penultimate steam locomotive built by Pecketts. It was despatched to Sena on 29th March 1957, via Chinde, the port at the mouth of the Zambesi, the mill being situated on the southern bank of the river about 100 kms inland.
There were also seven 2ft gauge Baguley Drewry 1976 built diesel locomotives in pretty fair condition, largely complete, which had been working at the time of the mill's closure. Two of these are destined for the USA, the remainder will be coming to Sandstone.
One other 2ft gauge locomotive was located. This was an 0-4-0T, a Henschel or similar, lying on its side next to a pile of scrap. Although missing a fair number of parts, and with no visible identification numbers on it, it seemed a shame to leave it behind so that was also purchased.
Also outside the shed were a number of 3ft 6in gauge locomotives used in the main line yard and elsewhere.
There were two Pecketts here:
6 0-6-0T 2141 1954
7 0-6-0T 2165 1958
These were in similar condition to their narrow gauge sisters. Originally built to 3ft gauge they were later regauged to the main line standard. No. 7 is extremely interesting, being the last steam locomotive constructed by Peckett of Bristol before they closed. It has been established from the Peckett works register that there were no locomotives constructed between 2161 and 2165, so these are definitely the last two built. It was despatched to Sena, via Chinde on 12th June 1958. These two locomotives will be restored for use by the Bethlehem Steam Railway in the Eastern Free State of South Africa.
A number of redundant cane trucks, parts from the stores, traction engines, ploughs and other bits and pieces were also purchased.
After a tour of the mill and a good nights rest it was an early start to visit Luabo mill. This is 30 kms downstream from Marromeu on the north bank of the river, and as there is no bridge over the river, nor much of a road alongside it, we were taken down in two small open outboard powered boats. This is not a Sunday afternoon type cruise as the channel is ever changing and there are sandbanks, hippo and crocodiles to avoid as well as the occasional dug out canoe and tree trunks. Luabo has not been renovated and still shows the scars of war - blown up bulk fuel storage tank, cannon shell holes in the walls and roof etc.
First stop was the loco shed which contained nine 2ft gauge Baguley Drewry diesels, a couple of Wickham trollies, an 0-8-0 loco chassis and some dismantled Ruston and Hornsby 48DL locos, an intact example of which was found elsewhere in the complex. It looked like the staff had gone for a break and would return at any moment. In reality they were given 24 hours to pack their bags and leave, never to return.
In the long grass outside was a partially dismantled Peckett, probably 2106 of 1949, an 0-4-0T which looked German and the 0-8-0T boiler. Also to be seen in the distance were a number of Wickham trollies.
There were numerous bits and pieces of what might best be termed industrial archaeology including three large stationary engines. Some of this equipment is destined for the USA.
We thought we had covered everything until our guide asked if we would like to see the electric generators. After a long day in the sun, looking out for snakes and with the possibility of land mines I guess I wasn't too enthusiastic. But what a mistake, as there in the gloom were the four large diesel engines used to produce electricity and I couldn't believe my eyes! There were four English Electric engines, four turbocharger versions, looking just like those fitted to the Rhodesia Railways DE2 locomotives, of which Sandstone as an example imported from Zimbabwe a few years ago. Three were complete, one stripped down for repairs. Now its reasonable to assume that at least one was running at the time of the evacuation so they should be in fair condition. Getting them out is going to be a fun job, as there is no infrastructure on site. The sugar company is planning to have a crane on site soon to remove equipment for reuse at Marromeu and these engines will be uplifted at the same time.
Shipping heavy equipment out of Sena is not without its problems. The national railway has been extensively damaged by sabotage during the civil war and the roads, which are dirt for hundreds of kilometres, are in very poor condition and impassable during the rainy season. With great co-operation from Sena Sugar the locomotives and other equipment will be loaded onto Sena's sea going barge, which has its own 135 ton crane, towed 70 kms down the Zambesi to the sea and then across the Indian Ocean to Beira. This is how the sugar is shipped out, the same barge bringing in all supplies which cannot be flown in or brought by road during the dry season. Here they will be transhipped to a coastal freighter to Durban, where they will be unloaded and transported to Sandstone. The first locomotive, 2161 of 1957 was shipped in Sena's barge surrounded by bags of sugar on the first stage of its journey. It was transhipped at Beira and arrived in Durban where it was collected by one of Sandstone's fleet of heavy trucks and delivered to the Eastern Free State on May 5 2003.
A major factor in our decision to save the Pecketts was the knowledge that the surviving Peckett drawings are in the custody of the National Railway Museum in York. We received enormous assistance from Vicky Stretch and other staff in the Archives section, and during an all too brief visit in November 2002 were able to ascertain which drawings were available and which we would need. As we plan to restore the locomotives to full working order the ability to obtain drawings, and thus make missing or unobtainable parts, was absolutely essential to the plan.
As we flew out of Marromeu on the return journey we had the great satisfaction of knowing that very soon, these historic British built locomotives would once again be operating where they belong, under African skies.
Most of the Marromeu based locomotives have arrived in South Africa but Luabo has not yet been touched, awaiting the arrival of a crane large enough to lift the heavy items.
Among Sandstone's working locomotives is NG 6 4-4-0 No. 106. Built originally for the Beira Railway in 1895 by Brush, and known as a 'Lawley' this 2ft gauge gem completes the Mozambique connection. Restored to use in 2002, after being plinthed for many years, it is the oldest working 2ft narrow gauge locomotive in Africa.