3ft 6" Cape Gauge

Bloemfontein Loco Moves. Some history pictures.

The movement of the Sandstone locos at Bloemfontein prompted photographer, Graham McWilliams to send in some pictures of GMAM 4114 at Graaf Reinet in 1979 and also a shot of 24 Class 3688 at Waterval Boven in 1984. It’s always good to see preserved locos in their past lives.

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24 Class 3688 stands at Waterval Boven loco depot in 1984.


The Sandstone locos arrive at their new home.

Our recent video showed GMAM 4114 on the road to Sandstone where it is now safely plinthed near to the main security gate. We have now also moved 24 Class 3688 and 19D 2654 from the Bloemfontein Depot. As we mentioned in our first posting on the GMAM, these two units together with 11 class 929, Crane 187 and two XC tankers, were staged next to the old 15M workshop which Sandstone leased for many years and where Lukas Nel and his team restored so many locomotives. This workshop was always rail connected and had a good road access but things have changed! Since Sandstone closed the workshop in 2019, the rail connection has been mysteriously lifted (stolen?) and the access road overgrown. It was the plan to shunt all these locos and rolling stock to the loading area which had been levelled for the GMAM multi axle trailer next to the main gate of the Depot where they could be loaded onto a lowbed.

Gert Jubileus and his team had to act quickly and decided to reinstate the road to the old workshop so that loading could be done directly there. After two days of frantic road works past the old coal stage and to the back of the 15M workshop a road was put through and the 24 and 19D were loaded for transport to Sandstone. Our photo gallery shows the road works in progress and the 24 (in red ochre paint) and 19D being loaded. Interestingly the diggings next to the old (long demolished) coal stage produced a few tons of coal from the earth which was much appreciated by the locals!

Our next report will cover the move of the 11 class and steam crane 187 and the XC tankers.


Road Building

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GMAM 4114 heads to Sandstone.

After some minor delays with the traffic permits GMAM 4114 was finally on its way to Sandstone this morning.




Sandstone’s unique 6th class number 544 gets a clean-up.

Ex South African Railways Class 6C number 544 is one of a large number of this type of locomotive in various sub classes built in the late 19th century for railway administrations in South Africa. Number 544 is unique in that it is the last survivor of six of the type built for the Orange Free State Government Railways in 1896 as their number 73. At the end of the Boer War number 73 was taken into Central South African Railways  stock as their number 349. In 1910 when the Union of South Africa came into being together with a new railway administration, South African Railways, number 349 was classified 6C and renumbered 544 and ended her days as the depot shunter at Bethlehem loco. In 1972 the locomotive was overhauled and presented to the Bethlehem Museum after a lifetime of service in the Bethlehem area. 

In 2008 space considerations at the museum meant that 544 had to move and she was taken to Sandstone for future preservation. The locomotive is plinthed under cover in the main complex close to the Waenhuis Restaurant. Number 544 is a worthy candidate for preservation being the last surviving locomotive of the Orange Free State Government Railways.

After a full repaint some two years ago, 544 has undergone a spring clean and sparkles on her plinth.

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Historic ESKOM steam locomotives under threat.

Timeslive recently broke a story on the fate of ESKOM’s historic steam locomotives. Back in 2011, ESKOM retrieved their locomotives from SANRASM and most people probably didn’t think any more about it assuming they were safely in a warehouse at Rosherville. However, ongoing industrial railway research by John Middleton discovered the locomotives dumped on the ground in the open in a remote part of the Rosherville complex where they have lain for 10 years. The historic 1879 built KITSON was taken out of the yard in 2016, repainted and plinthed in the Rosherville complex and appears secure but the others make quite a woeful sight.


The five locomotives still in the yard are all unique
BARCLAY, 1907 built 2-4-0T originally Jersey Railway (Channel Islands) No. 5 and the only survivor of that railway – it came to SA in 1928
HUNSLET, 1902 built 2-6-0ST, the last survivor of a design originally built as Table Bay Harbour Board locomotives
AVONSIDE, 1928 built 4-8-2T and the last survivor of the “Super Avonside” design meant as a competitor to the North British 4-8-2T design
HENSCHEL, 1950 built 2-6-2T an unusual one-off ordered by ESKOM for coal traffic
“BERLINER”, 1926 built 0-6-0T, originally Blinkpan Colliery

The positive side of this story is that it elicited a positive response that clearly opens the door to partners coming in and assisting ESKOM to save these very historic locomotives from a decay into oblivion.

The question now is how to build on this.

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Sandstone Heritage Trust South African Railways Class 19D

the last steam locomotive in full commercial service in South Africa

In September 2015 the last steam locomotive in full commercial service in South Africa, 19D Saaicor No 3, dropped its fire for the last time and ended 155 years of steam operation in South Africa. Click here to read more

Sandstone Heritage Trust South African Railways

Sandstone Heritage Trust South African Railways

3688 was acquired by the Sandstone Heritage Trust in 2016 after it was removed from the Transnet National Collection and earmarked for disposal. As the locomotive was at Bloemfontein and in good condition it made good sense to acquire her to avoid the locomotive being scrapped. - Click here to read more

Sappi-Saaicor 19D donated to Sandstone.

Ex SAR 19D, Sappi no 2, has been donated to Sandstone by Sappi from the Saaicor Mill at Umkomaas in Kwa Zulu Natal. The Unkomaas Mill was the last industrial steam operation in South Africa and introduced diesel operation in 2015. The 19D, which was SAR no 2633, was built by Skoda as works number 928 of 1938 and is one of only fifteen 19D’s built by this manufacturer. Planning is now underway to relocate the locomotive to Sandstone’s Eastern Free State base where the locomotive will be initially plinthed and examined for possible future restoration.

Class 4AR 1555.

The first phase of the cosmetic restoration of 1555 is nearing conclusion with the locomotive now painted together with the tender tank. The painting of the tender frame is nearly complete. Our final picture shows some of the extremely rusted boiler cladding and other components that will need to be replaced when the Transnet tender for Phase 2 of the restoration to final assembly is awarded.

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4AR Number 1555 Cosmetic Restoration for Transnet

While the work on the NG10 continues, the team working on the 4AR, number 1555 for Transnet are making good progress with the locomotive and tender now stripped and cleaned and the application of the red ochre preservative paint starting to be applied.

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4AR number 1555

Work continues at Bloemfontein on Phase 1 of the cosmetic restoration of this loco for Transnet. After stripping the locomotive as in our last report  attention is now concentrated on descaling the various components. Our pictures from Lukas Nel show work on the cab, tender tank and boiler.

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The restoration of Class 4AR

The restoration of Class 4AR number 1555 foe Transnet Foundation.

The locomotive and tender have now been completely stripped and the cleaning process has begun. With bitterly cold temperatures in Bloemfontein an impromptu boiler has been set up for warmth!

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4AR number 1555

Work has now begun on the stripping and cleaning of the second locomotive for the Transnet tender at Bloemfontein. The 1913 North British built 4AR locomotive number 1555 awaits its place in the new museum at Bloemfontein after spending over 30 years in storage. As can be seen from our pictures it is much poorer condition than the NZASM “B” tank recently completed. Some damage is evident on the running boards plus serious corrosion to the cladding.

The locomotive has been separated from its tender which has been fitted with new bearings and axle box keeps and covers. The cab has been removed and our pictures show the deterioration of the cladding and the generally poor condition of 1555. Not surprising after so long in open air storage.

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Cosmetic Restoration of NZASM “B” number 230

The stripping, cleaning and painting of this locomotive is now complete at Bloemfontein. All the loose parts will now be safely secured. Another tender will be issued by Transnet shortly for the assembly and final painting of the locomotive.

A job well done by Lukas Nel and his team.

The crew will now move on to the other locomotive in the tender,4AR number 1555.

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A heavy day for 19D 2734!

We could not resist another shot by Dennis Moore from Loraine Gold Mine near Welkom. This is locomotive 2734 hauling twenty hoppers at the mine from a location called “The Hole” where the usual load was 10 hoppers.

To quote Dennis “Never have I seen a loco abused so much. Every rivet was straining; it made it, crawling past at about 2 mph. Some tremendous wheel slips; no wonder all their tyres were shot. When asked why he dragged twenty out instead of doing two hauls of ten wagons each, the Driver just laughed and said "it was more fun that way!

2734 was eventually purchased by Sandstone but scrapped some years ago as  “unrepairable” after all usable components were stripped from the loco. We can probably see why it was in such poor condition from the picture! Sadly mine locomotives suffered daily abuse which is probably why so few are ever restored to working order.

2734 has an interesting history though, in that the original 2734 was built in 1946 as works number 7247 by Robert Stephenson & Hawthorn but was lost at sea in the Thames Estuary during delivery. Number 2734 was a replacement for this engine but was built two years later in 1948 as works number 7360 and so was out of sequence with its sisters. It spent some of its life at Bloemfontein and then Klerksdorp from where it was withdrawn from service in 1989 and sold to Loraine.

Nevertheless sister Loraine loco, 1938 Krupp built, 2654, also saved by Sandstone survives today fully restored at Bloemfontein.

this is a big load for a 19D