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Cape Western outer-suburban and local services by Charlie Lewis ©

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'memory is not a reliable quantity in life ..... it doesn't prioritise the truth', 
it is 'pragmatic, sly and artful' - from "Boyhood Island" by Karl Ove Knausgaard

Most of the events in this chapter happened more than 50 years ago, so where solid data is not available we have had to rely on our ever-less dependable recollections.  If a fact is not known for sure, however, we will be honest and tell you - providing that our memories haven't played tricks......again.   In this chapter we describe the services to Wellington, Stellenbosch, Somerset West/Strand and Malmesbury as well as main-line "locals" which ran as far as Touws River at one time, but generally stopped at De Doorns.  Nowadays the longest run is to Worcester with the fastly-timed "Boland Blitz".  In addition, for many decades, on Saturdays there was a farmworker's stopper between Worcester and Wolseley. 

We will start with the steam services although, incredibly, it is now more than fifty years since the last scheduled steam-hauled train drew out of platform 11 in the old station at Cape Town - at 18:36 on Saturday 23 November 1963. Only 20 days previously SAR had celebrated 100 years of railway service to Wellington with a headboard on 111-down, the 11:38 EMU departure.   Although railtours did call from time to time it would be several decades before regular steam departures resumed, this time from the new station - the Atlantic Rail excursions to Simonstown.  In the intervening years the outer-suburban service was handled mainly by EMUs but electric locomotive-hauled trains ran to Worcester, De Doorns and Touws River and steam continued to run to Malmesbury (but only from Bellville or Kraaifontein) until 1976, thereafter by diesel the whole way.

Summary of outer suburban trains: 1910-1980







 Somerset West/Strand








  No of best time No of best time No of best time No of best time No of best time No of
Year trains (minutes) trains (minutes) trains (minutes) trains (minutes) trains (minutes) Trains
1912 2 129 3 162* 2 90 4 68/79 1 359* 12
1919 2 138 3 155* 2 74 5 65/75 1 289 13
1925 2 141 3 99 3 63 5 67/76 2 232 15
1941 3 113 8 88 8 63 10 51/60 2 259 23
1944 3 106 9 88 9 59 10 51/60 4 233 35
1950 3 106 10 98 9 61 10 59/69 4 231 36
1960 3 104 13 72 (EMU) 12 54(EMU) 12 60/69 4 226*(EMU) 42
1970 3 117 17 79(EMU) 14 59(EMU) 15 56/66 4 249 53
1980 4 122

No particulars available yet

  *via Stellenbosch  

Cape Town's principal satellite towns are Malmesbury, Wellington, Paarl, Stellenbosch, Somerset West and Strand, although nowadays the latter two are practically contiguous.  While the number of trains has grown substantially the best times haven't necessarily improved, even with electrification.  For instance the Somerset West service - always the most important of the outer-suburban runs - was down to 51 minutes before the war and remained so for several years.  In fairness, the prewar Strand Express only had one stop, whereas today's trains stop everywhere after Bellville.  How about Stellenbosch, the university town, 32 miles out, being only 59 minutes away in 1944 - good vote catcher that! 


1. Still looking distinctly rural, Somerset West was a country town with a commuter service when Les made this picture in 1960.  Today it is but a suburb of Cape Town, and has been almost swallowed up by the inevitable urban sprawl.   

2. Cape Government Railways (CGR) was relaxed about most things from locomotives to carriages to stations.  With the formation of SAR in 1910, CGR was divided into its constituent Western, Midland, Eastern and Northern systems but its laid-back approach lasted for many more decades, as this view of Somerset West station in the sixties shows.  The al-fresco lever frame (check that steel plate over the interlocking mechanisms!) and non-uniform rake of suburban stock with ex-CGR hand-me-down day/sleeper carriage was typical of the Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and East London suburban/outer suburban trains for more than 50 years.  

3. In a cloud of brake-shoe dust a legend rolls off the Somerset West branch into Eerste River.  Watson's superb rebuild of CGR's flagship class 5 No 781 looked more efficient than elegant but boy, was she a performer!  For more than 30 years - until electrification - she was in charge of the morning and evening Strand Expresses (208-up and 221-down). We'll see some more of this terrific machine in the course of this and subsequent chapters.  

4. Apart from the solitary class 5R, Strand trains tended to be worked by 10CRs but occasionally the 16Ds lent a hand as with No 865 about to depart Eerste River for Cape Town with an Up Strand on 4th January 1961.    


5. There is a slight incline away from Kuils River towards Bellville. The train could be an up Wellington, Stellenbosch or Strand, there is no description on my print, but the engine is a class 6Z 2-6-4 and the train a typical Cape Western outer suburban formation of the mid twenties.  Note the lack of fencing - cowcatchers earned their keep in those days.    

6. An Up Strand coming into Bellville under the newly-opened Modderdam Rd bridge in August 1956. The bridge replaced the four-track level crossing depicted in photo 25 of Part 2. It is not a thing of beauty, but neither is the 16D for that matter, especially with its el-cheapo plate cowcatcher (Baldwin supplied these), and bell buffer for link-and-pin couplers.  Although the CSAR had introduced American Buck-eye automatic couplers before Union, it took SAR five decades to completely eliminate these crude old-fashioned (and dangerous) Victorian link-and-pin couplings with the result that until comparatively recent times it was possible to identify railway shunters by their missing fingers - digits, and even lives, seemed more expendable in those days. 

7. A few years later, Les was loitering on platform 13/14 of Cape Town's venerable old station when 863 cl 16D drew into platform 12 with 218-up from Somerset Strand.  Note the 10CR shunting the market sidings in the far left background.              

The 16D/DAs and their mixed-traffic counterparts, the 15CA/CBs were 100% Baldwin designed, looking very much like scaled-down versions of the standard-gauge USRA WW1 Pacific and Mountain designs that performed so well.  Utilitarian in appearance they nevertheless made an imposing sight at the head of a train, especially when entering or leaving stations. The visible coaches are worthy of comment, the first one is an absolute classic ex-CGR flat-sided, match-boarded 1st-class parcel-and-brake van (SAR type N-23) while the second is even more interesting, being the last surviving CSAR "Limited Express" carriage, SAR No 4656 built in 1904 by the Metropolitan Amalgamated Carriage and Wagon Company of Birmingham. We will be giving this vehicle more attention in future episodes.     

8. This could have been moments later but in fact was almost a year later, on 2nd January 1962, No 865 was at rest against the buffer stop in the main-line concourse.  Ducking considerately to avoid the photographer, a shunter is making his way to throw the points of the crossover to allow the engine to escape to loco.

9. In December 1954 I bought my first non-box camera - a folding Zeiss Nettar 120 producing 6x9cm negatives.  I wasted no time getting lineside, usually with bashmate Don Baker and always by bicycle or train.  Until I learnt how to drive it there was only a marginal improvement in quality.  One of the better ones was this shot of class 6H No 628 on 306-up, the 12:25 SO Malmesbury-Cape Town arriving at Bellville on 18th December 1954.   Various 6th classes were used on the Malmesbury trains right up to the mid-fifties.  No 628 was sporting a new electric headlight but otherwise quite unchanged from when she was delivered to CGR by Neilsen Reid & Co in 1901.  For obvious reasons, on these longer runs the crews preferred the wide-cab sixes and I never saw a narrow-cab sixth class on this train. 

10. No need for superlatives here, you can judge for yourselves, but we do have to thank Pierre for sending this scan from his priceless collection of Railway Circle prints.  The print has "AH Croxton" scribbled on the back but it looks like the work of either Frank Garrison or Dr Eric Manken.  If any of our readers have more information as to the author of this photograph we would be most grateful to receive it.   Analysing the photo it is possible to reach some feasible conclusions, the most reliable one being the date.  Behind the class 05 shunting carriages in the right background the electrification masts and gantries of the Southern Suburbs line can be seen.  This puts the picture between 1928 and about 1931 when construction work on electrification of the Bellville and Cape Flats services would have begun.    The class 05 is shunting carriages at the new Salt River running shed (if that's the right word) for the 1M1 motor-coach sets used on the Simonstown line (the multiple-unit cable couplings are clearly visible on the end of the coach).  According to the notes on the back of the print the two trains passing one another are: 280-up with a class cl 6Z 2-6-4 coming towards us - it has just shut off for Salt River, only a furlong ahead.  The fact that it is not a uniform rake of steam stock (which one would expect on Bellville turns) identifies it as either an up Wellington or Strand.  Because of its length and mix of coaches, the train accelerating away on the left looks like a Malmesbury working, and indeed it is 201-down.

11. On 2nd January 1962, 723 class 5B picks her way into platform 12 with 306-up.  Only three platforms were used for the outer suburban and main-line workings - 12, 13 and 14. In view of the relative sparseness of these services compared to the dense inner suburban timetable, that was sufficient.  However, it did require some nifty carriage shunting and this is an aspect of old Cape Town that we'll deal with in a future chapter.  From an early age I loved to spend time on Platform 13/14, for which there was a charge of 3d (a tickey in South African parlance) for a platform ticket - daylight robbery for a snotty-nosed schoolboy who only got a shilling a week pocket money.  My lasting regret about those early days was not meeting Les - he would have put me wise about how special those long-legged loping 5Bs were.  I just took them for granted. 

12. Like a complicated game of chess, the carriage shunts had to be fitted in amongst normal service trains - suburban, outer suburban and main line.  Until 1958 the sidings were squeezed in between platform 14 and Monument station but early in 1959 the new carriage storage, cleaning and servicing sidings alongside Culemborg goods shed were opened. There followed a three-year window before the yard was poled for electric working.   From early days it was the practice to use engines off incoming locals to help out in the carriage yard and that is the situation here where the left-hand somewhat grimy 10CR has just brought in a morning train from the Strand and has already turned on the yard's brand-new turntable.  The two engines on the right had been rostered for the carriage shunt, the right-hand one is a 10CR, probably awaiting shops, and the other is the solitary class 5BR, No 725 which, during the fifties at least, was more or less permanently confined to the carriage yard*.      

* An explanation for this has something to do with the fact that when A G Watson fitted her with his standard No 1 boiler he scrapped the Beatty-designed bridle casting around the firebox wrapper in favour of extending the bar frames backwards under the firebox to the rear drag box.  This turned out to be a weak point in the rebuilt (and more powerful) engine so she was never again favoured for road work - in contrast with sister engine No 781.  The latter was fitted with Watson's standard boiler and redesigned cylinders but retained the bridle casting, as did the unreboilered class 5Bs all of which gave long and outstanding road service.

13. Class 10B No 756 about to depart from platform 13 with a down Wellington c 1930. In later years, after being fitted with Watson's standard No 1 boiler, No 756 was posted to Sydenham for the PE - Uitenhage commuter runs.    The 10As and 10Bs were designed by G G Elliot, CME of the CSAR.  They were successful engines, owing a lot to P A Hyde's class 10 Pacifics of 1904. The 10As were saturated and the 10Bs superheated but so superior were they in performance that the 10As soon were also provided with superheaters, becoming reclassified 10B in the process.  The 10Bs, like classes 10 and 11, had outside admission valves which gave them nice straight steam passages and were notably fast and free running in addition to being supremely elegant as can be seen.


14. The Cape Western System's habit of assembling any old vehicles for its outer suburban trains was inherited from the CGR.  Peter Stow has come to the rescue with the coach information, starting from the brake first at this end:   "Coach 5534 was built in Salt River by the CGR and placed in service in August 1907. It became SAR type N-3 at Union. It was converted to a centre corridor coach in June 1931, becoming type N-23. It was scrapped in Bloemfontein in August 1968 after 61 years in service.  The next coach became a legendary nomad: No 4656, a 1st class, CSAR type J, built for the famous Johannesburg - Pretoria Limited Express, becoming SAR type L-11.  After that is a 2nd class type O-38 steel coach number 5909, the only one allocated to Cape Town that was not converted to an electric plain trailer for use with type 4M electric motor coaches. The following coach is an ex 2ND class type O-32-C, re-classified as a type M-48-C composite 1st & 2nd, one of 5 built in Uitenhage and placed in service in January 1936, and the final one is a 3rd class and van of type T-24".

15. Hard to imagine after almost 60 years service but ex-CSAR Limited Express coach, SAR No 4656 (withdrawn in 1969) was once one of the finest vehicles that ever ran on South African metals.  By the 1960s she was reaching the end of her career but still managed to put in the miles in outer suburban service as well as the Caledon train.  An unusual feature was that the windows opened upwards!  

16. I hope you're not getting tired of these 5Bs, I could go on posting them all night!  No 723 about to work 307-down, the 18:20 SaO to Malmesbury on 5th January 1961.  The engine continued in this service until well into the sixties and survived the cutter's torch but not the rats.  Stripped of all her brass she is still standing at Millsite awaiting restoration - if only. But we'll tell you the full story of 723's subsequent travails in the chapter dealing with Paarden Eiland shed.

17. The driver of this down Malmesbury looks back for his second "right away".  At 1½ times the rail gauge (5'-2", equivalent to 7'-0" on standard gauge) those lazy-looking drivers were big for a narrow-gauge engine, which is why #723 was employed in passenger service for more than 60 years. 

18. As mentioned in the caption to photo 9 the sixth classes handled the Malmesbury locals until the mid fifties when loads began to get heavier.  A small-boilered 6 was allowed only four coaches in this service whereas Belpaire 6s could take five.  However, here is class 6C No 553 with only four coaches on the 15:43 to Malmesbury in September 1955. 

19. Rare at the best of times were class 15BRs on locals out of Cape Town.  On 3rd January 1961 Les found No 1975 on 211-down, the 06:55 Cape Town-Strand.

20. A 16D, its number long forgotten, departing from platform 12 on 125-down, the 14:15 SaO to Wellington via Salt River and Stellenbosch in March 1953.  Not exactly fast, it took 2hrs 12mins for the 63 miles, admittedly all stations after Bellville, as compared with the equivalent electric time, in later years, of 1hr 48mins.

21. Eventually we got bold enough to go beyond the platform end and creep across the tracks while (hopefully) no blompot* was looking.  In this way we got our primeval action photos.   On the left, 221-down, the Strand Express 17:18 away, inexplicably without its regular motive power and waiting to follow, on the right in platform 14, 108-down, the 17:20 fast to Wellington via Salt River and Kraaifontein. March 1952.   

*Afrikaans for "flower pot", Saffer slang for a railway policeman, derived from those huge pots containing shrubs and flowers that used to decorate our stations.

22. A year later we had got bolder and even further away from the platform ends, though sadly still with box camera.  Unusually departing from platform 14, this time the Strand Express had the engine that worked it regularly for 30 years - No 781, getting away in its usual uncomplicated - and loud - style.

23. And further yet.... A class 15F on 127-down, 15h13 Worcester all stations SaO, September 1953 (forerunner of what is today known as the "Boland Blitz") 

24. Fast forward to May 1956 and my early experiments with Kodachrome I, ASA10.  An unknown 10CR on 219-down 14:45 Strand via Salt River.  Note the newly-arrived Blue Train in platform 14, its stock about to be shunted into the carriage sidings by a 6th class, number also unknown. 

25. No 553 class 6C Belpaire on a down Malmesbury again, with apologies, but this time with five coaches on 303-down SaO, first stop Bellville, in May 1956.  Within a year the use of 6th class on the Malmesbury locals came to an end, thus the end of their main-line work on the Cape Western system, and probably anywhere in the country - but not bad for a 60 year old engine.  

26. By the end of the decade sixes on the Malmesbury run were only a fading memory and the loadings were regularly up to six coaches, which the 5Bs handled with ease.  Les has been showing you class 5B No 723 at work on this run so here is an even rarer one, mainly because by year's end she had been withdrawn: No 724 on 303-down, May 1959, and thanks to Richard Niven for pointing out that 724 had her feedwater clack valves on top, whereas sister No 723 had hers on the sides, giving a much cleaner profile.   Note the cleared area in the foreground: the new coaching yard was already in use and all the old carriage sidings that formerly occupied this area had been uplifted to make way for work on the new station. 

27. Construction work on Cape Town's new station was already far advanced by July 1962 when 773 cl 10CR stood in for 781 on 221-down, the Strand Express, 17:18 off Cape Town.  Note the uniform rake of steam suburban coaches, this only began to happen in the late fifties!  The train is running parallel with 121-down, the 17:16 Wellington EMU which had departed a couple of minutes late. These are the two trains that feature in my description of a journey on the Strand Express in the caption to photo 29 below.   

28. A little further out and approaching Avoiding-line Junction, Les must have been dodging the blompotte when he got this one of a 16D on 113-down, the 14:15 Wellington via Salt River and Stellenbosch on 5th January 1961.  Note the usual mixture of CGR suburban and main-line coaches and later steam suburban stock.      

29. Don Baker and I would sometimes cycle to Paarden Eiland shed after school, see what was there, take a few photos and then go to the adjacent Avoiding-line tracks to photograph the afternoon departures from Cape Town.  By the time they reached Paarden Eiland they had built up a bit of speed and the photography was tricky with our primitive equipment and not always successful. However one Saturday in May 1955 Don and I decided to have a go at the afternoon procession along the Avoiding Line (by this time we had invested in better cameras).  First step was to call in at the shed and arrange some smoke, which is what we did with 6H 625, still with oil lamp, rostered for 303-down the 13:30 Cape Town - Malmesbury.  The driver took us a little too literally as he immediately poured on some coal!        

30. And he didn't let us down when 303-down came by at a dignified pace about half-an-hour later.  Even with only four coaches the operating department has managed to select four different ones!  Note the huge Paarden Eiland coal stage.  When steam was at its peak around the late forties/early fifties that whole bunker carried only one day's reserve so it was necessary to dump coal on the ground, a very expensive way of storing it.  Also, there are four engines in this picture - count 'em.  From the left, a 15F making its way to the coal stage (in 1955 the Fs were still very much in CW main-line service) a sixth class of unknown denomination, 6H 625 on the train and another 6th class in the far-right background.    

31. One of SAR’s rarest locomotives, the solitary class 5R eastbound on the Avoiding Line at Paarden Eiland with 221-down, the 17:18 departure from Cape Town known as the “Strand Express”.  I often caught this businessmen’s express (first stop Eerste River) just for the exhilaration of hearing 781’s incredibly loud and clinically regular exhaust beats reverberating off the factory walls – the sound accentuated by Watson-designed, large diameter, long-lap, long-travel valves driven by well-maintained Stephenson’s link motion.    Highlight of the journey was between Goodwood and Parow where our train would catch up and surge past the 17:16 Cape Town – Wellington EMU with a deafening crescendo of cannon-shot exhaust and wild whistling, accompanied by gesticulations and rather less savoury celebrations from our engine crew (in fairness it ought to be mentioned that the 17:16 had an extra stop – at Salt River!). 

32. In March 1955 6H 625, complete with oil lamp (I think she probably took it to her grave) approaching the avoiding line junction at Woltemade No 1 with 303-down.   

33. A memorable Frank Garrison photograph of one of the Beatty-designed enlarged Karoo class - class 5 - placed in service only in 1912, coming through Avoiding-line Junction at Woltemade.  This one could be any number including and between 780 to 783.  They were quite magnificent engines and my late Dad, who loved them, told me they were the first he heard with chime whistles.    The train looks like the 14:15 Wellington via Salt River and Stellenbosch. Its composition reflects the laissez-faire attitude of the Western Cape operating department towards these outer-suburban workings which prevailed for more than 50 years.  The date would be around 1930 as D F Holland tells us the enlarged Karoos were drafted into outer-suburban duties after they came off main-line passenger work c 1928.  As we know, only No 781 was fitted with a Watson standard No 1 boiler and outlived all her sisters, surviving in passenger service until 1967 before being withdrawn for preservation.        

34. Les's coverage of the 5Bs is by far the best I've seen, and he lived in Jo'burg!  This was 723 on 309-down on 2nd January 1962       

35. Around mid-1955 the straight sixes came off the Malmesbury run being replaced on these workings by Paarden Eiland's last two remaining Belpaire sixes - classes 6 No 407 and 6C No 553 - as previously mentioned, in order to attach an extra coach.  I seemed to gather a host of photos of #553 on these turns and here she is again in April 1956, starting out of Bellville on 305-down, the 17:30 SuO Cape Town-Malmesbury via Salt River. Not more than a minute or three later the sun had gone.  Desperate stuff on K1!       

36. Railway circle member Dr Eric Manken was one of the best recorders of the Cape railways in the 1930s and '40s.  His superb study of 767 cl 10CR leaving Bellville on 53-down, the 15:00 Cape Town - Wellington SuO via Salt River and Stellenbosch, was taken in February 1949.  As part of the electrification to Touws River, which was just beginning at this time, the semaphore signals had been replaced with colour lights and route indicators by 1952.      

37. First of the 5Bs to be scrapped was No 726 sometime before 1950, seen here on a down train at Eerste River in 1946.  The surprisingly uniform rake of steam stock probably indicates that this was the Strand Express.        

38. No 778 cl 10CR curving away from the Stellenbosch line at Eerste River with a morning local to Somerset West and Strand on 27th January 1960      

39. On weekdays the 08:46 Cape Town-Caledon (which we shall be visiting in the next chapter) made a connection with a Strand shuttle at Somerset West at 09:56.  When Les made this photo on 27 January 1960 the engine of the Caledon train was poppet-valved class 19C No 2478 and the shuttle had an unrecorded 10CR. It had to work tender-first from Somerset West as there was no turntable there - hence the cowcatcher on the tender.  The stock for this shuttle worked a busy and complicated diagram: 06:55 Cape Town - Strand, 211-down arriving at 08:32; 09:30 Strand - Somerset West, 234-up arriving at 09:40; 10:15 Somerset West-Strand, 243-down arriving at 10:23; 11:40 Strand-Eerste River, 222-up arriving at 12:10, making booked connections with 112-up EMU Wellington-Cape Town as well as 111-down EMU Cape Town-Wellington; 12:25 Eerste River-Strand, 227-down arriving at 12:52; 14:10 Strand-Somerset West, making a booked connection with 218-up Caledon-Cape Town; 15:10 Somerset West-Strand, 245-down arriving at 15:18; 15:30 Strand-Eerste River, 224-up arriving 16:09, making booked connections with 116-up EMU Eerste River - Cape Town and 117-down EMU Cape Town-Muldersvlei via Stellenbosch; 16:25 Eerste River-Strand, 229-down arriving at 17:00 and finally 17:15 Strand-Cape Town arriving at 18:40.  Somewhere in the middle of that the crews would change shifts and if you followed all that you really are into this website!      

40. There were plenty of comings and goings at the Strand.  In the early 1960s there were 24 passenger-train arrivals and departures each weekday, slightly less on Saturdays and a lot less on Sundays in addition to the daily goods working. The second vehicle is an ex-CSAR type G suburban coach built by Metropolitan Amalgamated Carriage & Wagon Co, imported in 1903 - SAR No 4612 type L-9 first class, also with upwards opening windows. It was used on lesser suburban services by the CSAR.  Thanks to Peter and Les for the information on the CSAR coach - Les took this terrific photo on 26 January 1960. 

41. At the risk of overkill I could not resist putting in Les's photo of a down Strand at rest in the station on 26 January 1960.  The CSAR coach is clearly visible and the van of the daily goods is on the left.        

42. The photographer is unknown but this classic has the feel of work produced by Bill Shutz during the early thirties. Every vehicle is a gem, from the immaculate class 5A (this is the only action photo I have seen), its 6-wheeled tender, the CGR standard flat-sided suburban brake compo, the 1890s vintage clerestoryless day/sleeper, the swing-door suburban coach and last but not least, the energetic CSAR Limited Express 1st class type L-11 No 4656 (as illustrated in photos 7, 14 and 15). Thanks to Peter Stow for the carriage information.    

43. We have used this photo before - in the Cape Town-Wellington chapter of the Cape Main Line story.  But it deserves a place in the outer-suburban story as well, if only because of the typical Wellington set on the left with no two coaches alike, and the engine shed in the right-hand middle distance.  There are at least three engines visible.   

44. We'll now move off the main line services and travel to Malmesbury.  This was 5B 723 arriving at Kraaifontein in July 1961 with 303-down, the 13:30 SaO Cape Town-Malmesbury.

During the tenure of Alec Watson as Assistant Locomotive Foreman at Paarden Eiland due respect was given to the proper passenger engines such as the 16Ds, 10CRs and Beatty of the CGR's 5Bs. Alec loved these workmanlike Pacifics, and one of the first things he did upon his transfer from Bethlehem on promotion in 1959 was to retrieve 723 from the carriage shunt (where she had been since c 1950) and put her back in shape for road service.  

45. When my late father had a free Saturday he loved going to Malmesbury on 303-down and he was especially fond of the 5Bs, which were born only two years before Dad so he practically grew up with them.  The date on this slide taken at Kalbaskraal is June 1962 but it could have been as early as April or March because he often took months to run through a roll of Kodachrome.  This trip was one of his favourites as it gave a 45-minute turnaround at Malmesbury before returning on 308-up departing at 16:00.      

46. Towards the end of her 60 year career in passenger service, No 723 at rest in Malmesbury loco in December 1962.  The other engine is an unknown 19C.        

47. By July 1963 the regular performers on the Malmesbury trains were the rather more mundane 19Cs, but Dad still frequently enjoyed the trip.  On this occasion he found an old friend: Private saloon No 51, the coach in which he had travelled down the NCCR as Judge Gardiner's clerk, on circuit in 1929.  Peter Stow has provided the information on this classy carriage:     builder: unrecorded; date acquired by CGR: 1897; used by: the Chief Land Surveyor (he would have been a government, not a CGR employee); SAR No after 1910: 51; interior layout re-arranged: Bloemfontein 1928; allocated: System Manager, Kimberley (so it must have come down to the Cape soon after).  Coach 51 had one large compartment for the Judge, one small one for his clerk and one tiny one for the cook - and a kitchen!  There was also a mahogany-panelled dining room with a table just right for bridge.  While on circuit my Dad was visited one evening in Swellendam by his brother Percy who happened to be passing through. Judge Gardiner was a keen bridge player so he roped in Dad, uncle Percy and the local Magistrate for a rubber or two.  But the Judge and the Magistrate were no match for young upstarts and Dad's boss got grumpier and grumpier.  Wisely, my father drew Percy aside and whispered that it would be a good idea to start losing.  This they did and in no time the atmosphere in that ancient vehicle became positively jovial.     


48. On the morning of Monday 4th November 1963 SAR paid a modest tribute to the 100th anniversary of the opening of the railway to Wellington by fitting a fancy headboard to 111-down, the 11:38 Cape Town-Wellington EMU.  Although several press photographers were there to record the event, how much more appropriate would it have been to make a fuss over the 14:15 departure, which was still steam ten years after the electrification to Wellington had been completed?  Instead, I was the only photographer present when 16D 863, representing 100 years of steam haulage to Wellington, backed onto 113-down in platform 13.    The whole station looks eerily but deceptively deserted. If you are wondering why the 14:15 was still steam ten years after the juice had been switched on it was because in between its commuter runs the engine was used to service non-electrified private sidings between Wellington and Paarl. Three weeks later steam finished when these duties were taken over by 150/151 pick-ups as part of the plan to eliminate steam from the new station. The new Cape Town terminus was already far advanced as can be seen beyond the platform (as this photo was made, old Cape Town station with 100 years of tradition behind it, had only another 20 days to live).  The crummy tin offices of Julius Cohen, main contractor for the new station, are visible just to the left of 863's tender. Soon Strand St would be widened and run slap through where the 1929 signal box is standing.        

49. At 14:15 on Monday 4th November 1963, exactly 100 years after the opening of the first proper railway in South Africa, 113-down Cape Town-Wellington via Salt River and Stellenbosch and 1043-down Cape Town - Fish Hoek, made a simultaneous departure from the old station.  No 863 seems to be outpacing the almost new 5M2A EMU set but of course the latter was easily out-accelerating it.   Twenty days later the tracks were switched into the new station - right background - from which steam was to be banned.      

50. 'The old order changeth, yielding place to new' – Alfred, Lord Tennyson.   Unheralded, at 18:36 on Saturday 23 November 1963 the 231-down Strand via Salt River became the last SAR steam-hauled train to depart from Cape Town. The locomotive was 10CR 770 and you can see her driver looking back almost straight into the sun for the guard's 2nd right away. I was just able to squeeze in this shot before 231-down vanished forever behind one of the new-fangled, sliding-door, characterless, Union Carriage 5M2A sets. 

Thus the 100-year Cape steam dynasty came to an end. Did it matter?  Emphatically yes!!  But only to a handful of crazy enthusiasts for whom it was like losing a family member, or a much-loved cat. Again, I was the only photographer present that evening, and to this day I’ve never seen another picture of the train.  At 26 years of age, 100 years seemed like forever. However, it is but a brief moment in the overall scheme of things – after all, Dame Vera Lynn is 98!  To think that she’s lived through two World Wars, the golden age of British steam, its post-war revival, collapse and disappearance and its 21st century renaissance - and now she's bringing out a new album!

Perhaps 100 years isn’t such a big deal.

51. From now on in this chapter, none of the steam you see will have originated in Cape Town station. After 1963 the Malmesbury line continued to depend on steam for both passenger and freight work until 1976 when the diesels began to arrive. Because of a fanatical determination to keep steam out of the cavernous new Cape Town terminal, empty stock was run from Culemborg carriage sidings to Bellville where long-suffering Malmesbury-line passengers would embark, having got to Bellville by EMU. This did not apply to the Klawer mail which ran with 5Es from Cape Town station to Kraaifontein where a 16D (or a 15BR or a 19C) would take over - we'll see this impressive train in the Bitterfontein line chapter.  

On Saturdays, 307-down, 17:40 Cape Town-Malmesbury, shown here between Fisantekraal and Klipheuwel, could load heavily, resulting in the usual scrambling of coaches for steam stock, including several ordinary day/sleepers. The train was notable in that its timings made it the latest in the day for photography, and then only in mid-summer.        

52.  From sublime to ridiculous.  One of the 15Fs released from main-line work by dieselisation up north, in very humbling circumstances on Malmesbury-line local passenger work in July 1975. Only 12 years previously 303-down had a graceful class 5B on it.  Whenever I look at this picture I imagine it with 723 on the front and wonder what I was thinking of when she was regularly working this train - it's almost too painful to contemplate.      

53. 308-up 'perishables with coach attached' departing from Malmesbury for Culemborg with the new Malmesbury-line motive power, soon itself to be replaced by diesels. The train stopped at all stations for passengers where necessary to pick-up or set down, as far as Bellville where passengers would have to change to a suburban EMU for the rest of the journey into Cape Town while the 15F continued onwards with its high-rated cargo - and the coach (!) - to Culemborg. July 1975.      

54. On Saturday 16 December 1967, 768 cl 10CR on 306-up paused for passengers at Wintervogel.  Passenger work for the 10CRs did not finish abruptly in November 1963.  They lingered on until the end of the decade on locals between Bellville and Malmesbury. However, the bulk of their work during this period resulted from bumping the sixth classes off the considerable number of Peninsula and Cape Flats goods trains.      

55. A seriously mixed train. Passing a fine stand of arum lilies, 308-up was climbing away from Wintervogel towards Klipheuwel, heading for Culemborg on a Saturday in July 1971. Behind its 12-wheeled torpedo tender this 19C trails a parcels van, followed by two TZ milk and cream vans, a string of livestock trucks destined for the abattoirs at Maitland, some general freight and three passenger coaches whose patrons would have to change to a suburban EMU at Bellville.      

56.  308-up near Klipheuwel on a less busy day in July 1975.  That's DuToit's peak with a sprinkling of snow in the right background.     

57. Generation gap. After 1963 the idea that long-striding Pacifics were meant for passenger service and branch-line mountain types for goods trains gradually faded from the institutional memory of the operating department.  Only people like Alec Watson (later of De Aar fame) resisted it and he could not be omnipresent, so situations like the one depicted became ever more prevalent.   In a reversal of roles, on a Saturday morning in December 1971, 16D 862 on 318-up livestock was shunting the Fisantekraal livestock pen while the cattle for Monday morning's meat market at Maitland were cajoled on board.  On the main line 19C 2476 was waiting impatiently to get 302-up under way.      

58. We did plan to cover all the Cape Western local services.  A little known one was the Saturday all-stations for farmworkers between Worcester and Wolseley, No 100-up, 06:17 off Worcester.  Its return working, 99-down, left Wolseley at 08:10, arriving back in Worcester at 09:27.  It was intended that 114-up, 13:55 off Worcester would be used by the customers of 99-down to return home after shopping in Worcester and this arrangement worked well into the 80s although, of course, 99/100 had lost its steam by then.     

59. Business-like yet good to look at, the 15As were perhaps Hendrie's best design.  This one was recorded by the official photographer while working 95-down, the daily stopper from Cape Town to Worcester, through Tulbagh Kloof, c 1930.  Thanks to Peter Stow for tracking down the original of this exceedingly rare photo.     Peter has also provided information about the interesting assortment of coaches.  The leading coach is of the same type as the one destroyed in the Houhoek accident (see next chapter, due in a fortnight) while the second vehicle is either 6710 or 6711, types S-26 or S-27, originally built as main line coaches type H-5-C for Natal and placed in service in August 1915 - later reclassified for suburban use. 6710 ended up in East London and was scrapped in November 1972 while 6711 was in PE for a while before she was scrapped in East London in November 1971. Thus they lasted for 56 years, not bad for timber bodied vehicles but not uncommon given the high standard of maintenance in those times. Note the telecommunications gang busy on the railway telephone route - that's the foreman with headset in the foreground probably telling his wife he'll be home for supper.  Note also the old Tulbagh Kloof road built simultaneously with the railway by Thomas Bain in 1873 - a main road yet still dirt in the 1930s.      

60. There were a few loco inspectors in steam days that wore a collar-and-tie, emphasing their status, and even fewer steam drivers (those that did carry off such sartorial extravance were usually pretty special).  The advent of electric traction changed all that.  Overnight it became almost obligatory for loco inspectors and drivers to dress smartly - as in this instance where the gentleman concerned seems to be wearing his Sunday best.  The electric unit is class 4E No 241 and it was about to take 1415-down, the "doppies" (explosives train*), destined for the Transvaal, to Touws River via Stellenbosch.  The doppies had just been brought into Eerste River from Firgrove behind a class 15BR (we'll see this train in our chapter dealing with the Western Cape suburban, outer suburban and local goods services).   The 4M EMU set is train No 109-down to Worcester via Stellenbosch, about to depart ahead of the doppies.     

*The nickname railwaymen used for the explosives train was simply the Afrikaans word for detonator.      

61.  With Luca's striking shot from the cab of a class 5E1 (check that speedo hovering somewhere around 125 kmh) somewhere between Kraaifontein and Muldersvlei we move firmly out of the steam era at the Cape.  The prominent mountain, one of the most beautiful in the Boland ranges, is the Simonsberg 4560 ft high and the little pimple on its left shoulder is Kanonkop, after which one of the pricier Cape reds is named.        

62. A few years ago the steel deckspans over the Krom River at Wellington were replaced by this solid-looking concrete structure.  The blockhouse, erected by the British c 1900, was meant to guard the crossing but it would take a lot more dynamite to blow up the present-day structure.    The train, No 11153-down is a particularly interesting one. In 1978 its destination was extended from De Doorns to Touws River, making it the longest EMU turn in the country. Peter Stow tells us this was 4M2 set No 54 - note that the third vehicle is also a motor coach, an interesting combination.         

63. From the cab window as we approach Tulbagh Kloof; a curious layout of electric masts between Voelvlei and Gouda.    Piet Nel tells us that this was a result of the severe gales that this stretch of line experiences in winter which sometimes caused pantographs to become entangled in the overhead catenary, causing severe delays.
Malan......Soetendal......Voelvlei......Gouda......Tulbagh Road......the names of the stations built up an almost unbearable anticipation in our youthful minds as the 15F forged four-square towards  Tulbagh Kloof.  The Breede River valley, Hex River Pass and the Great Karoo lay ahead......were we ever going to get there?       The word "Boland" means up-country.  The late Gabriel Bayman said it best: "anywhere beyond the confines of the Cape Peninsula is 'in the country'. Anywhere beyond the first blue ranges guarding the interior is 'up country' "  

For me, this picture by Luca visually expresses what Bayman was saying.  We are in the country (and have been for a couple of hours) but looming ahead are the huge sandstone krantzes like sentinals at the entrance to Tulbagh Kloof; the only way through for the Free Burghers 350 years ago and today still the only way through for the railway.  Once we've traversed the Kloof we are well and truly in the Boland.         

64. And here we are.  Sneaking through Tulbagh Kloof before the Orcs can catch us.  That is 397 class 5E1 on 11153-down in the winter of 1978 and look how well that aging wooden swing-door steam stock was still being maintained.         

65. The same train as in photo 60 crossing the Breede River a few miles east of Wolseley.  Just look how well No E397 looks. 

66. The SAR Official Photographer went to a lot of trouble getting to a vantage point high up on Brandwag just south of Sandhills to shoot this 4E working 136-up, the 14h45 SuO De Doorns - Cape Town, arriving there at 20h00. It is interesting to note that the photographer was out on a Sunday and he clearly knew what he was doing as illustrated by the fact that he captured the locomotive between mast poles!  Yes, that's the Hex river in the foreground. 
The passenger accommodation is of great interest: clearly identifiable from the front is a type N-10 First and brake van, one of thirteen built by Cravens Carriage & Wagon Company placed in service in 1921, followed by ex CSAR suburban balcony coach 5176 of SAR type M-8 built by the Metropolitan Amalgamated Carriage & Wagon Company and placed in service in 1903, a sister to the coach in pictures 40 and 41. Behind the cutting one can glimpse a CGR suburban coach followed by a mixture of SAR suburban and CGR main line coaches. The date of this outstanding photo is unknown but would be sometime between 1954 when the 4Es began arriving in numbers and 1960/61 at the end of the Imperial Brown era (thank you Peter Stow for this informative caption).    

67. This was 397 class 5E1 on its return working from Worcester on the same day as photo 64, with the same rake of coaches.  Thanks to Peter for details about the consist: immediately behind the unit is "a type FP-6 parcels van, one of a number painted in passenger colours and fitted with steam pipes for use on passenger trains. The 1st-and-brake van behind this wagon is a type N-10 built in 1921, while the composite day saloon following is a type M-36 built in 1933 for branch lines and secondary trains. There were 3 such vehicles allocated to Cape Town at the time. The second class coach behind this vehicle is a type O-31 built in mid to late 1930’s".      

68.  The same train later with the 5E1 having no difficulty maintaining the train at line speed in its dash back to Cape Town.     

With thanks and much appreciation to Bruno Martin for his beautiful map, Les Pivnic for his beautiful pictures, Peter Stow for his beautiful pictures as well as reliable information about the incredible variety of coaches used in these services, the beautiful pictures by a host of other contributors and last, but not least, to Andrew Deacon for his endless patience in editing and sorting out the layout.   That's all for today folks.  Our next chapter is about the Caledon train and its daily ramble through some of the finest scenery in the Western Cape.