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Part 14: Graaff-Reinet to Bethesda Road ©

Please note: All photographs, maps and text in Soul of a Railway are protected by copyright and may not be copied or reproduced in any way for further use without prior permission in writing from the compilers of this series, Les Pivnic and Charlie Lewis. 

The Sundays River rises near the great peak known as Kompasberg (=Compassberg), at over 8,200 feet the highest in the Karoo.  On its way southwards it collects numerous tributaries that drain the southern slopes of the Sneeuberg before plunging into Pretoriuskloof, a crazy meandering 45-mile gorge that ends at Graaff-Reinet where the Sundays debouches onto the plains of Camdeboo.  In this chapter we follow the course of the railway northwards through Pretoriuskloof [1] as far as Bethesda Road where the final assault on Lootsberg Pass begins.

In 62 miles from Graaff-Reinet to Lootsberg summit the railway climbs 3,259 feet.  Bland statistics don't tell you that only after the Garratts arrived (and shortly thereafter, the diesels), were trains able to surmount the pass without sheer physical exertion by engine crews.  That was aggravated by the fact that the staple power on this route for more than 40 years was the conservatively engineered 19B which was a product of the Col Collins era.  Their outdated short-travel valves caused them to consume more coal for a given task than the later 19Ds. Notwithstanding that, during the motive-power shortages of the late 1950s these engines and their crews were required to work an almost super-human diagram on 1300-up, the Mossel Bay-Johannesburg express, from Kliplaat to Noupoort and back to base at Rosmead in one day [2].  This entailed hand-firing an inefficient engine more than a mile vertically over two mountain passes (Lootsberg and Carlton Heights) during the course of a 215-mile, 12-hour shift [3].  These desperate measures only became possible after completion of the mile-long Carlton tunnel under the continental divide in mid-1958 eliminated the long 1-in-40 gradients up the old line to Carlton summit.   

[1] Named after the Pretorius's who owned all farms from Clifton along to Coloniesplaats. (not necessarily after Andries who was born at Glen Harry and farmed at Letskraal.) *
[2] twice/week out of season and four times/week in season (i.e. from beginning of December to end January)
[3] including time allowed for booking on and engine preparation at Klipplaat plus booking off at Rosmead

* Information provided by Johan Minnaar of Graaff-Reinet, owner of Andries Pretorius' farm at Letskraal, see the caption to photo 59 below. 

1. Four to six times/week (it varied over the years) a Graaff-Reinet saloon (sometimes two) was attached to 9-down in Cape Town.  This civilised practice, of which my father availed himself almost every other year from the 1920s until it was discontinued in 1973, had begun soon after the opening of Montagu Pass in 1913.  

At 4pm on Wednesday 22 November 1961 I boarded standard Hendrie day/sleeper No 756 in Cape Town which, at one o'clock in the morning on the second night out, was shunted off at Klipplaat.  After a sleepless 3 hours here because the shunting staff seemed to delight in relaying their instructions to the drivers as loudly as possible, we were hooked onto 308-up, the overnight all-stations PE to Graaff-Reinet, reached on time at 07:10.  Soon after arrival our coach was placed in the bay road, enabling this picture.  The plan was to change to 1300-up at Graaff-Reinet.  In case you're wondering why we did not change from 9-down to 1300-up in Mossel Bay the previous day, the answer is that changing at Graaff-Reinet enabled travel in daylight over all the passes traversed by 1300-up on its way to the Highveld i.e. Montagu, Toorwater/Kranspoort, Lootsberg and Carlton Heights.  Also it gave one an hour to observe activities in the busy shunting yard and locoshed.

2. The locoshed was on the south-east side of the yard at the latter's southern extremity.  Even so, it took only a few minutes to stroll across the tracks to see what treasures it housed - on this occasion in July 1962 it was 19B 1411 and Belpaire 6A 454.

3. Unexpected on my November 1961 trip was 19B 1402 on shed and ready to take 1300-up from Graaff-Reinet to Noupoort: I had expected it to come up from Klipplaat. That's the redoubtable Tollie Nel with shovel in hand. He told me that the diagrams that had been in force since the opening of the Carlton tunnel (as described in the introduction) had been modified with the allocation to Rosmead of a class 24 released by dieselisation of the South West Africa system.  This allowed Rosmead's 24 to work through to Klipplaat the previous day and be harnessed with a Sydenham 19D and crew from Klipplaat to Graaff-Reinet the next, thus enabling the Sydenham engine to turn around here and pick up goods bound for the Bay. If this seems a little complicated please see photos 84 in Part 13 and 19 in this chapter. Also worth mentioning is that the new diagram made for much shorter shifts for at least one engine crew.

4.  Throughout the sixties SAR got busier and busier.  Even secondary main lines like Rosmead to the southern Cape were carrying record tonnages.  This was a busy moment at Graaff-Reinet in February 1968 with a pair of torpedo-tendered* 19Ds fresh in from Klipplaat, two 19Bs about to take 1300-up onwards and a sixth class, tender piled high for the day shift shunt.

* Thank you André Kritzinger.  This is indeed correct SAR parlance for a Vanderbilt tender.

5. As it turned out, on my November 1961 trip 1300 was running late so there was more time to stroll around the yard and see installations that one thought at the time were permanent. In the background is Tollie Nel's 19B 1402 still on shed.

6. An Armstrong-Jones type angle on the shed from between the Doric columns supporting the coalstage.

7. A few years later by Bruce Brinkman c 1976 by which time GMA's had taken over Lootsberg duties from 19Ds which, in turn, had replaced the 19Bs during 1974/5.

8. By October 1977 with dieselisation imminent, the engine shed was no longer being maintained (nor were the locomotives, judging by the look of that GMA).  The inexorable creep of Graaff-Reinet's townships is clear in this photo.  By 2016 the houses had reached the near horizon and the vacant area between the houses and the shed had become an industrial complex. Today only the walls of the shed remain, with a row of silos between them.  The shed may not have been so permanent but at least reliable old Tandjiesberg is still there.

9. Continuing to stroll around the yard in November 1961 I encountered wide-cab class 6 No 429 on shunt duty.  She is now stuffed and mounted outside the station precinct in Graaff-Reinet and seems to call out to passing motorists "look at me, all forlorn and neglected when I should be out on the line earning money for this town".

10. Close-up of #429 still making herself useful 68 years after she was born at the Dübs factory (she actually went on to complete a full 70 years in active service).

11. How neat and tidy everything was back then. That morning old 429 seemed to be all over the place like Thomas the Tank Engine, busily shoving trucks here, there and everywhere. Behind her, on another track, 19B 1414 was moving off shed preparatory to working 363-down, the 09:10 T&P to Klipplaat.  The structures behind 1414 are the locowater tank and softening plant while to the left of them is the yardmaster's office.

12. 19B 1414 posing for her portrait before backing onto 363-down T&P to Klipplaat on this same morning in November 1961.  See also photo 85 in Part 13.

13. Driver Sam Erasmus posing with his regular 15AR 1811 in June 1974.  Geoff tells us that driver Sam is the last surviving of the Graaff-Reinet steam drivers.  He is still alive and well.

14. GMA moving off shed for 369-down passenger, overnight to Port Elizabeth.  October 1977.

15.  Tollie Nel's engine alongside the softening plant, November 1961.

16.  A relaxed and young-looking Tollie Nel with fireman van Rooyen preparatory to giving us a hair-raising ride through Pretoriuskloof on 1300-up which was running 45 minutes late.

17. A pair of brand-new four wheeled domestic water wagons which shows that short trucks were being built into the sixties.  The capacity is clearly marked as 2,300 gallons but I don't know what the 23,000 P stands for. [Several of you have written to point out to your dumb editor that one gallon weighs 10lb and "P" is Afrikaans for "lb".  Thank you guys]

18. On the same morning in November 1961 this pair of type V guards vans were awaiting their next assignments.  In those days all main-line and platteland goods trains had passenger compartments in their guards vans and the published timetables carried an endorsement "passenger accommodation is provided on the following goods trains when run" (my italics). It should be mentioned that even goods trains that didn't feature in the public timetables had these vans attached and the public could travel on them (if they knew about them!).

19.  1300-up arriving at Graaff-Reinet in July 1958.  This was another occasion when we had traveled on the Cape Town - Graaff-Reinet coach in order to change trains at Graaff-Reinet.  It was also the first time I saw the through working of locomotives and crews from Klipplaat to Noupoort as described above.  The locomotives were 19Bs 1405 and 1402.

20.  Fast forward again to November 1961. By the time 24 No 3662 and 19B 1402 had coupled on we were almost an hour late and the stage was set for a thrilling ride.  The drivers, Bosbokkie Nel in front and Tollie Nel on 1402 did not disappoint; I'll tell you more about it further on.

21. There was strong camaraderie among footplatemen, who formed life-long friendships, especially in more isolated places like Rosmead where these crews were based.  While fresh bedding was being taken on board, Tollie looks back for the "right away" while Bosbokkie pumps a few extra shots of hard grease into 1402's big-end bush.

22. A few months later I travelled on 1300 again but only as far as Rosmead, this time with my father who was on his biennial round-the-country tour.  The picture may seem like a bit of indulgence but it is meant to illustrate a one-off: class 19BR 1410.  She might have been dubbed Rosmead's pet engine for it was rare to see her in less than super-shine condition.  This was perhaps due to the fact that she was allocated to only one crew for most of the last 12 years of her life.  Unfortunately I have lost their names but here is her driver giving a last rub-down before departure.

Here follows an interesting comment on this photo from Rollo Dickson (he is referring to the signal wires in the foreground): "Nice illustration of typical Cape signalling, which persisted well into the era when things should have been handled rather better: ie signals operated from the station lever frame, but hand-tumblers working the points, in situ.

This scheme of things still applied at Somerset West in 1979, with tightly-timed suburban electrics setting back after loading at the single platform, then pulling forward into the loop to let another pass. The foreman had his work cut out, getting to the points on his bicycle, then hot-footing back to the lever frame to work the signals."

As for Somerset West you can follow what Rollo is getting at, here: 

23. Bruce's photo of a down goods arriving at Graaff-Reinet illustrates a little-known aspect of the through running of engines between Klipplaat and Noupoort.  As mentioned, the 19B's were heavy on coal, so this concrete bin was used to replenish engines on their through runs while standing in the platform road.  Curiously, there was no standpipe alongside the platform road so even though coal was taken here, through-working engines were rewatered at Charlwood and Pretoriuskloof.

24. We're off!  19BR 1410 and 19B 1413 (which had worked through from Klipplaat) making a typically vigorous start out of Graaff-Reinet, necessary because the 1-in-66 began just beyond the outer home signal.  That's Lokasiekop looming darkly in the background.

25. Geoff's handsome study of 19B 1402 leaving Graaff-Reinet on 372-up goods in June 1974.  Since Geoff was a SAR fireman (later, driver), his colleagues were ever willing to provide a bit of clag to liven up his photos.

26. In common with many country towns, Graaff-Reinet had a coal-fired power station.  Before the national grid made them all redundant these provided solid business for SAR.  As for the disgusting clouds of black smoke from the engine of 372-up please refer to caption 25 above.

27.  Only recently have railtours to Graaff-Reinet again become feasible, thanks to the re-opening of the route throughout from Rosmead to Klipplaat.  There was a time when they were extremely popular, here illustrated by 19D 2714 and 12R 1505 on the "Cape Venturer" railtour waiting for the class 33 diesels on 1300-up to clear the section in April 1986.

28. An unknown 19B with 362-up goods just hitting the start of the 1-in-66 at Graaff-Reinet's north outer-home signal in June 1967.

29. Bruce's fine side-on of a pair of 19Ds on 372-up working hard up the 1-in-66 past Umasizakhe (= You-must-be-here) Township beneath Lokasiekop in October 1975.

30. Like a protective Buddha, Spandaukop presides over Graaff-Reinet and all its activities, including 19B's 1408+1404 on 362-up blasting out of town in February 1968.

31. First siding north of Graaff-Reinet is named after the Roodebloem Murrays in a deal dated 1897 where they received £2500,00 compensation as well as a siding along with the undertaking that the line would be fenced at the SAR's expense. The Murrays had intended building a large dam in the Kloof and the railway ruined the plan. ( Graaff-Reinet has two Murray clans - the Church Murrays and the good Murrays.) The Roodebloem Murrays are not at all related to Andrew Murray. *

* As wonderfully related in a corrective email from Johan Minnaar of Graaff-Reinet.

32. In Part 1 of the Midland Main Line chapter we told why the decision was made to avoid the Sneeuberg by taking the route to the interior through Cradock instead of Graaff-Reinet even though the latter town was more important at the time.  In the mid 1890s the decision was finally made to tackle the daunting terrain north of Graaff-Reinet.  Construction was actually begun at Rosmead Junction heading west through Middelburg to the Lootsberg Pass.  By 1896 the works had almost reached Graaff-Reinet but had slowed down considerably due to the necessity to hug the twisting course of the Sundays River through Pretoriuskloof.  This is the construction train at Blaauw Krantz [sic], last major obstacle before linking up with the railway from PE to Graaff-Reinet. The photo, made one suspects by E H Short c 1895, depicts CGR class 4 No 483, built by Robert Stephenson & Co in 1882 and a very large team of navvies with their supervisors in the days when manual labour was dirt cheap.

33. A more encompassing view looking south (i.e. towards Graaff-Reinet) of the section of line depicted in photo 32.

34. Ninety years later the northbound "Cape Venturer" railtour headed this way and performed a photo runpast for its passengers very close to the scenes depicted in photos 32 and 33.  This was one of the last tours when the museum was able to provide a train made up throughout with clerestory stock.

35. On 28 August 1982 the Eastern Cape Branch of the RSSA ran an excursion from Port Elizabeth to Lootsberg and back.  The trip, organised by Bruce Brinkman, was a huge success. However, the locomotive used was 15AR 1798 which did not take kindly to the 5-chain checkrailed reverse curves on the Pass (it is thought this may be the only time a 15AR worked north of Graaff-Reinet).

36. 1300-up rounding the curve approaching Clifton farm, just before the water stop at Pretoriuskloof siding in April 1968.  Apart from the red and grey livery, this train's make-up was associated with the Mossel Bay express for more than 20 years: two 19Bs on an all clerestory rake except for the elliptical-roofed W A J Day-designed twin diner set (for a good description of their detail design and construction see Les's "Railway Dining Cars in South Africa: History and Development"). 

Coming in half way up the right hand edge of this picture you can see a faint farm track, also two tin huts alongside the train at the entrance to the curve.  These subsequently featured in a drama with the farmer at Clifton that had negative consequences for SA Transport Services (as SAR became in 1980).

37. In the vee of the valley is Clifton farm.  Soon after being transferred to Port Elizabeth in 1981 I did a trolley inspection from Rosmead to Klipplaat with the Cradock District Engineer, Johan Jooste, under whose jurisdiction this section fell.  As we rode southwards out of Pretoriuskloof siding Johan related a sorry tale.  Mr De Klerk, the farmer at Clifton, had been a long-standing customer of SAR but a year previously he had abruptly ceased using the railway.  Bad enough, but worse from the DE's point of view, was that he had banned our maintenance vehicles from his farm roads and we needed the farmer's permission to access the railway along a 15-mile stretch between Glen Harry and Murray.  Those huts in the previous photo that accommodated two patrolmen (one for each way) gave a clue as to what the biggest headache was along this stretch: rockfalls.  Every day those 15 miles had to be patrolled on foot in case a boulder should block the line.  Occasionally this was not enough as evidenced by a tragic derailment in 1955* that cost an engine crew their lives.  Apart from the safety aspect, having to maintain the track by using only push-trolleys was costing a fortune.  While our maintenance lorries could follow the line all the way down from Koloniesplaas to a mile south of Glen Harry they then had a 50-mile detour to get back to the line at Murray.  I resolved to visit Mr De Klerk.

A week later, somewhat nervously, I went knocking on his door.  A jovial man in his sixties greeted me and I could not help feeling we would get on.  Over a cup of tea he told me about a sequence of events that seemed to sum up the very reasons why our railway was in such dire straits: Mr De Klerk, his father and his grandfather before him had always used the railway to send their livestock to the abbatoir in Port Elizabeth, in addition to sending their cattle to summer grazing at New England on the Barkly East branch for more than 50 years.  The previous Spring he had ordered two bogie livestock wagons to be placed at the loading pen in Glen Harry for transporting some cattle to New England. 

For what happened next I refer you to photo 51.

* I will follow this up and provide details in due course.

38 GMA 4079 descending Pretoriuskloof with a steam safari in October 1980.  Eugene Armer was the train manager.  Note farmer De Klerk's road!  Unbeknown to the SATS clerks sitting comfortably in the regional office in PE it was vital to the track maintenance staff.

39. Even at its busiest, Christmas was the one day when the railway practically shut down.  But not quite.  A few of the posher passenger trains still ran, and 1300/1305 were among them.  Geoff labelled his Christmas Day picture of GMA 4079 on its way to fetch 1305 from Bethesda Road "small train, big ravine"!  

40. 19D 2683 approaching Pretoriuskloof siding with a chartered train in July 1998, long after regular workings over the line had ceased. The trains had gone but the beauty of the place did not diminish.

41. Geoff's take of 367-down T&P crossing 372-up at Pretoriuskloof in August 1974. You can just see 367's guard admitting 372 to the siding.  Shot from the cab roof of 19D 3353 while the other engine was 19BR 1410.

42. No passengers here: 1300-up pausing for loco at Pretoriuskloof in July 1958.  Having worked through from Klipplaat, the last water for 19B's 1405+1402 was at Charlwood, 30 miles away and 900ft lower, so by this time they were getting thirsty. 

43. By far the most exhilarating trip I had through Pretoriuskloof was on 1300-up in November 1961 with Tollie and Bosbokkie Nel.  As mentioned previously, in the space of 16 miles we had made up almost ten minutes of a 45-minute late departure from Graaff-Reinet by going around the corners on one rail.  It was quite nerve-racking as the coaches heeled alarmingly and I kept on thinking about those boulders.......  One person who did not appreciate the making-up-time was the chef who had a prolonged (and amusing) altercation with the Nels while water was being taken.  He stormed back to the kitchen and we missed out on soup at lunch so I assume this was a casualty of the amazing ride.  By the way, that's Tollie helping Bosbokkie flush the ashpan of #3662, she had come through from Klipplaat while 1402, having come on at Graaff-Reinet, needed no attention to her fire.

44. For me, Pretoriuskloof was a fascinating place, all trains took water there even those whose locomotives had started out from Graaff-Reinet, a mere 16 miles away.  It was also quite inaccessible, in fact after farmer De Klerk banned us from his roads the only way in was by train. #1410s driver has just used the spray pipe to wash ash dust off the boiler of his engine. That's the track gang's toolshed on the left and the length foreman's house on the right.  Further along was a quite pretty and older one occupied by the pumper and his family.

45. 19Bs 1410+1412 in Pretoriuskloof, September 1973.  Almost 12 years had passed since my trip in November 1961 and the Nels were still working doubleheaders. This was just after Tollie had taken over #1410.  In the interim, a more sophisticated water-softening plant was installed which needed greater water pressure, hence the new and much higher Braithwaite tank.  By the late 1960s, investment in new infrastructure was a sure sign that trouble was in store for steam traction on any particular section.  Note the 8" diameter gate valve that replaced the original internally streamlined 14" diameter valve and spout (see previous picture).  The gate valve took three times longer to fill a 19B/19D tender.  

46. Driver Strauss's ex-15M 19B 1413 on 366-up taking water at Pretoriuskloof in April 1968 (still with its high-speed water spout).  See also photo 73 and its caption.

47. Pretoriuskloof siding is just around the corner ahead of the engine on this southbound goods. March 1978 photo.

48. 1300-up on a ledge beneath some attractive natural rock sculptures on the approach to Willow Slopes halt.

49. 19B's 1409+1408 on 1300-up passing some of Farmer De Klerk's cattle, on the approach to Willow Slopes halt in May 1968.

50. 19B 1413 bringing the southbound 1305-down, the Mossel Bay express, through Glen Harry in May 1969.  Note the new Japanese air-conditioned diner-and-kitchen-car set.

51. Southbound railtour coming through a rather unkempt Glen Harry in June 1998.  It was never like this in SAR days. While we're in Glen Harry I might as well finish telling you why Farmer De Klerk stopped using rail (see also photo 37).

The cattle wagons ordered by Mr De Klerk came via 366-up T&P on a Saturday morning - a train I knew well. On Saturdays its crews were invariably in a hurry. They would run ahead of schedule because there were RUGBY matches, either to be played, or watched on telly.  As usual they were impatient: at Glen Harry they abandoned the wagons at the Rosmead end of the siding, nowhere near the loading pen which you can see in this picture, and went on their hasty way.  The resourceful farmer inspanned his tractor and was towing the wagons towards the loading pen some 200yds away when suddenly they started rolling on their own.  He tried to apply the hand brakes but like ole man river those wagons jus kept rolling along.............. past the tractor, past the loading platform until, KER...KLUNK!, they were on the ground at the scotch block (you can actually see the white-washed scotch block in Dick's photo).  

Farmer Kruger agonised for a while.  Only one bogie was off.  Should he go back to the farm, fetch a jack and rerail it himself, or should he phone the SM at Graaff-Reinet and report the matter.  Eventually his conscience won - he had heard stories about bearings getting displaced in derailments.  The SM said don't worry, he'll call out the Rosmead break-down crew. According to Mr De Klerk the lorry eventually arrived at 2 pm.  On it were 12 labourers, two supervisors and a lorry driver plus enough equipment to refloat the Titanic.  So he thought this shouldn't take long - five minutes or so. Wrong. First thing they did was find a shady cottonwood tree and have lunch!  At 3pm they finally got to work.  A few minutes later it was done, bearings checked and wagons placed at the loading dock - with chocks this time. That evening the cattle duly headed off by train to their summer grazing.  

They did not come back by rail.  In fact, farmer De Klerk never used the railway again and he also tried to discourage his neighbours from using it.  About three months after the incident at Glen Harry an account came from the SATS regional office at Port Elizabeth.  It was for R3500. Not much? In today's money that's R65,000!  When he complained, it was painstakingly explained that it was a Saturday after all, and the crew were on overtime.  When asked why it had been necessary to send a break-down lorry and trailer and such a huge complement of crew instead of one bakkie, one jack, one driver and one labourer, the anwer was "we don't do things that way".  So, for a year this bill remained unpaid and SA Transport Services, in their pursuit of justice, had opted to take Farmer De Klerk to court. When the papers arrived our track gangs were immediately barred from using his farm roads to access the line. When I visited Mr De Klerk the court date had been set for 3 weeks hence.  Just before the interview ended I asked him whether he would consider granting us access again if I could get the Regional Manager to withdraw the case. He was extremely polite but no way was he going to reverse his decision.

Upon return to PE I immediately went to see the Regional Manager, explaining that in order to recover R3,500 from the farmer we would have to spend an extra R12,000/year to maintain a section of track that had always been vulnerable (the clerk diligently chasing this money hadn't considered the wider implications).  I was told it was too late to do anything about it.  But something kept nagging.....WHY had those trucks kept rolling?  It simply shouldn't happen.  I phoned DE Jooste and asked him to check the gradient on the siding which he duly did - it turned out to be 1-in-120.  The significance of this is that all staging lines were supposed to be 1-in-400 or flatter (nowadays the requirement is 1-in-800 because of roller bearings).  

It is now more than 30 years since the above happenings so, to cut a long story short I will tell youse that I went back to Mr De Klerk and tipped him off about the gradient on the siding at Glen Harry.  He said that if he won his case on the strength of this he would grant us track access but he would never use the railway again.  He kept his word on both counts.

52. The Mossel Bay-Johannesburg express, 1300-up, coming through Glen Harry on the morning of Boxing Day 1978.  For some reason 1305-down and its opposite number were always regarded as important by railway management, hence its equipping with the new state-of-the-art air-conditioned Japanese twin diners from 1969 (see photo 50). Which allows the mind to stray to what it must have been like the previous day on this train, having an evening Christmas dinner while climbing Montagu Pass behind a Garratt (it should be mentioned that dining-car staff always excelled themselves at Christmas)!

53. 19B's on a healthy-looking 374-up extra goods working northwards out of Glen Harry in February 1968.

54. GMA 4115 on 366-up northbound T&P crossing the Sundays river near Elandskloof in July 1978.

55. 19Bs on 372-up crossing the Sundays River near Elandskloof in the midst of a heavy rainstorm - April 1968.

56.  In the remotest reaches of the kloof, 19D 3340 was departing Elandskloof siding with 367-down T&P in August 1978.

57. A stunner by Peter showing 1300 emerging from the shadowy recesses of Elandskloof which overlooks a tight meander of the Sundays river c 1973.  Note the fireman's spray pipe squirting steam and water all over the place - he has been hosing down the coal to keep the dust down.

58. Same spot and same train some five years later with a GMA 4051 in June 1979, towards the very end of regular steam on this line.

59. The railway still flourishing when Geoff made this picture of 19D 3340 on 367-down T&P at Letskraal in August 1978.  And so was the tiny community here.  It had a post office and algemene handelaar (=general dealer) and it had the farm of Andries Pretorius, the house of which is now >200 years old and beautifully restored by Johan and Rina Minnaar as self-catering accommodation.  
If anyone cares to know, and if the re-opened railway is exploited as it should be, they will surely be interested in a stay in these beautiful surroundings.  Contact details are here: 

60. The same train depicted in photo 59 starting away from Letskraal.

61. A mile north of Letskraal with the Groothoekberge in the background.  Those peaks and kranses look impressive but in fact they are only the same height as the summit at Lootsberg.  The train was the Trans-Cape Limited railtour of April 1985.  As you can see, its 24 and 19D still had a lot of climbing to do.

62. 1300-up nearing the end of its tortuous passage through the Sundays river gorge about three miles before Koloniesplaas. June 1968.

63. Highest peak in the eastern Sneeuberg is Nardousberg, a fraction under 8,000 feet, normally bearing more snow than Kompasberg at the western (even drier) end of the range.  This was GMA 4051 again in June 1979 when the Sneeuberg should be white.  But this is desert country and with my usual luck there wasn't even a patch of the white stuff.

64. The Trans-Cape Limited railtour again, a bit closer to Koloniesplaas.  Its complete rake of clerestory stock (except the refrigerator van) made a very fine-looking train.

65. Dick's even better take at this spot with a chartered goods train in July 1995. The locomotive is 19D 2698.

66. Less than a mile before Koloniesplaas the railway finally breaks free of Pretoriuskloof and enters the vast basin beneath the southern flanks of the Sneeuberg.  This was 1300-up emerging from the gorge with a pair of 19Bs in the winter of 1973.

67. Those 19Bs haven't far to go until their next drink, Koloniesplaas is just around the corner off the RH edge of the picture.

68. The previous photo was taken off those rocks by the dining car.  As late as April 1968 19Bs 1408+1402 were heading 1300-up with all-clerestory stock except the elliptical-roofed Day twin diner set.  Nardousberg is the highest mountain just above 1408's chimney.  Beneath it and to the right is a glimpse of the rugged country down Pretoriuskloof.

69. Having just left Koloniesplaas siding (that's the plaas on the right) these doubleheaded Dollies on 1305 were drifting downhill towards Pretoriuskloof.  Even in 1975 half of 1300/1305 could still be made up of clerestory saloons but by this time the 19Bs were finally getting scarce.

70. Peaks of the Sneeuberg looking as they should in winter, forming a nice backdrop for 1300-up in July 1973.  This is the same train as in photo 66.

71. The same 1300-up depicted in photo 68 having its 19Bs 1408 and 1402 serviced at Koloniesplaas.  My father, who was travelling on the train, is on the left taking a photo.

The farm from which the station takes its name originally belonged to the Dutch East India Company and was known as Compagnies Plaats, i.e. belonging to the Company.  In 1836 (the Cape already a British colony) it was granted to the Voortrekker leader Andries Pretorius who changed the name to Colonies Plaats because it was his farm in the Colony [1].  Some time after this it must have been acquired by C J Watermeyer for he was the owner when his first-born, T H Watermeyer, General Manager of SAR from 1935 to 1942, grew up on it in the late 19th century [2]. In 1902 the farm was bought by Arthur Kingwill who soon entered into an agreement to provide CGR locomotives with water in return for free travel on its trains, an arrangement that was granted to Kingwill in perpetuity and applied even after the CGR was absorbed into SAR.  In 1952 the name of the station (but not the farm!) was changed to the pure Afrikaans "Koloniesplaas" by the Place Names Commission.

[1] Logie B, "Traveller's Joy" pp 197-198.
[2] Haarhoff, J, from his "Notes on TH Watermeyer" still in draft form, with permission.

72. Crossing of 1300-up and 369-down T&P at Koloniesplaas in July 1958.  The passenger locomotives are 1405 (leading) and 1402, the same engines that had worked through from Klipplaat and would take us to Noupoort.  The goods train 19B is unknown.  As usual passengers are leaning out of the windows to catch the action - a steam railway was never boring.

73. For a long time, SAR civil engineers did not trust continuously welded rail.  Any length more than 500 yards had to have expensive sliding expansion joints at each end which practically wiped out the advantage of welded rails anyway.  Only after the adoption of concrete sleepers with Pandrol or Fist fastenings was it discovered that expansion joints were not necessary provided the rails were clipped to the sleepers within the normal temperature range for that region.  (Thank you Rollo Dickson for drawing our attention to this).

Driver Strauss's 19B 1413 was ex-works in October 1969 (see photo 46).  At his invitation I rode the footplate all the way from Graaff-Reinet to Rosmead.  The train was 366-up T&P and we had a full load: 300 tons for 44 axles (a lean 11 bogies) which the driver informed me would be 15 tons overload on the mountain section but he would take it through anyway! 1413 was steaming like a bomb yet the fireman (whose name, sadly, escapes me - perhaps he will read this?) was on his feet shovelling around the box almost continuously. By Blouwater, where we took water again, our fireman had been at it for 4 hours and was visibly tired.  While he was on the tender holding down the waterspout Mr Strauss opened his trommel and pulled out a wedge-shaped chunk of track ballast.  As the tender-lid clanged shut he opened the regulator full wide and jammed the stone into the quadrant to keep the lever there.  With a laconic "ek stook maar die berg uit" (the English version is more bland: "I just fire on the mountain") we set off up the final pitch to Lootsberg.  There was still 800 feet of climbing to do.

From Blouwater the load ought to have been 15 tons less but Strauss made 300 tons look easy: 12 leisurely shovelfuls at a time then about a one minute break before the next round with the pressure-gauge steady just below the red line, water just below the top nut, speed holding at 7-8 mph and this with 1413 in full forward gear and full regulator.

An hour later we reached the summit.

74. A glorious February morning in 1968 found 19Bs 1408+1404 pulling away from Koloniesplaas with 362-up goods.

75. After Koloniesplaas the scenery changes but its flatness is deceptive because the railway is still climbing relentlessly up to the headwaters of the Sundays River.  This gigantic basin is rimmed to the east and north by the Sneeuberg and the west by the high escarpment on which the tiny dorp of New Bethesda is situated.

76. Crossing at Bethesda Road with 366-up and doubleheaded 375-down, about to receive orders from the SM, striding towards the front engine with the note in his grasp.  Having reached our destination for this chapter we'll get out and stretch our legs before rejoining the train and proceeding up the line to Blouwater and Lootsberg Pass.

As you will have seen, we owe a ton of thank yous to our colleagues and contributors: Les Pivnic, Bruno Martin, Geoff Hall, Peter Stow, Dick Manton, Leith Paxton, Dave Rodgers, Peter Micenko, Bruce Brinkman, Yolanda Meyer, Eric Conradie, Chris Jeffery, Robert Kingwill and last but certainly not least, Andrew Deacon.  

Les joins me in thanking the many of you who have sent corrections (especially) and compliments.