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The Garden Route: 1. Mossel Bay to Power © C P Lewis

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.   

To avoid making this chapter too long we have divided the section from Mossel Bay to Oudtshoorn into two: firstly MB to Power and then Power to Oudtshoorn.

1.  Rich in renosterbos, coastal fynbos and other indigenous varietals that attract tourists in their thousands each year, the South Eastern region of the Cape Floral Kingdom lies between the Outeniqua and Tsitsikama mountains and the Indian Ocean.  The picture tells you why this stretch of line - some 230 miles of it - was, and still is, called the "Garden Route".  The pink flowers are, of course, Watsonias, the yellow blooms a variety of fynbos daisy and the green stuff is ferns.  All are indigenous.  The massed Watsonias are particularly abundant after fires; in steam days they sprang up each year after the railway reserve was cleared of heavy growth by precautionary burning.  Note the patrolman with his blue plastic bucket, about to water the plants.

Peter's picture of GMA 4070 with Charlie Share at the wheel gives a pretty graphic idea of how this railway got its nickname and why its average customer didn't give a damn about the leisurely service. The train is 910-up, a second section of 10-up (9-down) approaching the water stop at Power in December 1978.  910-up usually ran at the beginning and end of the school holidays.  

2. The original NCCR station building at Mossel Bay, erected in 1906.  

3. While we've been unable to identify these two vessels we are indebted to Brian Ingpen for identifying their owners, Irvin & Johnson.  "[They are] trawlers that used to trawl for hake off the Agulhas Bank.  Sometimes they were used to catch chokka in the area as well".* In the left background a GEA can be seen with its nose poking out of the old NCCR shed. When this photo was made, c 1950, it would have been almost new. 

* this was still a couple of decades before Spanish trawlers fished out the Agulhas Bank.

4. A superb photo of the fourth coastal steamer to be named Frontier; her successor, Frontier 5, you may remember from the Table Bay Harbour chapter (System 1, Part 16, No 65).   

Here is Brian Ingpen's caption: "Having secured a contract to move newsprint from Durban to Cape ports in 1952, African Coasters bought the 1927-vintage steamer Frontier for the coastal service. At the time, the company could not afford more modern vessels because of severe financial constraints, arising from their struggle to compete with the South African Railways Administration who had implemented the so-called Competitive Railway Ratings Policy whereby it was cheaper to move goods between the ports by rail than by sea. In some cases, it was cheaper to rail goods between Durban and Cape Town than between two inland centres much closer to each other. However, a commission of inquiry into coal shortages at the Cape showed that much cargo that could be carried by coasters was clogging the railway system and was delaying coal trains from Witbank to the Cape. The railways Administration abolished the competitive rating policy in 1954 and from then on coastal shipping boomed." 
"The fourth coaster to bear the name, Frontier is seen here working cargo overside into a lighter in the inner harbour at Mossel Bay, circa 1956. Among the cargoes landed at Mossel Bay but originating in Durban were sugar for the cannery outside the town, drums of lubricating oil and pariffin, as well as a range of chemicals, detergents, and household products from the
Lever Brothers' factory in Durban.

"Frontier was wrecked at Kidds Beach near East London on 27 September 1957."

Those two Irvin and Johnson trawlers in the previous photo were coal fired.  Their fuel supply is shown here, loaded in an old CGR wooden gondola as the axleload of a DZ-full of coal was considered too heavy for No 2 jetty (see the map of the harbour a bit further on). 

5. Of all the forms of transport we've featured on "Soul of A Railway" this is perhaps the most bizarre: by basket and tug from passing mailships; yet it was one safely executed for nigh on 100 years.  Rupert made the journey from the Pendennis Castle to Mossel Bay in May 1959.  

6. Could it be coal smoke emanating from the funnel of that tugboat?  By Jove you're right Briggs, it's the Alwyn Vintcent, one of the last triple-expansion steam tugs ordered by SAR&H, coaxing the Shioa Maru to safe anchorage inside the breakwaterThe Alwyn Vincent was one of five pilot/tugs ordered from Cantieri Navali e Officiene Meccaniche de Venezia (Italy) in 1956 and delivered to Mossel Bay in 1959.  We are indebted to the brothers Fritz and Theodor Scheffler for these exceedingly rare photos of the Alwyn Vincent in service, c 1975.  

7. Job done the Vintcent heads for her mooring and the crew are probably already looking forward to a cup of tea.  Life on a pilot tug at Mossel Bay was probably never too strenuous.  The mast flying the Union flag is at the weather station, we can see it again, sans flag, in photos 37, 38 and 39. 

8. The Vintcent preparing to assist with the departure of an unknown vessel, with much more of the harbour visible.  As you see, it was, and still is, a very tiny facility with restricted depth at the jetties and quays. Maximum permissable draught at quay 4 (photo 15) is 6m, at No 1 jetty it is 5m.  Ocean liners were unable to get near, so passengers would be loaded into a large basket which was then lowered to the pilot tug by means of the ship's derrick (photo 5).  Only possible, of course, if the weather was favourable. 

The red-roofed stone building on the left is the original NCCR goods shed.  By the time this photo was made it was too small and SAR had built a long plain utilitarian asbestos-roofed platform to increase capacity. No 2 Jetty is visible in the left middle background and the new (and deeper) new jetty constructed in the sixties is on the extreme left (see also photo 15). 

9. By 1983 when this photo was made, the Vintcent had been withdrawn from service and was already starting to look neglected. Nevertheless, the excellent construction was still visible, for example, the teak deck planks and wheelhouse while below decks the machinery was still 100% roadworthy. 

10. Deck arrangements aft were still neatly painted. 

11. Italian craftmanship at its best: the varnished teak cladding of the wheelhouse, still in good condition at age 30. 

12. Pilot Hans and Captain Daniel Scheffler of the good pilot tug Alwyn Vintcent.  Note the immaculate condition of the bridge/wheelhouse - at this time the Vintcent was still in service. 

13. Recently withdrawn (c 1983) but at this time it wouldn't have taken much to convert to tourist service, say in Knysna's safe harbour.  As it is, the Vintcent was sold to an Aussie consortium that recognised the its potential as a tourist drawcard.  After storage for a number of years in the Alfred Basin of TBH the deal fell through as a result of the ill-health of its main instigator and the vessel was rescued by local enthusiasts.  The Vintcent is now stored in Villiersdorp (of all places), but at least it is not in a corrosive environment.  

14. Along with the whole railway, its rolling stock and the facilities at Mossel Bay, the NCCR's engine shed was taken over by the SAR in 1925.  Situated in the harbour (the back shunting lead led out onto the breakwater), it was replaced by the new facility at Voorbaai in 1966 by which time the old shed had just about blown away.  Poking out the back are classes 7 and 8. 

15. The slightly deeper (6m) quay 4 was added to the harbour in 1965/66 allowing these two off-shore oil-exploration-rig supply ships (thank you Les) to berth there.  Class 24 No 3650 had just dropped off a half-sized container-load of groceries and supplies for their next voyages (thank you Jakob and Hans).  

16. What looks like a Chinese or Japanese trawler moored at the new quay in 1978. 

17. Plan of Mossel Bay Harbour from the General Managers' Annual Report for 1931. It shows the juxtaposition of the facilities and how the loco was squeezed in between the station, the breakwater and the jetties.  Everything had to be fitted into the narrow, sharply curving, strip of level ground between the sea and the bluff on which the town is situated. 

18. The rear head-shunt of the Mossel Bay shed with a class 7 looking decidedly forlorn among pools of water left by the storm of 4th February 1964. 

19.  The storm took out some of the corrugated asbestos sidewall cladding thus further reducing the shelter available for the class 7 and 8 (numbers not known). 

20. The old shed was utterly inadequate for purpose, the men had to perform their daily tasks in appalling conditions, as may be gathered by a study of this fitter attending to the motion of GEA 4035.  February 1964. 

21. GEAs being prepared for their next duties.  Mossel Bay served two main lines (to Riversdale and Oudtshoorn) as well as the Knysna branch. As you can see from the sparsity of dwellings in the background, in those days before Mossgas, Mossel Bay was more dorp than town.  The photo also shows how narrow the level land is between the town and the harbour. 

22. The old NCCR shed was built in 1906 in the manner of cash-strapped private railways everywhere - on the cheap.  Originally corrugated iron, soon after WWII this was replaced with asbestos cladding which barely made it through to the closure of the shed in 1966.  Hendrie's countrywide census of 1917 showed only five engines shedded at Mossel Bay (three 7s and two 8s) but it was already outmoded when SAR absorbed NCCR in 1925 (the main shed could barely shelter four class 7s).  When the GEAs were delivered in 1947 only their smokeboxes and front tanks could fit inside.  Nevertheless, after the takeover SAR soldiered on for another 40 years before the state-of-the-art facility at Voorbaai was completed.  Immediately after the shed was closed most of the shunting activities at Mossel Bay were shifted to the new marshalling yard at Voorbaai and Mossel Bay station, hitherto a hive of activity around the clock, became much less so with only parcels, local goods, power-station coal and harbour traffic remaining. 

According to Les's lists, in February 1962 when this picture was taken these dilapidated premises were allocated 14 GEAs, 5 class 7s (in various sub-classes), 1 class 8, 2 class 14CRBs and 3 class 24s.  No wonder the place was cramped at times. Although the picture was made in 1962 the scene would have changed little during the previous decade.  Go back another decade however and it would have been considerably different.  Allen Duff has kindly provided an allocation list: 


 Class J:   Nos. 344 & 345   These were [4-6-4T] tank engines used for shunting duties. They had a sharp bark. They often featured in letters to the editor of  The Mossel Bay Advertiser when people complained about the noise at night caused by their slipping while shunting. 

Class 05: No 0122. This was a Cape Government Railway 5th class.


Class 6J: No 636       

Class 7A: No's 1008, 1024

Class 7B: No 1036 (nicknamed "Wobbly Sue")

Class 8: No's 1074, 1075


Class GD: No,s 2221, 2229, 2230, 2231, 2232, 2233, 2234, 2235, 2237 ( 2221 had a lamp mounted on top of the water-tank ; the lamps on the other GDs were mounted in front of the water-tank.)

Classes  6, 7, 8 were used to bank passenger trains from Mossel Bay to Camfer.

23. Compare the spaciousness and neatness of the new shed at Voorbaai, some 4 miles from Mossel Bay station.  This was GEA 4018, photographed by Leith at the brand-new 100% steam MPD in August 1966. 

24. Class 8BW No 1134 had recently had a 15M service, apparent from its whitewashed rods, the method used to detect cracks in the days before ultra-sonic equipment. The "W" in its classification was to indicate that it had had its original slide valves replaced by CME Watson with long-lap, long-travel valves, c 1928/30, a modification that considerably improved its performance as a traffic machine. 

25. Class 7A 1009 under the water gantry over the ready tracks. Forgive the indulgence but these photos by Leith of nice clean locomotives (even though ancient) in a brand-new locoshed are irresistible.  By this time employed mainly as shunting units, as late as 1969 the sevens and 8s were still occasionally used in road service on the Calitzdorp and Knysna branches.  

26. On 31st January 1968 we found 8BW 1134, 7B 1036 and GEA 4023 on shed at Voorbaai.  This gives an idea of the layout of the place, still unchanged today. In the right background you can see a concrete overbridge under construction to carry the N2 over the line to Worcester to replace the level crossing with the NCCR that had been in use since 1906.  It is not exactly where the line was at the time, this had facing points for trains coming out of Mossel Bay.  With the shifting of the marshalling yard to Voorbaai the connection to the Worcester line had its points changed to face trains coming from the George direction hence the new bridge was a couple of hundred yards closer to George than it would otherwise have been.

The 1036 and 1134 were scheduled to go out double-headed light engine later that day - the seven for shunting at George and the eight ditto at Oudtshoorn.  I asked Mr Koekemoer, a highly competent old-school Locomotive Foreman in the Alec Watson mould, if he could arrange for them to take a load.  He did try but Operating were unsympathetic. 

27.  On the same day their Cowans of Sheldon steam crane was having its monthly check-up. It was soon to be superseded by a new diesel crane, part of SAR's policy to replace steam cranes which was introduced during the late sixties. 

28. Looking towards Hartenbos with GEAs 4025 and 4019 on the ready tracks. 

29.  By the mid 70s SAR's business was booming (this was before they took on all those whizz-kid managers with their MBA degrees) and Voorbaai was busy as a beehive.  Geoff took this one in May 1973.  Mr Koekemoer's signature was the white stripe running the length of the engine along the edge of the running plate. 

30. Four years later and things were even busier as Mossgas was coming on stream.  By this time the trusty GEAs had been replaced by GMAs sent from Natal after dieselisation of the Pietermaritzburg branches. 

31. The 100% steam status of Voorbaai Running Shed was maintained for almost 15 years. GMAs 4070, "Amin", the regular engine of Charlie Share, and 4072 "Black Beauty", that of Bosbok Nel (of Rosmead fame), ready for duty in October 1979, a month before the diesels took all workings except the daily pick-up which finally lost its steam early in 1980. The decision to dieselise had been taken ten years previously and Voorbaai shed was already looking run down, but not the locomotives.  One has to admire the dedication of the crews who kept up their standards until the end.  

32. GEA 4023 moving off shed, November 1972 - actually it was 30 years later, believe it or not. 4023 was the only GEA to survive in tourist service (she features again in photo 74). 

33. In September 1978 Peter found GMA 4070 "Amin" about to depart Mossel Bay with 9-down (10-up) for Port Elizabeth while a class 24 was doing some shunting. From here on we will be covering the train service so an explanation of the numbers is necessary:

The Cape Town-Port Elizabeth Mail was 9-down from Cape Town to Mossel Bay, 10-up from Mossel Bay to Klipplaat and reverted to 9-down from Klipplaat to Port Elizabeth.  Its opposite number was 8-up from PE to Klipplaat, 7-down from Klipplaat to Mossel Bay and reverted to 8-up from there to Cape Town.  The reason for this is the anomaly that trains from Cape Town were "down".  From Johannesburg all trains were "down" except those to Cape Town which were "up"!  The section from Klipplaat to Mossel Bay was regarded as an extension of services ex Johannesburg, hence it was "down"

34. My father took this c 1963 and exactly what the GEA is doing I'm not sure but it looks as though it's about to shunt that van onto the back of the train on its right, 9-down (10-up), the Cape Town-Port Elizabeth mail. 

35. We have no date for this picture by the well-known Railway Circle photographer Arthur Arnold of an unknown GEA about to depart with 1300-up, the Mossel Bay-Johannesburg express  but only Imperial Brown-liveried coaches are in sight so it was before 1960.  Those baskets on the right are for racing pigeons for which SAR charged a very reasonable fee to convey to remote stations to be released by the station staff at specific times. 

 36. On the left, 1305, the Johannesburg - Mossel Bay Express was coming into Mossel Bay while on the right, 10-up, the Cape Town - PE Mail was soon to depart. In July 1958 Dad and I were travelling on 10-up; that's him on the right, blowing his nose.  

Our driver was one of the personalities of Mossel Bay, Mickey Gerber, a true ambassador for SAR and for the town.  Mickey's fireman was Christie Lodewyk and while the driver was an artist with the throttle, Lodewyk was a virtuoso with a shovel.  Those extra eight inches on the scoop held no fear for him and I remember vividly that on Great Brak Heights as well as Montagu pass he had his fire so incandescent that even a momentary glance was to risk blindness.  A minute or two before departure, Mr Gerber had asked if I was interested in a footplate trip.................   

37. GEA 4035 setting out from Mossel Bay in May 1962 with 1300-up, the Johannesburg express.  Until late 1959 it was steam all the way i.e. 863 miles. Noupoort (originally Naauwpoort) was approximately half way; to get there required four crossings of substantial mountain ranges: Outeniquas at Montagu Pass, Swartberg at Toorwater, Sneeuberg at Lootsberg and finally the continental divide via the Stormberg at Carlton. After Noupoort there were quite demanding gradients to descend to and climb away from the Orange River crossing at Norvals Pont.  From Springfontein, however, it was galloping territory the rest of the way to Johannesburg. 

* From November 1959 steam haulage was cut back to Kroonstad.  This still left a substantial 728 miles. 

38. Less than two years later Union Carriage coaches were already spoiling the roofline of our long-distance trains.  This was 1300-up again, in February 1964.  The road in the foreground was still untarred and the wrecked trawler is still there as is Mossel Bay's power station in the background. 

39. Fast forward another few years and changes were creeping in: this was 8-up leaving Mossel Bay in December 1969.  The track alterations at Voorbaai had been completed and it was no longer possible to steam straight out of Mossel Bay and up the Worcester main line (hence the van immediately behind the engine).  From now on trains to Cape Town had to reverse at Hartenbos, requiring the engine to run around its train. In later years, in typically disdainful treatment of the town by SA Transport Services (SATS), trains were terminated at Hartenbos thus no longer using the short leg to Mossel Bay which then became a little-used 4-mile-long branch line. 

Hold it!  Something else seems to have changed since the previous photo: water-borne sewage. The ex NCCR cottage in the foreground underwent many changes over the years, but none probably as welcome.  It looks as though the kleinhuisie (left foreground) was still in use but somehow its balie has landed in the railway reserve (left of the telephone pole).  One can only speculate as to how it got there. 

40. A GEA getting away from Mossel Bay on 7th May seventy-thray. At Hartenbos No 4025 would run around its train, plonk the van on the back and set off for Riversdale (apologies for being facetious).
Retired SAR/SATS driver Geoff has reminded us that all the Voorbaai/Mossel Bay firemen used a shovel that had an extra eight inches welded onto the scoop "to increase capacity and make it easier to get the coal into the corners". 

41. The engine is preserved class GB No 2166, first Cape-gauge Garratt, supplied by Beyer Peacock in 1921. It has a very light axle-load of 7 tons and was sufficiently successful to secure a repeat order for six more almost to the same design.  They began their careers on the Natal South Coast but spent their subsequent 35-odd years on the Barkly East branch. 

She is depicted coming past Santos beach with a special mixed organised by Alan Clarke c 1993.  Peter Stow has provided detailed information about the equally interesting coaches: 

"The clerestory roofed balcony coach is No 6006, which was used in its latter years on the Port Elizabeth – Uitenhage suburban service. It was an open plan saloon based on American practice at the time but was built in England by The Metropolitan Amalgamated Carriage and Wagon Company for the CSAR in 1903 for the Reef suburban service. It was one of three such 2nd class-and-van vehicles of an order of a family of 9 vehicles, being the first coaches ordered by the CSAR after the Boer War. It was originally classified type P-5 at Union but when 2nd class was abolished on the PE suburban service it was reclassified as 1st class type N-3. It was the last of the family to be withdrawn from service in November 1975 but was one of several coaches restored in the 1980’s for preservation.  The coach behind 6006 is No 5092, originally numbered M-3 at Union. It was built in the CSAR works at Pretoria on old underframes and placed in service on 27 July 1909 as a centre entrance 1st and 2nd class compo. It is presumed that it may have been used as a driving trailer coupled to a steam locomotive but by the time the first SAR Coach Diagram Book was issued in 1918 there was no evidence of a drivers compartment, so it may have been used as an additional trailer on those services. It was renumbered 5092 in 1928 and reclassified 3rd class of type S-10 at Pretoria in August 1963. It was allocated to Kimberley in its latter years. It was also restored in the 1980s." 

42. The same train depicted in photo 29 passing Mossel Bay's outer-home signal.  That's Santos beach just ahead and towering over the horizon, the Outeniquas (and the reason for the extra eight inches of shovel).  Interesting to reflect that until the GMA's came it was purely the sweat of man that got the 700 tons of locomotive and train over those daunting ranges.     

43. This was taken in November 1982 after steam had finished, of a Mossel Bay - Hartenbos shuttle hauled by a GMA pushing its water tank. We vaguely remember steam being used on these shuttles after the mainline trains stopped going into Mossel Bay. Dick asks "was this perhaps just during the holiday periods?" 

44. From mid 1974 GMAs released by dieselisation of the Pietermaritzberg branches began to arrive in numbers and by year's end the days of hand-fired Garratts over the mountain were finished.  Although this was huge relief for the firemen, the improvement in tonnage allowed on goods trains was only 20 tons - i.e. not in proportion to the higher pulling power of a GMA.  Curiously, contemporary WTB's show that a GEA was allowed 13 passenger bogies between George and Topping (the summit of Montagu Pass) but a GMA only 11. 

45. After the George – Knysna line closed due to flood damage in 2006, a regular Outeniqua Choo-Tjoe was run between George and Mossel Bay and back until Transnet terminated that too in 2010. This train is one of those Outeniqua Choo-Tjoes. The Garratt had been to Voorbaai workshop and was returning to George. Rather than run light engine, a double-header was created for photographic purposes and this train is shown drawing into Kleinbrakrivier station in August 2007. 
After the diesels arrived steam became increasingly popular hauling trains for holidaymakers and overseas tourists.  This was serious business and the locals were quick to take advantage with restaurants, coffee shops & souvenir stalls vying with each other to separate the visitors from their money.  Unfortunately, in recent years whizz-kid managers with their MBA degrees and the politicians have spectacularly failed to take advantage of this lucrative trade and the freight has all but disappeared as well. 

46. The railway came to George in September 1907. The section from Mossel Bay, although built and owned by CGR/SAR, was operated by the NCCR until August 1913 when Montagu Pass was opened (for the NCCR see System 1, Part 12).  Although they were the mainstay of the line from the early thirties until the GEAs arrived in 1947, photos of the GDs in service along here are rare, this one at Reebok (date and photographer unknown) was kindly provided by Leith Paxton. 

47GMA 4094 between Tergniet and Reebok on 7-down (8-up from Mossel Bay) the Port Elizabeth-Cape Town mail on 5th August 1976. 

48.  Our photographer is known to have a direct line to heaven.  On 5th August 1976, in standard Rodgers weather (look at that boring sunlight), 1300-up, the Mossel Bay-Johannesburg "Express" drifted through Tergniet Halt without stopping on its descent to Great Brak River.  Here the show that would last for the next three hours, to surmount the Outeniquas, began.  The twin-diner set was a long-standing tradition indicating that SAR considered this an important train, sufficiently to be listed as "fast passenger" in the working timebooks. Perhaps a misnomer, its overall average speed was 23 mph. But trust me, this was way too fast. 

Between the railway and the sea, that renowned building contractor "Hideous Holiday Homes Inc" has already desecrated a once pristine strip of coastal dune (this took less than five years to happen).  In the middle background is Mossel Bay.  In the background the town named after it is visible, dotted all over Cape St Blaize. 

49. GEA 4016 with 7-down westbound out of Great Brak River, charging the short bank up to Reebok in March 1970. 

50. Ten Beyer Peacock "export model" 2-6-0s were supplied to the CGR for road service in 1879/80.  They were very similar to the West Australian "A" class and the other SAR's "W" class. In later years they were widely used in construction service in Cape Province.  Here is one posing on the flimsy-looking temporary bridge over the Little Brak river c 1906.  Early in 1907 its sister bridge at Groot Brak River (the next one along the coast) was the scene of a contretemps in which, miraculously, no lives were lost as described quite dramatically in the newspaper report below (we do not know if the engine was eventually recovered): 


"The first accident on the Mossel Bay-George line occurred on Wednesday last the 9th inst.  A train composed of engine, tender and two open trucks was proceeding in the direction of Mossel Bay early in the morning, and there were on board the driver, stoker, guard and several [labourers], the latter in the truck next to the engine and tender. Just as the engine reached the centre of the temporary bridge across the Great Brak River, the structure suddenly collapsed and the engine and tender were precipitated into the river, carrying with them the driver and stoker.  The latter got clear before the water was reached and swam to safety.  The former, however, was unable to get clear and was carried under the water in the cab of the engine.  With great presence of mind he opened the window of the cab and scrambled out under the water.  Upon coming to the surface he made a plunge for the wrecked bridge and fortunately succeeded in grasping a rail.  As he could not swim his escape was little short of marvellous."  
"In falling, the engine pulled the truck containing the [labourers] off the rails and the wheels lodged between the sleepers which compose the decking of the bridge. The strain broke the couplings and the trucks thus remained on the bridge.  But for this, probably we would have had to report the loss of some lives.  As it is, the loss is only such as can be remedied. An attempt will be made to recover the engine from the river but whether this is possible or not remains to be seen.  The river is deep and the bottom is composed of soft mud, so that probably the wreck will sink deeper and deeper.  However, the engineers are very hopeful of success."
"Very fortunately the permanent iron bridge across this river is within about six weeks of completion, so that there will not be a very long delay before the construction trains will again be able to cross.  It may be that temporary arrangements will be made to enable them to do so even before that.  The collapse of the bridge is due to the wooden piles having been [almost] completely eaten through by the Toredo insect, leaving only the bare shell of the wood..........

51. Just about good enough to be included for its rarity (looks as if it was taken with a pinhole camera, probably a Canaletto), Allen sent us this view of either the eastbound Port Elizabeth Mail or the northbound Johannesburg Express c 1920.  The 7th+8th combination, common at that time, is crossing the original Little Brak River bridge which, except for its length, was identical in design to the Great Brak River structure mentioned in the newspaper report above. 

52. An exceptionally rare and beautiful photograph of a one-off: class FC No 670.  It was designed and built by North British in an abortive attempt to gain entry to the burgeoning market for articulated locomotives in general and in particular, Beyer Peacock's Garratt patent.  Dubbed a "Modified Fairlie" by the builder to avoid infringing the forest of patents protecting the various manufacturers, it was not a success.  Here is A E Durrant's caustic comment in his "The Garratt Locomotive"*"A gullible customer was found in the shape of Col Collins, [CME] of the South African Railways, who was a rather over-enthusiastic devotee of articulateds and was willing to buy anything that was driven by steam and which bent in the middle .... starting with the prototype 2-6-2+2-6-2 class FC in 1925........"  "The deficiencies of the 'Modified Fairlie' were such that the bigger the engine the worse they became.  With both front and rear tanks cantilevered out, the water sloshing about put heavy stress on the pivots which, predictably, then became troublesome and expensive to maintain".  Eventually 27 of these hybrid articulateds in five different classes were built.  None were particularly successful although some survived into the 1950s.  However, the FC was gone by 1939. 

No 670 is shown drawing into Great Brak River with 8-up, some time between its delivery to SAR in 1925 and arrival of the more effective GD Garratts at Mossel Bay in the early 1930s.

* David & Charles, Newton Abbot, 1969. 

53. The SAR photographer recorded this GEA with a down goods at Great Brak River, probably on one of the occasions it won the Lady Duncan* Trophy. This was was awarded annually for the best station garden. Grootbrakrivier (the English name discarded by the Place Names Commission c 1955, when it adopted the Afrikaans version) won the trophy on a number of occasions. The station staff made the bank opposite the station building into an attractive garden with water feature, rockeries, and paths. One can still walk there amid its remnants.

* Lady Duncan was the wife of Sir Patrick Duncan, South African Governor-General from 1937 until 1943 (when he died).   

54. 14CRBs of the Sunset Limited, glinting in the evening light while waiting for a crossing at Great Brak River in August 1979.  The concrete bridge that replaced the original spindly steel one c 1970 is just ahead of the train.  It looks over-designed but this was in fact deliberate in order to increase the concrete cover to the reinforcing at a highly corrosive site.   

55. The Cape Midland Region's Oudtshoorn District stretched from Klipplaat in the east to Riversdale in the west, including the Calitzdorp and Knysna branches.  The DE was Duff Conradie, who had the experience, expertise, railway knowledge and personality to go to the top.  But when he was chosen to succeed the legendary D.S. Wallace at Oudtshoorn in 1957, he decided to spend the rest of his days here. If you knew the town you could hardly blame him, it was one of the most sought-after posts on SAR. This was Duff's inspection trolley at Great Brak River in 1982. Like the whole district, the station was immaculate, its floor polished so you could eat off it.  

You should see it now.  How does one define progress?? 

56.  On one of his bi-annual excursions around the country some time in the late fifties, my father photographed this GEA on 10-up taking water in preparation for its assault on the Great Brak Heights. The leading coach No 3350 is a type H-21 timber bodied third class main line sleeper representing the last series of 50 numbered 3321 to 3370 built at Uitenhage between December 1949 and December 1951 where the clerestory roof and the lower roof were squared at the ends in order to save in construction costs (thank you Peter Stow). 

57. A GEA bringing 7-down down the Great Brak Heights in January 1959.  This is how SAR trains looked in the fifties; before long they would all be painted battleship grey and red. Imperial-brown took over from varnished teak sometime in the 1920s so it was my first memory of how a train ought to look and I loved it (of course my father preferred varnished teak).  Except immediately after emerging from the paint shop, no two imperial-brown coaches ever looked the same, each was a different shade depending on how long it had been out of shops. The second vehicle looks newly overhauled and the one immediately behind the GEA was perhaps a year since it had its last paint job.  Having come cautiously down the hill from Outeniqua, the 13-coach formation with its unspoilt clerestory roof-line was about to enter Great Brak River. 

58. Take a look again at photo 56. Not even the Working Time Books (WTBs) told the whole story.  At Great Brak River engines were prepared for the climb to the coastal littoral. The WTB allowed 5 minutes here but it never seemed to take less than ten and usually more; for a hand-fired steam engine the next few miles were some of the most strenuous anywhere on SAR.  Having footplated here I can tell you that Leith depicts GEA 4039 in full reverse gear with full regulator, in other words, with nothing more to give (note that the valves in the rear engine are being driven via the indirect half of the link, not really best practice). 

Let the celebrated railway author O.S. Nock give you his own (unchauvinistic) version of footplating up the Great Brak Heights (this extract from his "Railways of Southern Africa" begins at Hartenbos loco where he boarded GEA 4048 about to work 10-up in early October 1968):
"....I took the opportunity of visiting Hartenbos running shed and meeting the driver and the fireman and the engine with which I was to ride. This proved to be another GEA, No 4048.....  I met the crew of No 4048, Driver Bekker and Fireman Van Zyl, and also Inspector Young who was to be my guide.... on the footplate.  The engine certainly looked a picture.  Though in plain black livery everything that could be was polished up splendidly, with stainless steel boiler bands, copper pipes and coupling and side rods burnished in what seemed the traditional South African standards of engine cleaning." 

"We were to run with the rear engine leading so as to have the cab preceding the chimney.  I soon appreciated the wisdom of this.  When we came to the first tunnel on a heavy rising gradient I heard the terrific percussion of the exhaust and realised how it would have been if the engine had been the other way round and clouds of exhaust steam and smoke had poured into the cab, much increasing the already high ambient temperature.  The load was now 484 tons tare and about 515 tons gross behind the engine. At 09:37 am we got away.  On this mountain route there is no block signalling or tablet working at present. The working of trains is regulated by telegraph proceeding orders.  Just before starting the driver was handed a 'chit' authorising him to proceed as far as Outeniqua, where we were to cross a westbound goods train. If we arrived first it would be necessary to wait for the other train............ "

"On climbing into the cab I was at once impressed by the cleanliness, no less than the spaciousness of the layout.  With the best will in the word the cab of a coal-fired steam locomotive is not the cleanest of places, especially - as in this case - if the firing is done by hand; but on No 4048 everything was smart and tidy.  Certainly with a cab nearly 10ft wide there was no suggestion of a 'narrow-gauge' locomotive in the ordinary sense.  Almost from the start at Hartenbos we were coasting downhill on a 1-in-40 to the crossing of the Little Brak River; but after a brief halt we had to go for it hammer and tongs up 1-in-40, and the engine was driven practically all-out to make a speed of 15mph.  The roar of the exhaust beat was thrilling to hear and I noticed at once that on this engine as on Garratts generally, the beats from the forward and rear engine units synchronised exactly*. We were climbing into high moorland country, getting a magnificent view over the sea and of Mossel Bay.  Not far from the shore two huge whales were disporting themselves.  While the locomotive was giving almost of her utmost the young fireman stoked with care and precision, and I noted the excellent coal provided - hard, of uniform size and looking as though it had been washed, so free was it from dust. We reached the top of the bank at Reebok, and after a few minutes of easy running stopped at Tergniet, three miles from Klein Brak River, in just eleven minutes. From the restart we were coasting downhill at first, but from Great Brak River there is a tremendous climb, not only on very severe grades but on a succession of positively hair-raising curves where the back of the train was frequently running parallel to the course of the engine, but in the opposite direction. To add to the difficulties there was a shower of rain just before we started.  It was now that I saw the skill of the driver displayed in full measure.  In these extremely arduous conditions one or other of the engine units would slip occasionally, and the driver eased the regulator back just enough to check the slip, but at the same time keeping the second engine developing high power. The one regulator valve supplies steam to both engine units.  So we pounded away up the bank, with the speed often falling to less than 10 mph.  Slipping would send the exhaust of the two engine units out of sync but once they were pulling hard they soon got back into step* and yielded a truly thunderous beat.  In a short tunnel the percussion was terrific.  For me the experience was thrilling beyond words. Here was a big Garratt fighting a tremendous gradient in a country for which the type was specially developed.  Had I not seen it myself I could well have imaged that the fireman would have had difficulty in meeting the demands for steam; but no, he was working hard but maintaining pressure just below the rated maximum for the boiler. He had plenty of time to keep the footplate free of dust and dirt and when we drew into Outeniqua to cross that westbound goods, he was ready with a can of tea for us all. "

"The goods train was already in the loop waiting for us to cross, and with station duties and a new order handed to us we were under way again in less than five minutes. We descended to cross a very high viaduct over the Maalgaten River and then went tearing into another stretch of 1-in-40 ascent. The line is straight on this incline, and with no slipping from either engine unit we held a speed of 13 to 14 mph. So into Skimmelkrans for a whistle stop of only twenty seconds. Again we coasted down to a river viaduct [across the Gwaing River] and again we blasted our way up the subsequent 1-in-40 in the same competent style.  All the time we were running parallel to the coast with the Indian Ocean frequently in sight, crossing deep valleys and climbing again on a line engineered to avoid expensive cuttings and tunnels.  The huge locomotive rode the curves elegantly, though when the speed began to reach somewhere around 30 mph one was conscious of the rapidly revolving wheels and the effect of the heavy running gear. After all, 35 mph on this engine requires the same number of revolutions per minute as 60 mph on a British Pacific with 6ft 9ins coupled wheels. So, in 36 miles from Hartenbos we came to George where my footplate authority ended - all but two hours of the most fascinating locomotive performance I had ever witnessed at first hand." 

* This was the subject of years of acrimonious correspondence between O.S. Nock (a signals engineer) and A.E. (Dusty) Durrant (a locomotive engineer); the latter repeatedly refuted Nock's assertion that the beats automatically synchronised.  Of course, Durrant was right.

59 "...we pounded away up the bank, with speed frequently falling below 10mph...."   The valves of the front unit are also being activated via the indirect half of the link, indicating that these engines were actually designed to run in forward gear!

60. On 5th August 1976, after a brief respite GMA 4136 was about to open up for the really steep part of the Great Brak Heights where it winds its way up to the 700ft high coastal littoral.  No, that isn't a golf fairway, it is the farmer's lucerne field; during the coming decade this view would be destroyed by housing development. 

61. A GMA dragging 1300 up the 1-in-40 out of Great Brak River.  By April 1977 the pristine coastal vegetation that had distinguished this section since the time of the hunter-gatherers was already under severe threat, within a few years those virgin dunes would be bedecked with extravagantly ugly holiday houses. 

62. GEA 4035 with 1300-up on the Great Brak Heights, May 1971. With only one UCW tin box, by the 1970s this was about as close to a classic SAR formation as one could find. Note the Day elliptical-roofed twin-diner set. Passengers would already be getting ready for dinner with background music provided by the engine blasting its way up the 1-in-40 uncompensated. Observe the 12-coach formation.  Ostensibly more powerful, the GMAs were only allowed 11 between Great Brak River and the summit at Outeniqua siding. 

63.  A GMA with 1300-up and eleven on approaching the tunnel on the Great Brak Heights, July 1977.  Still no houses. 

64. GEA with 9-down (10-up) coming around the retaining wall about 500 yards beyond the tunnel, December 1972. Not a house in sight! 

65. When Allen took this photo some 30 years later the view was already cluttered.  You should see it now......... 

66. Lunch in full swing in the graceful Edwardian surroundings of the 24-seater single diner "UMKAZI"  The gong for lunch (first sitting) was usually sounded just before Outeniqua siding, summit of the climb from Great Brak River. Those in the know made sure they were booked for the first sitting as from here to George the scenery and locomotive performance were relatively tame.  If you missed first sitting the second began just when 9-down (10-up) had left George and started up Montagu Pass.  Providing you were sitting on the left with a glass of Meerlust '68 (best wine in the world - mate) this was pretty good too. 

67. Outeniqua siding lies between the last photo and this one.  It is the summit of the ferocious climb out of Great Brak River.  It is approached from the east by an equally severe but much shorter gradient from the Maalgaten river bridge.  This was the Sunset Limited with two 14CRBs and a 24 working hard away from the river in April 1979. 

68. A day or two before Christmas each year we would drive to Cape Town (from Bloemfontein) via George, camping out for the night in this wild spot overlooking the Maalgaten bridge.  
Soon after sunrise the next morning, the Jo'burg-Mossel Bay express would come by and, knowing exactly where to stand, I would set up about 100 yards from where my wife Melly took this picture.  Even after a dozen attempts I never got one as good.  December 1968.  

69. If 1305 wasn't running on that day it would be 343-down goods running in its path.  That's Cradock Peak looming over the first wagon behind the engine and Montagu Pass is the col on the extreme left.  Note the load; it is mainly locomotive and power station coal for Mossel Bay.  Take that away and there's not much left. 

70. Maalgaten bridge is photogenic from all angles, that's why you're being bombarded with all these views. The Outeniqua range west of Montagu Pass is in the background and the train is 1300-up.  December 1973. 

71. 1300-up again, this time in December 1971. The lower elliptical profile of the roofs of the Day diner/kitchen-car set is clear in this photo. 

72. By 1978 both 1305-down and 1300-up had been renumbered and rescheduled.  1305 became 33305 and ran much later - 09:40 off George, so photos of it from the other side of the bridge were no longer possible unless you wanted a silhouette.  Without the backdrop of the Outeniquas the foreground became more important, in this case obligingly provided by a fine stand of Watsonias. 

73. Neither steam nor Watsonias but a nice study of a pair of class 34s just the same. Thanks to Allen, who took this picture in 2010, we can titillate the diesel enthusiasts among youse. 

74. A railtour runpast on the bridge in May 2003 featuring GMA 4128 and GEA 4023 (which we first saw in photo 32).  That water is neither dirty nor black.  It is a deep tea colour infused by the roots of the Palmiet rushes that grow along the river, clumps of which can be seen amongst the boulders.

This was the ill-fated 'Steam and Safaris' (Phillips/Middleton) railtour that marked the expiry of SAR's institutional memory.  A few days after this photo the new railway administration, in the shape of their representative in head office, one Timothy George, abruptly terminated the tour after Transnet had failed to extort another few thousand Rands out of the organisers over and above the original agreed amount.  This left several dozen participants stranded in Ashton, a dorp not exactly renowned for its night life. 

The new generation of managers in head office had arbitrarily appointed an untrained clerk in Johannesburg to handle an important niche market that generated good money for Transnet and, even more importantly, goodwill for South Africa.  He had no clue how to handle it.  

75. Less well known and much smaller - but a nice-looking structure nonetheless - is the Gwaing river bridge, in this case showing a construction train with CGR 1st class 4-4-0 shortly after completion c 1906. This became a standard CGR design and the lattice-work trestles are similar to those used on the Maalgaten bridge. 

76. Intrepid photographer Pete is the only one I know who has taken a successful photo of a train here in modern times (well, not so modern any more).  GMA 4082 in December 1978. 

77. The Mossel Bay Mayoral train with well-wishers arriving at George station to participate in the official opening of the line from Mossel Bay on Wednesday 25 September 1907. There were three trains of well-wishers from Mossel Bay to George. The countryside in the background is still pretty bare and the village of George is out of sight about a half-mile to the right.

78. The official train carrying Sir Pieter Faure, a cabinet minister who represented the Cape Colony government and who performed the official opening of the line.  Allen, who unearthed these wonderful photos, comments as follows: "Note the white ribbon tied to a stick. Its other end was held by someone on the platform who let go as the loco breasted the ribbon. This white ribbon was organised by the George mayor’s wife, Mrs Borcherds. There is a reference to the white ribbon in the press report. Note the excitement of the crowd. I enjoy the fellow in the foreground who has taken his hat off to wave." 

79. An up goods arriving at George on 5th August 1975. 

80. GMAs 4126 on left and 4123 on down and up freights crossing at George on 5th August 1975. 

81. On 5th May 1973 GEA 4013 was departing from George with 7-down, the PE-Cape Town Mail. On the other platform a class 24 was attaching a van to 10-up just prior to working a mixed to Knysna.   

82. At this time I was still experimenting with a disastrous film called Anscochrome.  It was fast compared to Kodachrome I (60ASA as against 10ASA) but grainy as hell and it faded.  Nevertheless, thanks to Bob Binnell of Port Elizabeth (who transferred some of my Anscochromes onto Ektachrome - wish I'd had them all done) and Photoshop, here is the Knysna train leaving George in July 1957. The engine was the famous class 24 No 3669 (see her 12 years later, photo 84).  The GEA of the train on which I was travelling, 7-down, is on the left.  

83. Station Pilot at George and, by the sixties, sometime road engine on the Knysna branch, class 7B No 1036 in August 1966.  The extra lubrication pipe to her steam chest indicates she was superheated. 

84. In November 1969 Leith made this superb portrait of Knysna-branch engine, class 24 No 3669. For more than 20 years she was the regular engine of driver Derek Stephens and no one ever saw her in anything less than supershine condition.

85. Three B-bogies of locomotive coal and some general goods made up a paltry train for GEA 4039 leaving George in November 1969.  Knysna branch engine, 24 class 3669 on the right. 

86. Along the way the Garden Route had several centres of higher learning and military training: Oakdale Agricultural College at Riversdale, Saasveld Forestry College at George, Teacher's Training College and 45-Flying School at Oudtshoorn were the best known. This meant that at the beginning and end of each term (semester) the Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and Jo'burg trains were loaded to capacity, requiring 2nd and even 3rd sections.  This was an already crowded 10-up arriving at George towards the end of the second term in late May 1962. 

Observe all the passengers waiting for its opposite number, 7-own on platform 2, while the Knysna mixed (left background) had no room for freight this day.  Peter Stow has provided the particulars of the coach behind the engine: "The first coach behind the class 24 on the Knysna train is a type M-33 or M-36 first and second class composite day saloon built in the early 1930’s specifically for branch lines. These vehicles featured a lightweight underframe and had compartments but did not provide sleeping accommodation."   

87. GEA 4019 had just stopped at the water spout and the passengers were already sorting themselves out.  No need to hurry, 10-up was allowed 28 minutes here (!).  This was considered necessary to allow the Knysna coach to be attached, twice/week out of season and four times/week in the holidays.  As you can see, passengers waiting for 7-down (which was scheduled to cross 10-up here) were spread out along the length of the opposite platform. 

88. Looks like the local branch of the ANC's Youth League were holding an impromptu meeting (on left).  The GEA is being prepared for the mountain and passengers are still boarding.  

The elegant balcony saloon No 2622 was referred to our coach fundi, Peter Stow,* who wrote back as follows: "This is a most interesting vehicle. One could be forgiven for believing it was ex CGR as it had many of the characteristics of coaches of that railway such as flat sides and swan neck clerestory roof ends and was built to the CGR’s last standard length of 58’-1”.  But it was actually built, like many other pre-Union types of the other 2 Administrations, after Union in October 1911 at the ex CGR Uitenhage Works before SAR’s new CME Mr. D.A. Hendrie had introduced his standard designs. It was classified as a Native Coach of type J-13 and numbered 3122. It was one of a batch of 14 such vehicles placed in service between October 1911 and February 1912. A further 5 were built on old underframes found in Salt River and placed in service in November 1913 and were the last Native Coaches built for the SAR.  Lavatories and flushing arrangements were fitted to the fleet from 1921. All these vehicles of type J-13 were of a far higher standard than previous Native Coaches and it is no doubt for that reason that as Native Coaches were phased out in the early 1930’s it was decided to retain these vehicles and to renumber and to reclassify them as 3rd class main-line sleepers of type H-19-C.  In January 1929 3122 was renumbered 2622 and duly reclassified at Kimberley. Steam heating was also fitted during this period. In 1932 arrangements were made to fit drinking water tanks as well. It was painted in the new livery of Gulf Red and Quaker Grey in September 1961 at Uitenhage Works and ran only one heavy overhaul cycle (on average about 3 years) in this scheme before it was scrapped at Salt River in September 1965 after almost 54 years of service. This long life is testimony to the level of skills available on the SAR to maintain timber bodied coaching stock to a very high standard." 

*Peter retired as engineering head of all coaching stock in 2016. 

89.  On the same day as photos 86, 87 and 88 here comes 10-up's opposite number, 7-down, entering platform 2 which seems to have even more customers than the up train. 

90. 10-up and 7-down (or 9-down and 8-up, using their through numbers) were scheduled to cross at George.  If a 2nd section ran they would cross at Power.  This was the normal crossing in January 1963 with a couple of railway police officers getting in the way.   

91. This rainy day in January 1968 was neither term end nor any other special occasion but there were still a lot of customers waiting for 7-down.  The hostlers of 10-up's GEA are trimming the coal forward so the fireman doesn't have to reach quite so far with his extended shovel. 

92. The famous Voorbaai crew, driver Charlie Share and fireman Dan Pienaar with their immaculate GMA 4070 at George in 1978 (did you spot the can of Brasso in the rear cab window).  The builders plate tells us she was built by Henschel (No 28699 of 1953).  What the plate doesn't say is that Beyer Peacock's order book was full at the time so Henschel got the contract for 45 GMA/Ms (out of a total of 120 in the class) and all 25 of the similar but lighter GOs.

93. Driver Chris (Valletjies) van der Mesch and fireman van Zyl with spotless GMA 4099 at George, 1978.  

94. The only single diner without pillars, when withdrawn from service in 1984.  Phanthom Pass (type A-18 Series 1), was sold to SANRASM who restored her to running condition on their site at Randfontein Gold Mine. (thank you, Les) 

95. Type A-18 single diner No. 186 Umkazi (built 1914) at George on 9-down Cape Town-Port Elizabeth mail, 5th August 1976 

96. GMA 4090 departing from George with 344-up T&P in August 1975. Of interest is the twin diner about to be obscured behind the locomotive and the reason why it was parked there?  

97. Fast forward to the 21st century.  As if a blight has settled on our railway, everything looks neglected and derelict - the latter-day story of railway systems in Africa, without exception. 

98.  The Blue Train passing the northern suburbs of George early in December 2005.  At this time, as part of tourism development, once/month the Blue Train ran from Johannesburg to Cape Town via George.                    

99. Here is Les's take on his own photo: "On 5th January 1968 I was passing through George and was able to shoot train [10-up] which had just left the station for Oudtshoorn at 12:46 en route to Port Elizabeth1.........Charlie will be pleased that the consist was exclusively clerestory stock - not a UCW steel coach in sight!" 

[1] It would arrive there at 07:00 a.m. next morning. 

100. GEA 4018 with 10-up departing from George in May 1973.  Bruno's gradient profile below shows what lies ahead, and another reason for the extra-length shovels.  

101. Out of George maximum effort was needed almost from the start. From here to the summit at Topping, 1700 ft higher and 15 miles away, the ruling gradient is 1-in-36 compensated (apart from a momentum stretch at 1-in-31 away from tunnel 4).  It is interesting to reflect that with the 5-chain curves adopted throughout between Great Brak and Topping, the 1-in-40 uncompensated out of Great Brak works out steeper and this is reflected in the engine-load tables.  A single GEA was allowed 14 saloons up Montagu Pass but only 13 up the Great Brak Heights which worked out OK for it enabled SAR to attach the Knysna-Johannesburg coach at George with a minimum of fuss.  An interesting point here is that from the late sixties these loads were reduced to 13 and 12 respectively as the proportion of Union Carriage (UCW) tin coaches in each consist increased.  As one would expect, the metal coaches were heavier than the wooden ones.  But the difference was not so great, in this writer's opinion, as to justify the reduction to 11 coaches when the GMAs took over, late 1974.

Again we must point out a phenomenon of the steam age: all those passengers hanging out of the windows, compelled by the crashing all-pervading percussion from the GEA.

102. That almost deafening noise continued all the way to Topping, muffled around blind corners and in the tunnels, excepting of course during the brief water stop at Power.  

103. Naturally amplified by the trees, the racket was even louder in the forested lower slopes of the pass.  Best place to stand (with a hat and goggles) was undoubtedly the front balcony.  

104. Until the GDs arrived, staple power over the Pass was the various classes 8, assisted by sixes and sevens (see also photos 40 and 99).  After 1925 the one-off Modified-Fairlie FC 670 helped out and it is conceivable that the NCCR Garratts (SAR class GK) also did, though we have neither documentary evidence nor photos to prove it. 

To the left of the 8th class is a white patrolman. The daily track inspection (on foot) was done by whites on some sections (e.g. George-Knysna) right into the 1980s. 

105. At milepost 318¼ the line does a complete five-chain-radius horseshoe, reversing direction in order to line it up for the gap between Cradock peak and the western Outeniquas.  

106. GMA with 342-up goods coming around the horseshoe at sunrise c 1975 

107. GMA 4122 with 10-up mail negotiating the series of 5-chain reverse curves between Tunnel No 1 and Power in September 1977. 

108. Just before Power overlooking George, preserved GB 2166 was working a special train during the Transnet Railway Museum Steam Festival 2000.

109. Peter writes: "At 09:05 on 12 December 1978 GMA 4130 drifted downhill out of Power with 76 axles in tow, passing one of the colour-light signals that controlled the Power crossing loop.  The loop points were also electrically operated remotely from George.  [these improvements were introduced during 1976/77]  The train was followed  at 10:28 by GMA 4090 on the Port Elizabeth-Cape Town Mail which gave the newly-wed Micenkos plenty of time for a leisurely stroll up to the big horseshoe above tunnel 2 where picnic and train photting ensued."

110. GMAM 4123 with 344-up, the northbound T&P at Power on 6th August 1975.  It was common practice here to take water at the down-end column so that up trains had the length of the level siding to build up a bit of momentum before reaching the gradient. 

111. In November 1969 Leith recorded 10-up (on the left) crossing 349-down goods at Power.  

112. Another memorable photo from the days before Garratts from Frank Neave, the doyen of Montagu Pass photographers.  The leading locomotive is an eighth class while the train engine is a Belpaire 6th.  While we're waiting in Power siding it is perhaps appropriate to repeat an account by my late father of a trip up the pass in the 1920's.  The following real-time description by Dad first appeared in "The Great Steam Trek" but that was 40 years ago so many will not have read it: 

"I awoke at a quarter to eleven to find that we were commencing the ascent of the Outeniquas.*  Within a minute I was dressed and out on the balcony of the coach, looking out on a stretch of wild, lonely coast with enormous waves brilliantly lit by the moon.  Every inch of this sharply-curved line with its huge, dark dongas, tunnel and high concrete embankment was impressive.  When we reached George, where the ritual of grate cleaning, coal trimming and taking water was performed, I could see that our two locomotives were class 8s and the train consisted of 12 balcony saloons which were of course lighter than modern stock.  The climb up Montagu Pass started immediately out of George; an easy 1:100 at first, rising to 1:80 as we wound among huge planted trees, then past indigenous forest where the lilac flowers of the keurboom gleamed.  After the horseshoe curve where the train reversed direction, the real climbing began, with the gradients continually 1:36, easing to 1:48 for the sharper curves.  It was almost painful to hear the engines straining so. 

Far below I could see the lights of George and Mossel Bay, while not far above the mountainside was thickly covered in snow; but the immediate prospect now was a contrast of softly illuminated grass- and fern-covered slopes, and ominous dark ravines.  The more we climbed the wilder it became, until we turned into a deep ravine shortly after the first tunnel and stopped for ten minutes to service the engines at the remote Power siding.  I know of no more romantic place.  Just a few hundred yards ahead the line plunged through the blackness almost to the floor of the kloof, where it turned sharply left into a tunnel and emerged a hundred feet above the siding. 

After Power we seemed to be in the very bowels of the mountain, and the dark cuttings and tunnels gave a thrill to a small boy that is with him still.  Gradually we turned into the huge amphitheatre below Cradock Peak, then the vertical concrete embankments gave way to a high arched viaduct and suddenly we were in the tunnel at the top of the pass.  Outside there was snow all around and even lower down at Camfer the ground was still white.  The train ran doubleheaded all the way, and I was told that the only way the engine crews could survive in the tunnels was to cover their faces with wet cloths and lie on the floor of the cab.  Later, when the neat little GD Garratts worked this line, the procedure was to run double-headed from Mossel Bay to George where the front engine, usually an 8th class, ran to the back of the train and banked it to the summit."

* He starts this account at Great Brak River. 

113. From the time of their arrival at Mossel Bay in the late 1920s until the GEAs came in 1947 the "neat little GD Garratts" bore the brunt of the traffic on this route.  They could only handle ten coaches up Montagu Pass so banking and/or doubleheading with classes 7 or 8 was standard practice.  Unfortunately we have no date for Bill's photo. 

114. At Power there was a compulsory stop of ten minutes for down trains to cool brakeshoes. This facilitated Harald's photo of 707-down (2nd section of 7-down) cooling off while 10-up clawed its way out of the tunnel and up the mountainside.  A demonstration of brute power once seen, never forgotten.  December 1971. 

115. Most days the crossing at Power would be with 349-down goods.  The guard of our train was admitting 349 to the siding. 

That concludes our journey as far as Power.  Next we'll travel back to Natal for Les's chapters on the Pietermaritzburg-Greytown line with its many branches, as well as Masons Mill loco. After that we'll continue along the Garden Route from Power.


For the compilation of this chapter we've had many consultants and contributors.  I have put them in alphabetical order of surnames. If anyone has been omitted please let me know so that I can correct my error.  The same applies to factual errors: 

Hans & Jakob Bosshard, Alan Buttrum, John Carter, Eric Conradie, Scott Davidson, Andrew Deacon(1), Allen Duff, Johannes Haarhoff, Geoff Hall, Brian Ingpen, Allen Jorgensen, Robert Kingsford-Smith, Melly Lewis, Alfred Luft, Dick Manton, Bruno Martin(2), Yolanda Meyer(3), Peter Micenko, National Archives, Leith Paxton, Dan Pienaar, Les Pivnic, Dave Rodgers, Mark Ruddy, Fritz Scheffler, Theodor Scheffler, Charlie Share, Peter Stow, Rupert Toms and last, but definitely not least, Transnet Heritage Library(3). 

(1) Andrew does the web-page formatting.  This is like rocket science.
(2) Bruno does the maps.  This makes it fairly easy to see where each photo was taken.
(3) Yolanda runs the library and is the fount of most railway knowledge that appears in these pages.

Finally, it looks as though I'm not going to have enough time to do a decent Christmas card this year so to all our contributors and readers please accept Melly's and my best wishes for a Merry Christmas and a happy and healthy New Year.