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The Midland Main Line - Part 1: Port Elizabeth to Paterson ©

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.

Here follows the first of a four-part series about the main line from Port Elizabeth to De Aar.  

So many have helped with its compilation that a name at the masthead can't be justified.  In alphabetical order, special mentions and thanks are due to Alan Buttrum (photos); Eric Conradie (historical facts monitor and photos); Andrew Deacon (formatting the website); Chris Jeffery (our language monitor); Justin Lewis (photos); Bruno Martin (the incomparable maps); Yolanda Meyer (the THL librarian, especially her ever-patient and efficient location of historical data); Peter Micenko (civil engineering and track-data monitor); Harry Ostrofsky (our new partner-in-crime and signalling monitor); Leith Paxton (photos); Les Pivnic (photos and historical facts monitor) and the Transnet Heritage Library, an absolute mine of information.

Last of the great trunk routes to retain steam traction on the ascent to the highveld, in SAR days the Midland was ever second fiddle to the more glamorous Cape Main Line. Whereas its one named train, the "Algoa" only gained this distinction after SAR had been superseded by SA Transport Services, the Cape had named trains right from the start. Only since the adoption of Port Elizabeth as a main ore export terminal has the importance of this route been superior - a situation that has grown with the opening of the port of Ngqura.

Early construction from Port Elizabeth was hindered not only by rivalry between the Eastern and Western Cape but inter-town jealousy between Grahamstown and Graaff-Reinet.  In the event, the latter prevailed and construction proceeded apace to there.  However, discovery of diamonds and the intimidating Sneeuberg north of Graaff-Reinet brought about a change of emphasis and in 1872 construction commenced on a more direct route to De Aar via Cradock.  It was completed in 1884.  

Although the Cape Main Line has to contend with the fold ranges of the Boland in its first 160 miles, the going was relatively easy thereafter.  The Midland, in spite of bypassing Graaff-Reinet, had several river catchments and mountain hurdles to negotiate, culminating in the crossing of the continental divide at Carlton; altitude 5187 feet, much higher than its rival. While Boland scenery is dominated by sandstone krantzes and fynbos, that traversed by the Midland railway is gentler but in its own characteristic way, just as beautiful - as we shall see. 

1. We'll start with this view of Port Elizabeth station c 1952/3, courtesy of the Transnet Heritage Library taken by the SAR photographer from the Campanile.  Note that out of Port Elizabeth "Up" identified a departing train and "Down" an arriving one (only snobbish Cape Town, by virtue of being the first, used "Down" to signify a train departing for Jo'burg even though the latter is almost 6,000 feet higher!).  From the Albion double-decker in Station Street*, to the platforms and the new sea wall, there is much to see here. Already land behind the sea wall has been reclaimed and prepared for longer sidings to serve the harbour (out of sight to the right).  In the middle distance the carriage-yard pilot has removed the tri-compo van and short wagons brought in by the Alexandria train, the shorts probably loaded with produce destined for the old market next to the carriage sidings. Later, the engine will come back and fetch the tarpaulin-covered bogie vans left behind in platform 4, possibly to be shunted into the harbour export sidings. The class 10B pacific next to the signal cabin has just brought in a down Uitenhage and is waiting to head off to Sydenham loco-shed while the 10BR blowing off on the right is about to place the stock for an Up Uitenhage local.  To the right of that is a solitary narrow-gauge coach off the Avontuur line.  Above the smoke made by the carriage-yard shunter is Port Elizabeth's fine signal gantry (see photo 12) by this time probably the last one still extant in South Africa.  One little touch: can you see the chap cleaning windows alongside platform 5?  Yes kids.  In those days one could actually see out of the windows.

* As usual, Rollo Dickson has come to the rescue: it is an Albion, one of the last petrol-driven double-deckers supplied anywhere in the world they were taken over from SAR in 1952.

2. Port Elizabeth's simple but attractive train shed in 1895.  The photo was made by E H Short who in 1891 was appointed official photographer by Sir Charles Elliot, GM of the CGR.

3. The interior of the train shed, in a famous photograph by E H Short, showing the simple elegance of the wrought iron columns and arches supporting the glass roof.  The 4-wheeled CGR "horseboxes" have by now mostly been converted to bogie carriages by putting two bodies onto one bogie underframe.

4. No apologies for again reproducing photograph 9a from part 1 of our missive on the PE narrow gauge, depicting the station c 1910.  It shows part of the original 1875 terminal on the right, under the flag.  The Port Elizabeth passenger terminal is the oldest such building still standing in South Africa.   During the 1970s when money was plentiful and respect for good architecture was at its lowest, there was a move by SAR management, supported by the PE Council, to have it torn down and replaced by a more "up-to-date" structure.  Fortunately the system architect, John Hodgson, was a strong character with appreciation for its importance and he was able to quash the plan.  The information below has been extracted from a booklet prepared by the Regional Architect's office to celebrate the opening of the renovated building in August 1984.

The original station, completed in 1875, comprised a double-storied building with three arched doorways (of which two are visible above) which led to the ticket office and the platforms. The Eastern Province Herald of 24 November 1874 reported: "The right wing has been fitted for the telegraph department and the left wing for offices of the accountants etc.  The rooms on the upper floor are reserved for the Resident Engineer and his staff"  The "Resident Engineer" was James Bissett who had come out in 1858 as one of a team of five assistant engineers under W G Brounger for the Cape Town to Wellington railway.  Mr Bissett was the architect of the Port Elizabeth station as well as the goods terminal in North End and the original railway workshops at Uitenhage, all of which were completed during his term of office in Port Elizabeth.  An inside view of the station, taken on the opening day of the railway to Uitenhage, shows only a canopy roof over each of the two platforms.  The roof structure as shown in  photos 2&3 and as we know it today, was provided in the 1890s when the Station Street wing was built. Mr Bissett returned to private practice in Cape Town in the early 1880s and retired in 1892 whereafter, in 1893, he was elected Mayor of Wynberg.  He died in 1919 aged 83.  

The second stage of the station development began in 1890 when preliminary plans were prepared for a new two-storey building. In that year, Mr E J Sherwood, quantity surveyor and architect, joined the railway service and was appointed at Port Elizabeth under the Resident Engineer, Mr R H Hammersley-Heenan, to prepare the working drawings and bills of quantities and supervise the erection of the new buildings.  In the annual report of the Cape Government Railways for 1890/91 it is recorded: "Ample provision has been made for the requirements of the traffic at Port Elizabeth. The buildings and rookeries in several streets have been demolished and a plan has been agreed upon which will be a great improvement to the appearance of the town"  This building, very similar in appearance to the CGR's headquarters in the north wing of Cape Town station, was completed and ready for occupation early in 1893. The single-storey parcels office on the corner of Station and Jetty Streets (see photo 4 above) and the double-vaulted roof over the platforms and tracks (see photo 3 above), formed part of the same scheme.  Upon completion of the station project, Mr Sherwood left the CGR to start his own practice in Port Elizabeth and, in partnership with his son, designed many prominent buildings in this town and in Uitenhage, Graaff-Reinet and Cradock.  However, office accommodation for the Midland System staff soon proved inadequate.  In 1898, only five years after the new wing was completed, the building had to be raised to three storeys - as depicted in photo 4 above and photo 5 below.

5. Instead of demolishing the old station it was eventually decided to renovate and restore it.  The first stage was started in 1983 and completed in July 1985 at a cost of R1,500,000 (1985 rands!).  Special care was taken to preserve the character of the original building, especially when restoring the delicate original mouldings, cornices and ballustrades.  The finished product is on view here, taken by Stuart Douglas, one of John Hodgsons team of regional architects also comprising Sean McLaughlan and draughtsmen all enthusiastically involved in the planning of its renovations.  Stuart, son of Dr Douglas, erstwhile SAR Assistant Chief Mechanical Engineer, is sadly no longer with us.

6. No 435 fast passenger drawing into E J Sherwood's 1893 trainshed in May 1962 - this is the train that became the "Algoa" in 1980.  It was not a special train or occasion yet plenty of people have come to meet the passengers. The dignity and presence of a 15F arriving at a station is something one never forgets.

7. Same train, different day, just to show you how busy this everyday train was.  In spite of its WTB appellation - "fast passenger", by the 1960s very few rode 435, or its opposite number 438, because they were in a hurry.  It must shurely have been the sheer pleasure of riding a steam-hauled day/sleeper express with full dining-car service.

8.  Another view of newly-arrived 435 with its 15F 3038 at rest in May 1962 but I can't remember if it was the same or another day.

9. This 15F had just brought in 701-down from Cradock and was backing off to the stables at Sydenham.  The date was June 1962 and the lovely old cabin at the end of platform 1 with its mechanical signals and point rodding had not long to live before being replaced by the facebrick state-of-the-art all-electric monstrosity in the right background.  In photo 12 below you'll see the bricks used in its construction.  Also visible is the first bit of platform wall for the extended station.  Radical changes were coming.

10. Watching trains at Port Elizabeth was pure pleasure; there was constant activity.  That's my father on the platform, leaning on an anchor stay for the bracket signal. 15F 2980 was backing onto oil tankers that had been hauled through from the Harbour storage tanks by the 1890s-vintage 7th class in the left background.  The fine old customs house visible between the two engines was still very much in use at this time - it served the mailships that called regularly at PE.  The demise of the mailships in 1977 brought about its redundancy and with it, sadly, gradual deterioration and eventual demolition. The time on the Campanile clock says it was ten to twelve which means that the train was probably block fuel for the Northern Cape.  The untidiness in the foreground is the preliminary work for the new platforms.

As we're about to set off on the first stage of our journey up the main line it seems appropriate to insert Bruno's map showing Port Elizabeth to Alicedale here.  A separate map showing the 1934 deviation between Sandflats (now Paterson) and Tootabi will be reproduced to a larger scale after we reach Paterson.

11. Unfortunately the negative has been lost (it was lent to Ralph Knott of the CTSMEE - if anyone knows Ralph, or how to contact him please let us know) so this was scanned off a poor print.  It is included to show one of the most important commodities using the Midland Main Line - fuel.  This is an Up block petroleum setting off from PE Harbour in June 1962.  Note the DZ runners loaded with tractors between the engine and the tank wagons - these were mandatory for all fuel trains drawn by steam locomotives. 

12.  In February 1957 Sydenham got its first two 15Fs - transferred from the Western Cape's Paarden Eiland. When this photo was made in July 1957 there were nine 15Fs at Sydenham, three at Cradock and one at Noupoort.  There was a brief period when both Systems were using 15Fs on the main line as I discovered two days later when the third section of 8-up was given a 15F at Worcester (an account of this run was written up in System 1 Part 2). 
Those bricks were referred to in the caption to photo 9, they are for the new all-electric signal cabin that would replace the traditional mechanical cabin at the end of platforms 1&2. To make room for the new cabin the down harbour line has been uplifted and relocated to the left of the temporary three poster. From the right the tracks are Up passenger main, Down ditto and Up harbour goods. Long before the new cabin was commissioned, c 1962 this gantry, last of its kind on the SAR, was replaced by a single electrically-worked semaphore with route indicators (thanks to Rollo Dickson for this information).  

13. This was the temporary cabin erected at the eastern end of North End station next to the new goods arrival and departure tracks known as Middle Yard, mainly to control the new Harbour freight bypass pending commissioning of the new all-electric cabin. By 1965 the old cabins, signals and all associated paraphernalia had been removed and replaced with a single face-brick monstrosity and shiny new colour-light signals.  

14. A heavy 438-up departing in October 1965 with the marvellous combination of 12R+15F.  In spite of their small (4'-3") driving wheels Hendrie's 12Rs were comfortable at 60mph and quite at home on the accelerated 438.  The pair would have sounded terrific on the sustained 1-in-80 sections of the Midland Main Line.  Note the old cabin at platforms 1/2 has gone and point machines have replaced rodding, all indicating that the new facebrick cabin was already in service.
Doubtless some of 438's passengers would have disembarked from the Union Castle Company's flagship, Windsor Castle in the left background.  All too soon it was to be retired in 1977.  

15.  Also commissioned by 1965 were the long reception sidings for ore traffic, which had been growing exponentially since the mid fifties.  No load is showing behind this doubleheader because the cargo is manganese, dense and not visible due to being carried in entirely in high-sided "B" bogies that were emptied by tippler at the ore terminal.  Although not really suited to this type of cargo, according to Alistair Christison the B-bogies had their upper doors welded shut to stop them from flapping open when the wagon was upside-down.  At this time there still were not enough AZD ore hoppers to go around.  

16. Double 15Fs with a northbound freight crossing an arriving block ore in Middle Yard in May 1962. By the early sixties ore traffic had become so heavy that brand-new class 32 diesels of the GM kind, intended for the South West Africa system, had to be commandeered to help out. Come to think of it, by the late 1950s SAR management had a choice: electrify, double the tracks or dieselise.  By this time diesels were the easiest solution so it was a no-brainer really.  

17. North End locomotive shed in 1896 when E H Short was roaming around with his 10"x 8" glass-plate camera and tripod. By this time the shed was 25 years old and already looking unkempt and dirty - as most steam sheds were wont to do.   From the left: Cape 4th class 4-6-0T+T by Stephensons with a northbound goods, Cape 1st class 4-4-0T by Stephensons, 1st series Cape 7th 4-8-0 by Nielson & Co.  The class 7s were the forerunners of what became the most successful 19th century design for South African conditions, indeed they became the stock engine for most of the railways of Southern and Central Africa.  Note the cunning points within points in the centre of the picture! 
By the turn of the 19th century the Midland System had 38 class 7s, 40 class 6s, 10 class 5s, 35 class 4s, 13 class 3s (by this time mainly used for shunting), 5 class 2s, 6 class 1s and 4 Hunslet saddle tanks used on the harbour shunts.  Classes 1 and 2 were four-coupled engines kept for the Uitenhage local service.  For illustrations of these types please refer to Holland "Steam Locomotives of the South African Railways" Volume 1, Purnell, SBN 360 00136 X, or Paxton and Bourne "Locomotives of the South African Railways", Struik, ISBN 0 86977 211 2. 

Unfortunately my locomotive list does not provide a breakdown of locality, but North End was easily the most important depot on the C M System and remained so until it was replaced by Sydenham in 1943.  

18. An undated photo of North End shed from the Transnet Heritage Library, almost certainly taken by Frank Neave c 1940.  The class A tanks in the foreground look as if they've recently been taken out of service, as do the class J tanks behind them.  The latter may have been transferred to Mossel Bay but the fate of the A's is not known at all.  Note the ash scattered along the 4ft of the Up main line; those were the days when fire-cleaning along the run was still permitted.  

19. By Broad Street between North End and Sydenham 438 would be under way, well illustrated here by the late Dave Parsons.  Incidentally, Dave is one of the unsung heroes of SAR record photography.  He was a member of that small but most qualified group of railway enthusiasts: a highly competent steam locomotive fitter and dedicated foreman of Escom's large fleet of industrial locomotives and SAR hand-me-downs.  The condition these locomotives were kept in bore testimony to Dave's love of his work and the machines he cared for.

One more thing: although this fine photo as received from Les is undated, it can be reliably estimated as between 1963 when the new carriage paint scheme was already beginning to look weathered and 1965 when the ugly new sealed-beam headlights took over like a rash.  The man in the cabin controlled the level crossing boom gates.  

20. Leith's take of 119-down 19:50 daily all-stations Noupoort-Port Elizabeth departing from Sydenham c 1966.  What a train, it took almost 12 hours to cover the 260 miles overnight. Melly and I caught it once - bliss!  Note the chimney cowl intended to ease the smoke nuisance for footplatemen in the many tunnels.  Applied to several (but not all) of the Midland Fs from c 1960 onwards they were of dubious effectiveness, their worth being more psychological than practical.  

21. By Sydenham 438 would really be motoring, clearly evident in this dust-stirring moment captured by Les.  

22. I also used to hang around Sydenham in those days.  It was not a particularly salubrious neighbourhood so there musta been some other reason......  

23.  At least some of us had the wit to realise that the record was more important than all those pretty steam train photos.  Destined for Postmasburg, the four class 34s were working Up ore empties between Deal Party goods sheds and Sydenham loco where the freight bypass to Port Elizabeth harbour joins up with the main line between Sydenham and New Brighton. 

Those new plain ore wagons had rotating couplers and used tipplers to offload.  They had a better Tare/Load ratio and were much more economical than the bottom-dumping AZDs.  
Alistair Christison, who is a professional freight logistics specialist provided this information: "[Photo 23] with diesels taking empties back north shows further development of this product flow – where C-type wagons emerged with payloads as high as possible and the wagon much shorter since the maximum payload (abt 60 tons) could be achieved with a short wagon and solid sides—thus making these wagons dedicated to heavy ore flows. I think they were also fitted with stronger couplers as well as air brakes – so they could run in 104-wagon consists". 

24. Making a serious rate of knots, 438's 15F is about to slam under the EP Cement Company's overbridge at New Brighton.  May 1962.  
The closest track linked up to an underpass which is apparent in the next picture, it provided unimpeded access from New Brighton's reception sidings to Sydenham's sorting yard for the large number of private sidings feeding from there.  Only single here, in later years it got so busy that it had to be doubled.  Note the use of past tense: by the mid 1990s not a single business was served by it. 
On the other side of the Up and Down main lines are the Port Elizabeth Harbour Up and Down bypass tracks which link up directly with those shown in the previous photo, and on the other side of them are the main feeders from Deal Party goods shed and the New Brighton marshalling yard.  Today the enormous Deal Party goods shed is also moribund.  

25. 435-down "fast passenger" approaching the cement company's overpass in January 1959.  That's New Brighton station in the left background and the track on the left is the link to Sydenham sorting yard referred to in the previous caption.  You can just make out the parapet of the bridge where it dives under the main line.  

26.  There was once a huge marshalling yard at New Brighton, and this is where its departure tracks rejoined the passenger mains.  A northbound double header has just departed and on the skyline a down Uitenhage-PE local is about to enter New Brighton station.  

27.  Same vantage point as for photo 26, looking the other way in May 1968.  A northbound freight is heading for Swartkops and you can just make out the preceding freight which was the doubleheader in photo 26.  Yes, that's how busy it was.  
The track disappearing off the right hand edge is the down goods entry into New Brighton yard and also on the right edge of this picture is the new garage under construction for the Squire's shiny new diesels, soon to replace those smelly old stables at Sydenham.  Across the lake is Swartkops Power Station, which also became redundant when the national power grid reached Port Elizabeth around 1980.  

28. In Leith's brilliant photo taken off the Swartkops home signal there are four (or more) trains visible, on the left 15F 3087 with an Up block load of new motor cars, on the right 10BR 759 with 232-up to Uitenhage.  In the queue behind the freight is another, waiting its turn to join the main line, and on the skyline behind the local is a Down Uitenhage nearing New Brighton.  The track leading off to the right is the access to Swartkops Power Station. 
By the way, the contrast between new and old headlights is starkly illustrated here - the picture was made in April 1966.  

29. Several of the next few photos will show Swartkops station before it was remodelled in the 1970s.  This seems to have been a lunch time gathering for the track gang and their families while a northbound block load of fuel approaches.    

30. Today it is hard to imagine that every few minutes a train would come rumbling by.  Up and Down freights crossing at Swartkops on a typical Saturday in May 1962.  

31. 435-down slows for its scheduled stop at Swartkops while 248-up local to Uitenhage accelerates away towards Redhouse, which exposes a peculiar anomaly that existed in the public timetable at the time.  Surely the chief reason for 435 "fast passenger" to stop at Swartkops would be to allow any passengers for Uitenhage and/or intermediate stops to change trains?  But the booked stop for the main-line passenger was from 13:19 to 13:20 and that for the local was 13:13.  The next train to Uitenhage was at 14:39 - perhaps the old SAR was not so perfect after all!  On Saturdays the picture was rather better - 435's passengers would have waited only 20 minutes (!) for their connection.  

32. View from the footbridge of a down freight rolling through Swartkops.  May 1962.  The road overbridge was not even being contemplated then and the Swartkops - Redhouse road was still dirt (see next picture).  

33. The daily mixed from Cradock, 119-down with a 12R in charge approaching the level crossing at Swartkops before slowing for its stop there.  Note the 1930s vintage level-crossing sign with its glass marble reflectors and the fact that the road was still unsurfaced in May 1962.  

34.  Barely 15 years later and the place has been transformed.  A road bridge has replaced the level crossing and the road is now tarred.  Colour-light signals with route indicators and points machines have replaced wires and rodding and the main-line mixed, by now numbered 33300, is diesel hauled and departs from Swartkops (!).  On the left is a 15AR on a Klipplaat-bound freight while coming into the station is the morning Kirkwood-branch mixed to PE. The track layout has been completely changed with standard sets everywhere including an outside double slip which has clearly needed some juggling to fit in.  Last but not least, the nice old lattice footbridge has been replaced by an expensive Apartheid abortion.  

35. Just before the Swartkops River bridge 15F 3000 with 438-up "fast passenger" has been opened up more than somewhat for the 1-in-80 grade to Aloes.  From this lowest point on the line a locomotive's work was mostly against the collar until the continental divide was reached in Carlton tunnel, 5,000 feet higher and 250 miles away.  March 1966.  

36. And here is 438 again, surging away from the flood plain of the Swartkops River in May 1962, on the deviation only completed in 1957 (for the original alignment see photo 41).  

37.  By 1968 sixth classes on the main line were rare indeed.  This was 6 Belpaire 439 with empty ES trucks for the saltpans at Coega and that is the Swartkops River bridge.  The picture was taken from the embankment of the original alignment between Swartkops and Aloes which was replaced in 1957.    

38. Not the Swartkops River forming this reflection but the result of having overflowed its banks a few weeks previously.  The cowled 15F was on northbound empty B bogies in June 1968.  

39. From Swartkops onwards the main line was single (it still is today).  To save line occupation it was sometimes necessary to combine the short local workings to SAR's Koegakop ballast quarry and the Coega saltpans train.  At Aloes (the next station) the train would be split - the 24 taking the empty AYs up the quarry branch and the Belpaire 6 would be taking the ES empties at the back of the train onwards to Coega.  The 6th class was No 439  but I've lost the 24's number.  It is interesting to record that this train required 6 railwaymen to work it - two drivers, two firemen and two guards!  Is unemployment a good or a bad thing?  

40. By the late 60s these block oil workings had become so heavy they were invariably doubleheaded as with this pair of cowled 15Fs pounding up the 1-in-80 away from Swartkops in February 1968.  In the right foreground is the formation of the original CGR alignment between Swartkops and Aloes, replaced in 1957.  

41. A clear view of the 1875 CGR alignment between Swartkops and Aloes taken by Alan from the heights above Amsterdamhoek.  

42. 15F 3087 with an Up motor-car train approaching Aloes in April 1966.  This was the way new motor cars were transported to the reef in the days before dedicated two-storey wagons and diesels.  It was not as inefficient as it might seem because the vehicles were loaded into DZs that otherwise would have returned empty.  

43. Coega station with an up block oil passing through.  The brickworks, partly a destination for the train depicted in photo 39, is on the left.  Today Coega is an important junction serving the new deep seaport of Ngqura.  

44. Although the leading locomotive is 34-022 the second one is unrecorded so I suspect Leith was really after that smudge of smoke on the left horizon.  Nonetheless, it is included here for the enjoyment and interest of diesel fans, who probably also know that the first regular diesel workings down the Midland Main Line were class 32s on loan from the South West Africa system while the Cape Midland's first own diesels were the class 33s.  Such was the exponential growth in traffic in the 70s that the 33s were soon proving inadequate, being replaced by new class 34s manufactured under licence in the Dorbyl (GE) factory at Boksburg and (slightly later) the GM factory at Aloes.  

45. Son Justin shot this incoming Kirkwood departing from Grassridge in June 1983.  By this time the semaphore signals were on the way out, giving way to colour lights controlled from CM headquarters in PE by CTC.  

46. As late as the winter of 1983 it was still possible to see scenes like this triple crossing on the main line south of Addo, in this case the incoming Kirkwood (same train as in photo 44) crossing fruit empties proceeding to the Kirkwood branch and a load of export oranges heading for Port Elizabeth harbour.  

47. Fruit empties in the hole at Grassridge for the morning Up Kirkwood a month later in 1983.  Note the loop lengthening in progress pending electrification.  Colour-light signals already activated.  

48. The morning Up Kirkwood, essentially a mixed but on this day almost a pure passenger, rounding the curve into Tankatara.  Colour-light signals already activated, July 1983.  

49. 15F 2995 about to depart Barkly Bridge (junction for the Alexandria branch) with down empty tankers in September 1964.  

50. A tranquil scene at Addo, the junction for Kirkwood, with the daily pick-up in charge of a class 10 (recently transferred from Germiston) about to do some shunting.  

51. The Addo station foreman has just exchanged tablets with the fireman of a northbound goods. June 1962.  It was the mid-year school holidays and those are his three sons and wife observing activities.  The place looks tidy and organised.  At this remote rural junction there was even a public telephone which occasionally could be coaxed into connecting a call.  

52.  When the 15Fs began arriving on the Cape Midland System it seemed the 12Rs days in main-line service would be numbered.  At the beginning of 1957 there were 48 12th class of various categories and 30 15BRs.  By mid 1962 when this doubleheader was exchanging tablets at Addo there were 55 15Fs but still 18 of the various 12s plus 18 15BRs, and they still assisted when required, something that prevailed almost until the last 15Fs were drafted away in December 1969.  Somehow it seemed appropriate that the 12s, which had been built for this route (and classified 12B by Hendrie), should be there until the end.   

For the 12Rs (formerly 12Bs) it was not quite the end - they still were finding ways to keep busy on the Klipplaat run and local goods haulers around PE.  One, Sydenham pet No 1505, was kept busy on suburban runs until 1984.  When it was withdrawn the 12s had served the Midland for more than 60 years.  

53. It was only a country junction but it kept the operating staff busy.  Addo's night foreman filling in the train register in a lull between trains.  Note the diagram in front of him, there are hardly any paths available for additional trains.  On the left is the Van Schoor tablet machine, closely related to the Tyer's Tablet Machine.  

54. With decelerating thuds on 40ft rail-joints, 435 slows majestically to a stop in Addo.  Although only a conditional call, on this day there was a solitary passenger who needed to get off. The firemen of an up goods are stoking furiously in preparation for resuming their journey towards the water stop at Coerney while the drivers relax against the fence other side of the advertisement board. The TX cream van with passenger bogies behind the 15F could indicate that this was quite an important train.  

55. The fireman is ready to catch the hoop holding the tablet as 435 slows to a halt.  Note mother and daughter taking in the action.  This was a dirty old steam train - there must have been lots of smuts yet, look how many windows are open.  Having ridden a few trains since earliest memory it seemed to me that for many the attraction of riding a steam-hauled train outweighed the inconvenience of sooty clothes and cinders in eyes.  

56. Another image scanned off a poor print as a result of a loaned negative not having been returned.  I have included it because it shows the northbound goods that had just crossed with 435-down setting out from Addo in June 1962.  

57.  A mixture of down ore and empty petroleum wagons departing Coerney in September 1964 behind 15F 2995.   

58. Arrival of the 15Fs was more than six months away and the section from Port Elizabeth to Cradock was still ruled by the various 12s when this picture of 12R 1958 drawing into Coerney with a lengthy Up goods was made in July 1956.  

59. A down freight coasts through Coerney, crossing yet another 12R+15F combination on a northbound goods in June 1962.  With sufficient head those patented Fairbanks-Morse fast-watering columns with their 14" diameter delivery pipes could fill an empty 12R tender in less than three minutes. Note the track spares neatly stored by a house-proud length-ganger.  These were the days before automatic tamping machines.  

60. 15F 2966 northbound out of Coerney in December 1966.  The additional water tank probably means that drought conditions were prevailing - perhaps the borehole at Coerney was threatening to dry up.  

61. Empty DZs between Coerney and Mimosa in December 1965.  From here the Zuurberg looms ever closer until the railway eventually threads it via the Bushmans river gorge.  

62. In its 60th year 6A Belpaire 482 was still working the main line, seen here at Mimosa after crossing 119-down and picking up the track gang and camp in July 1956.  

63. The creation of an ore-export terminal at Port Elizabeth in the late 1950s brought with it a dramatic increase in traffic on the Midland Main Line.  To ease congestion the section from Mimosa to Paterson was doubled during 1961/2, in effect creating a long loop.  This northbound empty DZ working was entering Paterson in December 1965 with cowled 15F No 3008. Robert Maidment-Wilson has pointed out traces of the original pre-1933 alignment (see map) clearly angling in from the left.  That man at the gate is standing on its centre-line. 

64. While on a family trip to Port Alfred in July 1956 my father photographed this 12R with a full load of coal-laden B-bogies (18 wagons and a van for 710 tons) at Paterson.  That's our train on the platform road. 

The above completes part 1 of the Midland Main Line story which gets increasingly interesting as we get closer to the continental divide at Carlton in part 4.  The next section describes a remarkable piece of railway location in 1877 between Sandflats (later, Paterson) and Tootabi, intended to avoid building just one tunnel!