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The Original Midland Main Line (1): PE to Graaff-Reinet by Charlie Lewis ©

In Parts 9 to 12 of the System 3 chapter we gave the story of the Midland Main Line from PE to De Aar.  It was briefly mentioned that the original route was planned via Graaff-Reinet but a mixture of politics and formidable terrain caused the eventually selected course to bisect the countryside between the two main contenders: Graaff-Reinet and Grahamstown.

As you can gather from Bruno's map, the railway to Graaff-Reinet was opened in August 1879.  It was almost another 20 years before the originally planned main line scaled Lootsberg Pass, at 5727ft altitude the lowest possible crossing of the Sneeuberg without resorting to tunneling, and then only because by this time it was becoming important to connect the southern Cape (i.e. Mossel Bay, George and the Little Karoo) with the Witwatersrand.  For almost 100 years Lootsberg Pass was the main freight gateway to these regions. Then, like glaciers, the traffic disappeared.  At the end of May 1993 the 160 miles from Klipplaat to Rosmead was closed to traffic - but not without a little drama.

"Bushveld Train Safaris" was the poor man's Rovos Rail (this is not expressed in any derogatory sense).  Operated by the late Boon Boonzaaier, they were noted for going almost anywhere SAR had gone, at affordable prices.  Boon was a man who not only knew every mile of SAR, he also knew where crossing places, turning triangles and staging sidings were, so whenever an operating official tried to dwarsboom (= obstruct) he could outwit him.  Six months after Klipplaat - Rosmead was closed, Boon approached Spoornet (as it was by then) to allow one of his Safaris over the Pass, but was refused.  Being a persistent man, and unable to think of any valid reason why not, he offered to pay all charges associated with re-opening for one train, including in-loco inspection by trolley.  Eventually it was agreed that for R25,000 (a sum which included the vital trolley inspection), the train could run.  A month later the Safari set out from Klipplaat before dawn on its way from Mossel Bay to Johannesburg.  Barely an hour later the entire train, locomotives included, was spreadeagled over the plains of Camdeboo.  Hennie Heymans tells us: My father was on the train - he is also on one or two photos - he said he was in the corridor talking to someone when the coach overturned. He was nearly 90 years old then - he only wet his pants - no injuries were sustained.

It turned out that a local farmer had taken the closure announcement literally and had filled in a shallow cutting where the line crossed his farm.  Of course the payment had been pocketed by a corrupt official and no inspection was ever done.  This was when Boon rose to the occasion as only an exceptional man could do.  All the passengers (several injured but miraculously no one killed) were taken by ambulance to PE.  By that evening Boon had bullied and browbeaten Spoornet into providing another train - although this time they went up the main line. 

That, everyone thought, was that.  So much so that the farmer at Blouwater, Charles Kingwill, started providing motor trolley excursions for tourists to the summit of the Pass along similar lines to Stephaan Jordaan's Hexpas Express - using the perfect track that had been relaid with 96lb/yard rails in preparation for class 34 diesels during the 1980's. 

Then, one day in 2010, farmer Kingwill was visited by Transnet officials who told him to stop his excursions, which by this time had become extremely popular.  Reason: "We are going to re-open the line!" (yes, dear reader, that deserves an !).  But the wheels of a state-run enterprise grind exceeding slow; it was not until June 2015 that the first test train ran.  After that nothing happened until the first visit of the Shongololo Express (now operated by Rovos Rail) in August this year. According to the Rovos Rail brochure it is scheduled to do the trip through Graaff-Reinet twice each way during the coming 12 months.  If it comes off (in the figurative sense) this will be good news.........  



As with the main line we will divide this chapter into several parts, starting with Port Elizabeth to Graaff-Reinet.  This will also include coverage of traffic destined for the Little Karoo but only as far as Klipplaat. 


1. Appropriately, we begin with 9-down arriving in PE behind a 12R.  As mentioned before, this was a service that took two nights and a day for the 675 miles from Cape Town.  The 10BR 756 had just arrived tender-first with a local from Swartkops and its crew seemed eager to get back to their book-off at Sydenham loco.  By 1962 PE's old gantry had been replaced by a solitary semaphore with route indicator and the Edwardian signal cabin had not long to live. 


2. Same train different day different platform.  That's the van off 23-down from East London being offloaded in platform 3.  As usual an immaculately clad SAR policeman is in attendance.  


3.   Although their use on the Midland Main Line declined substantially after 15Fs began arriving in 1957, the 12Rs continued their long association with the Klipplaat line.  This was the 13:30 SaO PE-Klipplaat all-stations just beginning to move in May 1962   

The two brake ends on the left are ex 1M1 motor coaches transferred to Port Elizabeth and converted for steam operation when Cape Town switched from 1,500V to 3,000V DC in 1954 (thank you Rollo Dickson).


4. From time to time we have written about 51-down and 52-up, the legendary "Boat Trains" between Cape Town and PE and vice versa.  They had their origins in the fact that until 1934 there was no mailship berthing facility at Port Elizabeth.  Almost as soon as Montagu Pass was opened in 1913, thus completing the shortest rail link between the two cities, the progressive General Manager of the New Cape Central Railway, Fred Dawson, instituted a "Boat Express" scheduled to arrive in Cape Town in time for the Friday departure of the mailship for England. Inexplicably, these trains continued to run for almost 40 years after the mailships began berthing at the Charl Malan quay in PE Harbour.  In July 1957, on the stroke of 11:30 as indicated by the Campanile clock, 52-up got under way with a 19B, the first and only occasion that I saw one on this train.  On the left another famous engine, 10BR 760, was awaiting her 11:45 departure for Uitenhage.

Apologies for the poor quality of this image.  It was scanned off an old Anscochrome that spent >30 years in my father's loft, and it shows.  Having thought it lost forever I only re-discovered it after his death in 1999. 


5. While the whole world was speeding things up, South Africa in general and SAR in particular swam upstream.  With a few notable exceptions, in the early 70s all intermediate stations and sidings between Worcester and Uitenhage had their personnel withdrawn - replaced by little facebrick buildings housing the Van Schoor token apparatus.  Henceforth trains-working was to be performed by the train crews themselves for which function they were allowed seven minutes per interloop or station.  Geoff's picture was made in December 1974 when the departure of 8-up had been brought forward to 17:30 - only a year previously this photo would have been impossible.  There was no corresponding earlier arrival in Cape Town so the elapsed running time had been extended by just under two hours in order to cater for an operating convenience! * 
 
The closing of country stations undoubtedly saved SAR a lot of money (although a lot of the savings were simply paid out in salary increases).  It also resolved a situation that had become critical: trains-working was a whites-only occupation and it was becoming increasingly difficult to find operating personnel who were prepared to live at remote stations (imagine being a young newly-married - or worse, unmarried - station foreman at Aberdeen Road, for example!).  The levels of traffic did not justify the expense of Centralised Traffic Control (CTC) but the vast untapped reservoir of other races was ignored.
  
The adopted solution had unintended knock-on effects.  The railway suddenly had no representatives in local communities, farmers and country shops could no longer arrange transport for their livestock and supplies on the spot but had to deal with "marketing officers" based in the system headquarters who had little or no connection with these remote customers (this was still in the days of unreliable and completely unsecure "party line" country telephones).  We'll talk about this some more, later in this chapter.  Even worse, an opportunity was missed to bring "anderskleuriges" (= other colours) into important posts long before their resentment at being ignored boiled over. 

* This wasn't the end of the story.  By 1976 the public timetable allowed 8-up 41 hours 25 minutes from PE to Cape Town (nearly five hours more than in 1972) for an overall average speed of 16.3 mph!  


6. 310-up leaving PE for Klipplaat in July 1975 with, on the left, a 12R on a harbour hauler to New Brighton marshalling yard.  In the background the forest of harbour cranes needed for break-bulk cargo would soon be replaced by the gigantic container lifters in use today. 

Another word on the fabulous 12Rs.  By the end of 1972 there were more than 140 main-line diesels on the Cape Midland System.  This effectively ended all road work for a class that had served the Midland for more than fifty years.  Withdrawals began in 1973 and by 1980 only one was left at Sydenham - pet engine 1505. 


7. Approaching North End c 1977 was 8-up complete with dining car and a GMA which by this time had replaced 15ARs on 8-up.  With its departure time brought forward to 15:45 it was no longer practical to shunt 9-down's diner onto 8-up at Klipplaat as had been the practice for many years, so they were run through to PE. 


8. On the first leg of its two-nights-and-a-day journey to Cape Town, this pair of 15ARs was approaching Sydenham with 8-up in July 1975.  This was the last year that non-articulated engines were used on the mails.  Note the predominance of clerestoried stock some 15 years after UCW elliptical roofed carriages began to be introduced in ever-increasing numbers.


9. The GMA of 8-up overtaking a 12R on an interyard transfer between Sydenham and New Brighton c 1978. 


10. 52-up with 12AR 2124 making all of 50mph between Sydenham and New Brighton in March 1960.  Whereas 8-up, the mail train, maintained a dignified 18.3 mph between PE and Cape Town (overall average, later reduced to 16.3 mph in the interests of safety), 52-up whizzed along at a scorching overall average of 23mph.  Small wonder it was classified "fast passenger" in the working time books (WTBs). 

Note the complete rake of imperial-brown liveried clerestory stock.  With the establishment of Union Carriage and Wagon's tinplate carriage works at Nigel, from 1960 onwards it became increasingly difficult to record such classical SAR formations. 


11. The same train going away, emphasises the beautiful lines of SAR's clerestory stock.  Observe the single diner, third from left.  
 
Tracks, from the right, are: up and down freight lines connecting New Brighton marshalling yard and PE harbour; up and down New Brighton freight bypass; up and down passenger mains and, other side of the main lines, the link track between New Brighton and Sydenham industrial sidings (later also doubled). 


12. A 12R with 310-up, the 13:30 SaO PE-Klipplaat all stations, May 1962.  The General Appendix to the Train Working Regulations required shorts to be at the rear.  This came into effect after a big derailment during the 1930s but I have yet to find the accident report that led to the instruction. It caused huge expenditure on marshalling yards that might have been avoided with a bit more research into the tracking characteristics of 4-wheeled wagons.  On the Cape Midland the rule clearly was honoured more in the breach than the observance. 


13. A 15AR departing from Swartkops Junction with 9-down, the Cape Town-PE mail, in June 1968.  On the left is class 6 Belpaire No 439 waiting for the road with the daily working to the saltpans at Coega.  This engine was rescued by Rohan Vos of Rovos Rail rebuilt and named "Tiffany". Nowadays she is well cared for at Capital Park, the Rovos headquarters. 


14. In late 1973, class GMAs released by dieselisation in Natal began their final stint in SAR service on the Cape Midland region.  Most replaced GEAs at Voorbaai but 4118 was retained at Sydenham for trials on the Klipplaat run.  It was soon found there was not enough coal capacity, so crude planks were stuck on around the top edges of the bunker.  After several trial runs 4118 was sent to Voorbaai and it was not until 1976 that the 15ARs finally were replaced beyond Uitenhage.  The bunkers must have been internally modified because there was no visible increase in capacity. 


15.  In July 1970 there was still no hint that 52-up would ever be discontinued.  Here she is leaving Swartkops with 15AR 1563. 


16. Eight-up with an unrecorded 15AR coming through Redhouse on the first leg of its journey in December 1966.  Ten years later Redhouse would be a victim of the station closures, although in the case of Swartkops - Uitenhage this would be to make way for CTC.  That this was a manned station is clear from the fact that the fireman is just about to dump the tablet and the station staff were keen gardeners. 


17. Redhouse is a pretty suburban community on the banks of the Swartkops River which used to have a busy station with healthy wagonload goods traffic.  In February 1976 15AR 1563 with the 16:15 PE - Uitenhage was crossing GMA 4101 with a down goods from Klipplaat. 


18. Leith Paxton also found the time to do some lineside photography at Redhouse in April 1975 when this pair of 15ARs hurried through with a freight from Klipplaat. 


19. Early Sunday morning peace in the sleepy dorp of Despatch is shattered by the noisy departure of 9-down, some time late in 1978.  At least this noise was preferable to the grumble, smell and paap of its GMA's successor. 



20. A pre-dawn time exposure of 12R 1960 at the head of 9-down in Uitenhage in July 1956 (to answer your questions Briggs: yes, I was travelling on the train and no, we were waiting for a crossing). 


21. As you might have gathered, 52-up was the favourite train of many photographers - not to mention the passengers.  Here she is approaching Uitenhage in May 1962 in charge of 2129, one of four 12ARs shedded at Sydenham at this time. 


22. On a steam-hauled passenger train there was always something interesting going on. A busy moment for 52-up in Uitenhage in June 1962 - note all the open windows. 


23. Even though it ran but once/week, the withdrawal of 51/52 in 1971 had a noticeable effect on passenger loadings for 9-down and 8-up.  Whereas previously doubleheading had been a rarity, it now became more common - especially at weekends. 


24. Storming the grade away from Uitenhage was 12R 1959 with 52-up in May 1962. The 6th class station pilot was standing at the water column on Uitenhage's north head shunt and note that the starter signal had not yet been reset.  As usual, the windows in the carriage behind the engine were open with passengers taking in the action.   


25. Northbound trains took water at Uitenhage so it was a simple matter to double around from photo 21 and have another stab at 12AR 2129 on 52-up. 


26. Alan's fine study of 9-down leaving Uitenhage some 15 years after the previous picture, showing the new locoshed and turntable, with the original coal stage in the background as well as the semaphore signals and head-shunt water column. 


27. By mid-1975 the use of rod engines south of Klipplaat was close to the end.  Last non-articulateds to do regular service were the 15ARs, a pair of which are seen here, photographed on Dave's SAR bash in July/August 1975.       


28. Negotiating a succession of reverse curves on grade, here they are again, in effect signing off an unrepeatable era.  These two photos were borrowed from Dave's highly recommended "Southern African Reminiscences" Volume 1.  It is out of print but the presses could be got rolling again if there is sufficient demand so please let us know and I'll pass on the information. 


29. A 15AR approaching Fitzpatrick's Valley with 310-up, the 13:30 PE-Klipplaat all-stations SaO. 


30. In November 1976 Geoff was fireman on 4092 on the left with a down freight from Klipplaat to PE.  At Fitzpatrick's Valley they crossed another GMA on 8-up.  Unusually, the low sunlight has caught the forest of mechanical lubricator leads that were a feature of this class.  The GMA's also had one-piece beds and self-adjusting pivots.  These modern improvements (which they shared with the GO's) were the reason why the two classes had the lowest maintenance costs of any SAR Garratts.  A pity that the CME didn't go the extra mile and insist on roller-bearing rods.  Unfortunately their conservative axleloads (imposed by the Chief Civil Engineer) prevented them from ever being the really effective machines they might have been. 


31. 15AR on a down goods near Centlivres, early on a December morning in 1971. 


32. 8-up entering Centlivres with 15ARs 1783+1813 early in January 1975.  This was a rare 13-coach formation for the Cape Town Mail, only necessary because it was the holiday season. The summer and winter school holidays were busy times for 8-up as well as its opposite number.  As recently as the 1950s it would frequently be run in two or even three sections at the beginning and end of term.  A careful study reveals how full it was.  Ignoring the first two (3rd class) carriages, for which bookings were not accepted (they would be full anyway), cardboard booking slips can be seen flapping along the cantrail of all the other coaches except the dining car. 


33. Moments later the same train was awaiting a crossing with 15AR 1803 on 311-down goods ex Graaff-Reinet (you can just see it above the coal pile of the second engine).  On the left is the ugly facebrick hokkie referred to in the caption to photo 5 above.  This housed the van Schoor tablet-exchange instrument for which crews were allowed seven minutes to operate.  Not so bad at unmanned interloops but they were erected at sidings that had been previously manned as well.  No sooner had the personnel been withdrawn than the vandalism began. 


34. 15ARs working a holiday-loaded 9-down between Kariega and Bluecliff in December 1974.  Before the running times were extended this photo would not have been possible. 


35. In the last year that almost anywhere was accessible by steam, the late Alan Clark of the SAR museum organised the "Sunset Limited" railtour right around the country in August 1979. Most of the time the train was disfigured by a tasteless headboard but on the section from Port Elizabeth to Klipplaat the regular driver of the front engine refused to remove his ornaments so the headboard deadheaded in the front coach for this leg of the trip.  15ARs 2082 (front) and 2023 are seen here working the Sunset through Bluecliff. 


36. Only one UCW tin box spoilt the clerestory roof-line of 52-up approaching Steenbokvlakte with a 15AR c 1967. 


37. A GMA with 8-up on its way from Bluecliff to Steenbokvlakte in December 1978 


38. A GMA with 301-down goods (old number) between Steenbokvlakte and Bluecliff in July 1978. 


39. Southbound empty water tankers departing from Kariega in 1978.  The train was an out-and-back working to Glenconnor where there was no turning facility hence the chimney-first GMA - or rather it would have been chimney-first had this appendage not been circumcised to make way for the cowling employed on the East London and Eastern Transvaal main lines. Hastening the demise of steam on this route was the severe drought of 1977-9 that caused the vital boreholes at Glenconnor to dry up. There are few ways of absorbing a railway's revenue worse than having to tank locomotive water and this was a measure that had to be resorted to for more than a year before the diesels arrived. 


40. After the 7 minute (and ludicrous) pause to exchange tablets at Kariega the GMA of 301-down virtually erupts on the dewy morning rails.  


41. We're almost in the Karoo now, and in the evening light even Kariega can be photogenic so we'll dally awhile to watch the twilight action.  Towards the end of steam this was a GMA with 307-down general freight, the kind that has completely vanished from our rails. 


42. Even in mid-summer, in the Eastern Cape twenty-past-six is close to the last of the sun, here reflecting off the flanks of 8-up drifting into an on-time crossing with 307-down goods in December 1978.  SAR pride is still evident: the coaches are clean both inside and out, the tail-marker lamps are in position and lit and the track is immaculate.


43. There is more to this than meets the eye, but let's first deal with the obvious: that's 311-down, 13:30 Klipplaat - PE SuO on the main line, its guard at the facing points welcoming an up goods into the siding.  The hand-operated disc-semaphores show that the points are set for the loop and that Kariega is another of these stations that have succumbed to the economy drive of 1973, its personnel removed to the big city.  The load of the goods train merits your curiosity: why should a northbound working from PE be conveying locomotive and/or power-station coal?  Take my word for it: there are no coal mines at or near Port Elizabeth.  Even your oracle, the drafter of this chapter (he he), can't tell you why these commodities couldn't have gone via Graaff-Reinet.  Bringing them down to PE and back up to Klipplaat adds another 230 miles onto the journey (the same applies, incidentally, to every consignment to the southern Cape since the Lootsberg route was closed in 1993).  


44.  Not only at eventide would the pleasant surroundings of Kariega reward intrepid photographers.  Alan made the most of 303-down's early morning departure southbound c 1978.
 


45. By Glenconnor we're getting close to the final, heroic climb into the Great Karoo.  How neat and tidy everything is in this view by E H Short looking south in 1896. Those boxes look as if they held the photographer's kit. 


46. Allen's version, some sixty years later and the station looks busier but still reasonably tidy.  A pair of 15ARs is taking water. 
 
From Glenconnor the line rises >1100 feet in the next 23 miles to Wolwefontein.  Railwaymen knew the bank as Kleinpoort but my father insisted on calling it Glenconnor bank.  On his frequent journeys on 8-up he would never turn in before Wolwefontein for a very good reason.  The exhaust beats of a 12R floating back to the carriages through the still night air, were something you would want to remember for ever (if you were already in your bunk the best way to listen was with the ventilation vents in the clerestory open). 


47. At Glenconnor water was taken and fires were cleaned whereupon each engine would be fed with >200 shovelfuls of coal for the Kleinpoort bank.  There was only one waterspout so for a doubleheader the process was both laborious  and time consuming.  This photo was made in December 1971 when 8-up was still running to its old schedule i.e. 20:00 pm departure from Port Elizabeth.  Afterwards we found a spot near Cockscomb along the steepest part of the climb and, in the still night air, recorded the slow crescendo of the approaching 15ARs. 


48. Boswell-Wilkie's circus train entering Glenconnor in May 1978 probably for the last time behind steam, in this case 15ARs 1566 and 1793.  It is worth mentioning that by 1978 each of these two engines had completed more than 60 years and three-million miles of heavy-duty main-line service. 


49.  By Sapkamma, one third of the way up, engines were hot and exhausts had cleared.  This was 310 up, the 13:30 SaO PE-Klipplaat all-stations.  Beyond the typical Karoo farmyard is Soutkloof, one of two penetrations of the Sapkamma mountains along here, the other being the Kleinpoort itself. 


50. A mile or two further on but ten years earlier, in April 1966 the fireman of 12R 1933 on 310-up laid it on for Leith.  A fine portrait of one of SAR's most dependable classes. 


51. Couldn't resist showing youse the "Sunset Limited" again, simply because 2082 looked so good with all those polished ornaments on the smokebox.  Ashamed to say I've lost the details of the crews and would be extremely grateful if anyone could furnish their names. 


52. The Boswell-Wilkie circus train of May 1978 heading down Kleinpoort behind 15ARs 1566 and 1793. 
 

53. A favourite train of Leith, Geoff and Alan, 310-up in charge of an unknown 15AR was negotiating the wide reverse curve away from the R75 just before Kleinpoort station at the very end of the steam era, in February 1979. 


54.  In Geoff's previous picture you can see how the formation has been widened by the simple expedient of using all that ash disposed of at watering stations and loco sheds.  Here is the process actually in progress.  4072, formerly a Voorbaai passenger-link engine, had been roped in for this job in September 1977. 


55. Chimney-first GMAs were uncommon on the Midland so I suspect this was towards the end of steam on the Klipplaat section and had been arranged.  Made a nice picture coming down Kleinpoort though. 


56.  The only domeless Dolly stationed at Klipplaat, No 3367 accelerating away from Wolwefontein with 311-down on a Sunday in February 1978. 


57.  Geoff and Alan stuck to the circus train for miles.  Awaiting a crossing, here it is again at Wolwefontein seemingly eager to get going again. 


58. A late-running 305-down T&P departing Wolwefontein.  It was supposed to have crossed 304-up T&P (visible in the station) at Kleinpoort.  Note the predominance of short wagons, and particularly those carrying fuel trailers.  An early form of piggybacking, this service was launched by SAR before WWII and was an absolute boon for outlying dorps and their communities. The service continued to be popular until subverted by the Road Transport Act of 1977 whereafter it rapidly disappeared. 


59. Fireman Hall took this shot of GMA 4107 being watered at Wolwefontein in December 1977.  He sent the photo with a comment about how SAR engineers never thought to put longitudinal slots in tenders and feeder tanks, which made it hard for drivers to accurately spot their engines - especially with a heavy load. 


60. E H Short got here before most of us.  This is how the north-end water column at Wolwefontein looked in 1896.  That heavy-duty wooden guards/parcels van also bears scrutiny. 



61. A characteristic of E H Short's photographs is empty countryside surrounding a few buildings supporting the railway.  Wolwefontein in 1896 really was in barren Karoo but the station was a focal point for commercial and social activity.  A hotel was established there early on and today it still flourishes with almost 5-star customer ratings according to its web-site. 


62. A crossing at Haasfontein recorded by CGR's official photographer E H Short in 1896.  Both locomotives are Cape 4th class 4-6-0T+T types designed by Michael Stephens, CGR's first Chief Locomotive Superintendent. 
 

63. One is inclined to wonder how Haasfontein could ever have mustered so many people, but here you are.  It must surely have been due to advance notice that the cameraman was travelling on the train - a bit like today's TV rubbernecks. 
 The guard seems to be saying "come now Mr Short, we're behind time".


64. When we used to do trolley inspections through here in the 1980s we never dreamed it was once so busy.  That "powder" wagon is interesting.  There used to be a kaolin quarry nearby - is it possible that in pre-dynamite days gunpowder may have been used there? 


65. And here is Haasfontein near the end of the steam era, with interloop semaphores and van Schoor "hokkie" prominent.  The countryside still looks kind of barren. 


66. Dead side on of the engine depicted in photo 65.  The engine was GMA 4107 and the train 311-down T&P.  It looks as if Geoff has been spotted by one of his fireman mates at Sydenham hence the swirling clouds of filthy clag.  Disgusting..... 


67. A glorious sight the likes of which will not be seen again in this world or the next (to paraphrase Joe Collias).  15ARs of the Boswell-Wilkie circus train essaying the grade southbound out of Mount Stewart using every ounce of their combined tractive efforts.
 
On 7 May 1978 Alan and Geoff had got up early to intercept the circus somewhere between Snyberg and Toorwater, following it from there all the way to nightfall at Glenconnor (pic 48). We are grateful to them for this priceless record of a working that few saw, let alone photographed, notwithstanding its periodic operation for almost 100 years.  
 

68. The trains seem not to have been all that important to E H Short.  What a blissful state to be in!  But this was 1896 and when you'd photographed one train............... 


69. 15AR 1570 bringing 52-up out of Mount Stewart in December 1965.  Seventy years after the previous photo and although SAR's then-new two-tone livery is prevalent, several older features are still there, among others: clerestory roofed saloons, Pyle National headlight and the attractive flared chimney. 


70. Klipplaat in 1896 by E H Short with a CGR "Cape 4th" class prominent in the middle.  The line to Oudtshoorn taking off to the left forms one leg of a turning triangle.  Looks like the place could have done with a cinema or a casino. 


71. A couple of scrawny bluegums was all Klipplaat's climate could manage. A pity the fine old CGR station building had to go, replaced by a corrugated-iron shed for track tools and fastenings, but at least the line to Oudtshoorn is still there.  By late 1975 the Garratts were back and would remain until the end of steam some four years later. 


72. The loco was kept immaculate, as were the Dollies it was home to.  Come to think of it, the bleakly situated, almost 100% railway town was tidy too.  How would you like to live here? By many accounts it had a lively social life - especially when the crews were out on the road.  There was one lady who would put a brick on the front garden wall every time her old man was away on a book-off turn.  One evening a neighbour tumbled to this and mischievously put the brick on the wall when he was home................ 


73.  For many decades Klipplaat was home to two shunting engines, latterly a 6th class and an 11.  There was plenty for them to do for this was a busy junction.  However, by the end of 1969 the first serious economy drives were just getting under way and the class 6 was sent away.  The 11 lingered for another four years before it too was transferred during the melee resulting from the first wave of diesels at Port Elizabeth.  The work that hitherto had been performed by the shunting engines was now done by the road engines, usually those nearing washout or 15Ms.  In 1975 Bruce found the usual shedful of long-tendered 19Ds and a visiting 15AR, all respectably clean. 


74. Were it not for E H Short few if any would remember the time when Oatlands was more than an unmanned interloop between Klipplaat and Aberdeen Road. That great beam across the track is a railway sleeper doubling as a scotch block.  It was anchored and pivoted at one end and that, though primitive, was CGR's preferred derailer at this time. 


75. The flatness of the countryside is deceptive.  Between Kendrew and Aberdeen Road there is a climb of > 500 feet facing southbound trains in less than 8 miles.  For many years this was a banking section which necessitated an engine being kept at Aberdeen Road.  In the final year for steam a GMA was working a down goods in August 1978.  


76. If the Granite City fathers knew that an unprepossessing dorp miles from anywhere in the Great Karoo was named after their historic city I fear they would be considerably cheesed - never mind that the Saffa version is reputed to have the tallest church spire in the land.  It also, to this day, has a railway station - some 21 miles distant.  It was an important watering point in steam days.  Southbound trains, i.e. those going in the same direction as the train in the picture, used to be banked from Kendrew into here. 


77. That guard, prominent in CGR uniform, seems to be saying "don't worry Mr Short, the crew are still taking loco". 


78. In order to ease the southbound gradient out of Aberdeen Road the station was re-located about half a mile to the west c 1935.  Compared with the original site the new alignment was awkwardly situated on a sharp curve.  Geoff, who was firing this train, tells us the driver is Sam Erasmus with his regular 15AR 1811 on an up goods in June 1974. 


79. In December 1971 this 15AR was approaching Kendrew with another load of petroleum destined for Graaff-Reinet, the main distribution point for a host of central Karoo towns.  Having descended the long downhill stretch from Marais and Aberdeen Road the engine had just been opened up for its last lap into Graaff-Reinet. 


80. In E H Short's day Kendrew was a pretty bleak place and, except for the trees that have now grown large it hasn't improved much since.  Quite a few of the locals have turned up in their Cape carts in their Sunday finery, no doubt hoping to be seen on the evening news. 


81. The engine on which Geoff was firing,  15AR 1966, was in the loop at Charlwood for the northbound Mossel Bay - Johannesburg express, 1300-up, headed by a pair of 15ARs.  


82. Less than a mile south of Graaff-Reinet the railway makes the second of several crossings over the Sundays River. Built 1878/79 this was quite a substantial structure at the time. 


83. 1300-up arriving at Graaff-Reinet in July 1962.  In the left background you can see the engine shed (three 19Bs and a 6th class are visible).  Beyond that, nothing but bare veld stretching to the Tandjiesberg.  From a similar vantage point today you would see a flour mill inside the engine shed walls and quite a large industrial township around it.  Beyond that, all the way to the horizon, is a township.  The explosion of population here, as everywhere, is scary and depressing. 


84. 1300-up arriving at Graaff-Reinet, this time in November 1961 with 19D 2532 piloting 24 No 3662.  Somehow Klipplaat managed to send out a variety of motive power combinations. We have already seen double 15ARs (photo 81) and a 19B piloting a 19D (previous photo).  We also have for you double 19Bs (next chapter) and long-tendered 19D piloting a 15AR. It had something to do with a complicated diagram being worked by Klipplaat and Rosmead sheds at this time.  For instance, the Sydenham-based 19D in this picture came off here but the 24 was working through from Klipplaat to Rosmead (the diagram is more fully described in Part 14). 


85. The same 1300-up drawing into the platform at Graaff-Reinet.  On the right is 19B 1414 about to leave with 363-down T&P to Klipplaat.  In the bay platform, visible between the two trains are the two through coaches from Cape Town to Graaff-Reinet in one of which I had arrived from Cape Town that morning.  SAR ran a network of through and connecting coaches that served almost everywhere it ran.  As usual there are lots of open windows.  Who said anything about smoke and cinders? 


86.  The overnight train from PE, having arrived at Graaff-Reinet in 1896. Observe the elegantly-dressed rather good-looking lady alighting.  She's so tall she had to buk to get through the door.  Whether or not the 10"X8" glass-plate negative of this priceless E H Short photo still exists is problematic.  When the whizz-kid Business Manager Kobus Nel informed the photographic section of SA Transport Services' Publicity & Travel Department that their jobs were at an end c 1989, some of the staff vindictively destroyed many irreplaceable negatives. Sadly the surviving print is very poorly and this was about the best we could do to prepare it for posting. 


87. Since in 1896 Graaff-Reinet was still the terminus one must assume Mr Short travelled back to Port Elizabeth the next morning - but not before recording his train with yet another wonderful exposure.  The CGR 4th class 4-6-0T+T, designed in detail by Michael Stephens, was ubiquitous on the Midland region, a 1904 locomotive list shows that they had 35 of them.


88.  The original station as depicted here and in photos 86 and 87 was a dead end.  It was superseded by the present building and platform in the 1920s after which it was used for many years as offices by the Permanent Way Inspector and other staff.  Today this historic building has been taken over by squatters and looks very neglected. 


89. Graaff-Reinet 15AR 1809 just in off 308-up, overnight from PE in May 1972.  Leaks from the dome sealing ring and the regulator gland have trickled down the side of the boiler, depositing white stains caused by water-treatment chemicals.

This shed never had a large fleet of road engines and they were all sub-shedded from Sydenham.  In the 1950s it had a mixture of 19Bs and 19Ds, then from the beginning of the sixties, five short-tendered 19Ds.  From the early 70s it was allocated five 15ARs until close to the end of steam. There was one shunting engine (a sixth class), sub-shedded from Rosmead, which was withdrawn in December 1969.  The regular performer of this duty for many years was 6A 490 now plinthed in what remains of the station garden.  


90. Small the shed may have been, but at times it could be busy.  On the left are a pair of long-tendered 19Ds, visitors from Klipplaat, and to their right a couple of 19Bs about to work northbound trains.  The tender on the extreme right belonged to 6B (Belpaire) No 564.

 
Next Cape chapter will be Graaff-Reinet to Bethesda Road through the twisting 40-mile canyon of the Sundays River.