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Part 3: Durban Harbour, Wests, the Bluff & Cato Creek to Congella; featuring SAR & H Harbour Craft ©

by Les Pivnic ©

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.

In Part 3 we introduce a new aspect to SoAR – the SAR & H harbour craft and dockside equipment. In general, readers can’t be blamed for thinking almost exclusively about trains and locomotives when they are presented with the SAR. For the benefit of readers who might not be aware, the SAR Administration controlled a far wider spectrum of Government-owned infrastructure than just the railways. They had under the SAR & H umbrella, the following:

  • Railways
  • Harbours and harbour craft
  • A massive Country-wide Road Motor Service
  • Lighthouses and other ancillary equipment
  • South African Airways
  • Pipelines
  • Grain Elevators
  • Horticultural Nurseries
  • Children’s Homes – for railway servant’s families in need.  

The spotlight on the SAR’s fine fleet of harbour craft and dockside equipment in use in Durban makes up the bulk of this chapter.

Before we continue, I would like to offer my grateful thanks to the following persons who contributed photos and other material, directly or indirectly, that made it possible to portray the Administration’s impressive harbour fleet and activity in Durban:

  • Our cartographer, Bruno Martin, who also provided a few photos for this chapter.
  • Eurika Deminey who was in charge of the THL at a time when when I had access to their SAR negatives of harbour craft and associated equipment.
  • Yolanda Meyer who in more recent times allowed the scanning of additional THL images.
  • Eric Conradie for unearthing the wonderful historical images No's 1 & 2 below.
  • Trevor Jones – a highly respected South African shipping photographer who kindly made his beautiful images of SAR harbour craft available as well as providing his captions.
  • Scott Davidson who identified the Master of the tug F.C.STURROCK and provided other nautical information.
  • Dennis Mitchell of Sydney, Leith Paxton of Pinelands and Dick Manton of Macclesfield who contributed photos.
  • Graham Watsford of Melbourne who provided photos of Wests and the whaling activity in Durban.
  • Stuart Grossert who provided a photo taken by his late Dad.
  • Ashley Peter who allowed access to the late Brian Couzens images and provided captions for them.
  • Greg Hart who scanned the Brian Couzens images for SoAR.
  • Andrew Deacon for formatting this chapter on the website.

1. In Part 1 we mentioned that the first public railway in South Africa, from Point to Durban (later extended to Umgeni), was established by private enterprise and opened on 26 June 1860. It was 4ft-8½in gauge.  In 1875 Act 4 of the Natal Parliament authorised the takeover by the Government of the Durban - Point railway and construction of new railways north, south and west of Durban, beginning with the most important one - from Durban to the capital, Pietermaritzburg.  By this time Cape Government Railways already had 240 miles of 3ft-6ins gauge. Thank goodness the same gauge was decided upon for future railways in Natal:  "Although the Resident Engineer had taken over the new line between Point and Durban from the contractors in February 1878, and since that date had used this track regularly for goods traffic, it was on Saturday the 11th May of that year that the old 4ft-8½in gauge between Point, Durban and Umgeni was abandoned. The work in connection with changing over to the new 3ft-6in gauge was commenced immediately after the arrival of the last train on the Saturday evening and was completed late on Sunday night.  Thus the new line was ready for the first ordinary passenger train on the Monday morning when, for the first time, the new passenger rolling stock was placed on the railway for public service" [1].

There was a brief 15 months when standard and Cape gauge rolling stock could be seen side by side, thus enabling this extremely rare photo found by Eric Conradie, showing the original Point station with one of the 2nd batch of Beyer Peacock locomotives (delivered 1877/8) on a construction train, flat trucks loaded with rails and, in the foreground, a rake of standard-gauge open wagons. The standard-gauge track serving the platform as well as the two in the foreground had not yet been converted.  

[1] E D Campbell: "The Birth and Development of the Natal Railways", Shuter and Shooter, Pietermaritzburg, 1951.

2. An undated print from the Heritage Library showing a busy Durban Harbour, post Boer War but almost certainly prior to 1910.

3. A Railway photographer was on hand to photograph Windsor Castle II as she sailed from Durban in the 1930s.  While conveying 2988 troops and crew in the Mediterranean in 1943 this stately 4-funneller was lost through enemy action – one man lost his life.

4.  In another pre-WW2 scene, we see the SAR coaling appliances on the Bluff.  I was fascinated by these machines – watching the coal bins being moved across to the vessel’s open bunker and seeing the flap-door opened and releasing the load of coal – an exercise constantly repeated until the ship’s bunker was full.  

5.  Stuart Grossert writes: Here is a photo of the SAR tug "Harry Escombe" escorting "Clan Ogilvie" into Durban Harbour, taken by my father around 1935. 

6. During WW2, there was restricted access to the harbour but a Departmental photographer was given special permission to move around the area and take a number of very interesting photographs. Here is one showing HMS Nelson – one of the Royal Navy’s capital warships berthed at Point near the small-craft basin in May 1941.  Note the two pilot boats: on the left is the Ulundi and on the right the Swakop from Cape Town. 

7.   Sir William Hoy, for many years SAR's most powerful tug, towing HMS Nelson out of port past the coaling appliances in May 1941. I was once told that the tow was needed because Nelson’s keel was within a few inches of the sea-bed in the entrance channel and it was not considered safe for her to steam out under her own power. 

8. HMS Nelson leaving Durban Port in 1941 - destination unknown.  Taken during the early part of WW2, this is the most evocative photo by an SAR photographer I have seen.  The railwayman gives a "thumbs-up" to the chaps on Nelson's foredeck - the image speaks a thousand words and possibly more.    

9.  The Hoy again busy with a tow, this time the 22600 ton HMS Eagle, a RN aircraft carrier.  Note that in those days SAR harbour craft had plain yellow funnels; the green stripes were added in 1946.  

10. Another 1941 shot of HMS Eagle being assisted out of port by either the E.S.Steytler or the T.Eriksen – can any reader confirm which one?

11. In 1941, Durban had a distinguished visitor: the graceful Dutch Trans-Atlantic liner Nieuw Amsterdam in war-time austerity paint, seen here being assisted to her berth by SAR tugs. She brought the King of Greece to South Africa.  Note the Railway Policemen in their smart black uniforms with white pith helmets and gloves.  Apparently, the King was conveyed by rail in a private saloon to Pretoria and the SAR Chef allocated to serve the King was none other than Spiros Metaxsis who six years later, was Head Chef on the 1947 Royal Train.    

12. Up at Maydon Wharf, in December 1940, the SAR photographer found HMS Sussex tied up. She was in for a refit and spent some time in Durban for the work to be done.

13. A regular caller at Durban during the War was the Dutch hospital ship Oranje and here she is in the Prince Edward Graving Dock for repairs. On each of her visits, she would be met by a hospital train that would convey the injured and sick soldiers from the Western Desert, either to Oribi Military Hospital near Pietermaritzburg or Baragwanath Military Hospital near Johannesburg. With her overall white livery with green waistband and red crosses fore and aft as well as on her large single funnel, she stood out among the war-time visitors to Durban in their grey garb.  

14. This is the Durban harbour that I remember as a schoolboy during the War.  Grey troopships (even double-berthed) to get them all safely into port and away from enemy U-boats lurking in the roadstead!  Note the forest of wharf cranes used in those days. In the foreground a ferry is conveying troops with shore-leave across to Point.  On the right is the SAR tug Harry Escombe.

15. The last of our war-time photos shows a general view of Point as seen from the Bluff and in particular, the anti-submarine boom that was used to protect the harbour from enemy craft. The boom (in the open position) can be seen moored to a concrete caisson in the entrance channel.

16. In this early post-War photo we see two SAR ships: in the foreground with a covered plain yellow funnel, a dredger laid-up – any reader care to name her? The second vessel is on the left at T-Jetty – the collier with the yellow funnel and green stripes!  Also laid-up near the stern of the dredger is what appears to be a motor-torpedo boat – any comments welcome.  
This photo can almost certainly be dated to the late forties or early 1950s when there was a critical shortage of power-station coal in the Western Cape, caused by SAR's inability to bring sufficient quantities down the single-track Cape Main line so it had to be brought by sea!  As we know, the Cape Main Line was being electrified as far as Touws River at the time but even after this was completed the crisis continued due to the constraints caused by the Hex River Pass and single track.    

17. Moving forward to October 1946, we see E.S. Steytler towing and steering the disabled freighter Grainton into port with Sir David Hunter (amidships) and Sir William Hoy providing engine power at the freighter’s stern. 

18. The Grainton is still under tow as they move up the channel. Look closely and you will see the towing hawser taut off the tug’s stern.

19. The final shot of this set shows the E.S.Steytler has dropped her tow and Sir David Hunter together with Sir William Hoy will now take control of the vessel.

20. The matchless Sir William Hoy produces an impressive display of coalsmoke on the occasion of Durban 125th anniversary celebrations in May 1974. The Hoy was a product of the famous Tyneside shipyard of Sir W G Armstrong Whitworth, where she was launched in late 1928.  She was named after the first General Manager of the South African Railways. 

21. Moving well into the post-War period, we see the Durban-based dredger Bontebok in port. 

22. The early development of the port of Durban was dominated by the "Battle of the Bar" - the siltation of the port entrance caused by littoral drift of sand up the coast.  This battle was only won through the application of modern dredging techniques from the 1890s onwards. This dredging was maintained by large bow-well steam suction dredgers, of which the last was the Clyde-built Bontebok, dating from 1953 and seen here leaving port for the last time in February 1987 on a final ceremonial flag-bedecked trip to the offshore spoil grounds.

Skipper of the Bontebok for many years until her retirement was Captain John Baxter, son of a NGR Station Master and master modeller of SAR locomotives and rolling stock, whom we have mentioned before in these pages.

23.  A fine study of T.Eriksen as she is seen assisting the Amalia 

24. SAR ocean-going tugs berthed at Point waiting for their next assignment.  SAR tugs were always beautifully maintained; I never saw a tug in service that wasn’t immaculate!

25. Sir David Hunter was the last surviving twin-stacked tug to serve the SAR.  She worked until 1960.

26. Sir David Hunter assisting the Robin Kettering to leave port on a cloudy Durban day.  

27. On the bridge of a tug with her master, mate and helmsman.

28. The engineer officer of the T. Eriksen's crew stands in the engine-room alongside the ship’s telegraph, ready to execute the bridge’s instructions. 

29. The SAR tugs J.D.White and Sir William Hoy assisting the 34,183 ton Cunard cruise ship Caronia on a visit to Durban.

30. Tug J.D. White high and dry on the blocks for maintenance.

31. A pilot is leaving a break-bulk cargo ship after escorting her out of port. He is re-joining the pilot boat in the foreground.  

32. In this fine SAR photo, we see the A.M.Campbell cruising down the entrance channel past the T.Eriksen berthed at Point. The Campbell was commissioned in 1951 and served the Administration until 1982. A suburban train can be seen at Wests station on the Bluff on the other side of the channel. 

33. The Hoy and a sister tug are assisting a Union Castle mailship (Stirling or Athlone Castle) near the Prince Edward Graving Dock.   

34.  The magnificent Sir William Hoy, considered by many to be the finest of the coal-fired steam tugs in the South African ports, is shown passing Salisbury Island at some speed on a calm winter's morning in 1975, and trailing a characteristic tail of coalsmoke. Then nearly fifty years old, Hoy was the tug earmarked initially for preservation in a Durban-based maritime museum, but the thinness of her hull plating put paid to that plan.  Her name board, steering wheel, binnacle and other bridge equipment remain on display in the Port Authority offices in the former Customs Hall of the Ocean Terminal on the T-Jetty. 

35. The Table Bay attended by the Hoy and J.D.White. The latter tug was easily recognised by her flat-sided funnel.  Her Cape Town sister, the R.B.Waterston, had a similar funnel.

36. Floating Dock No.3 is hosting the Portuguese ss Zambezia while a bucket dredger and a suction dredger are tied up in the background. 

37. The A.M.Campbell makes a beautiful sight as she escorts the equally beautiful Italian liner Africa leaving port.  

38. In the late 1950s the Harbours Administration broke from its traditional practice of placing orders for steam tugs with British shipyards and commissioned a series of five small coal-fired pilot and lighter-handling tugs from a yard in Venice, Italy.  Durban received the J E Eaglesham, seen here leaving port at a rollicking 10 knots. After withdrawal from harbour service Eaglesham was displayed on the hard in a resort area near Midmar dam in the KwaZulu-Natal midlands, but did not prove a success and was subsequently dismantled.  The pilot tugs were traditionally named after Nautical Advisors in the Harbours Administration. 

39. The Eaglesham again, this time captured by a Departmental photographer in stormy seas inside the harbour!  Chinde and Straat Madura are the two vessels leading the line-up on the left.

40. On 11 January 1964 I found the J.D.White in action berthing a freighter.

41. The J.D.White was captured in dramatic weather by an SAR photographer in September ’65 while an Ellerman & Bucknall “City” ship is seen berthed in the background.

42. The photographer cleverly framed the J.R.More with three freighters!  The More was the last steam-powered tug ordered by the Administration, placed in service in 1961 and withdrawn in 1984. She has been preserved as a museum piece but unfortunately not in the condition that one would expect due to a lack of financial support from the authorities.

43. As I recall, Sir William Hoy was always active during her years in Durban harbour.  In the S A Railway Museum in the 1970s, we had plans to preserve her as part of the National Collection but unfortunately those plans came unstuck due to circumstances over which we had no control.

44.  J.D.White shepherding the Stellenbosch into port as seen from the Bluff.  In the foreground, to the right of the coaling appliance, is the jetty where the SAR ferries dropped off passengers from Point across the entrance channel. 

45. T-Jetty during the War was just a typical cargo-handling area in the harbour, but after hostilities ceased the SAR built a beautiful Ocean Terminal to accommodate Union Castle and other passenger ships calling at Durban. Unfortunately, aircraft could not land there and those from the Boeing Company in particular were changing the public’s approach to International travel.  The regular scheduled passenger ship business was dying and this magnificent terminal would soon suffer from a lack of use.  In later years with the increase in cruising the terminal has seen something of a revival.  In this official photo, we see Transvaal Castle berthed alongside and the Port Captain’s office tower in the centre.

46. This is the first of a set showing the massive 80 ton “Heavy-Lift” wharf crane at work near C-berth, Point.  This image was taken in 1948 when the new class 3E electric units were being off-loaded from the ship that had brought them from the UK.  Alongside the 3E is a 2M2 3rd class motor coach. 

47. In my opinion, this massive wharf crane could have been aptly named “Big Bill” – it was really massive and to the best of my knowledge, the only one in our ports.  In this photo taken in 1958, it is seen unloading new 5M rolling stock from the Clan Urquhart.  Thanks to Alistair Christison we can tell you some more about this crane: "the c shed crane was fixed in position—so ships had to shift up and down the wharf and even turn right round so the crane could get at what was on board"

48. Dave Parsons also visited the harbour when the 5M EMU stock was being off-loaded.  Here is a 5M 1st class motor coach still to be mounted on her bogies.

49.  The railway photographer excelled himself with this fine shot of “Big Bill” off-loading the Metro-Cammell 5M rolling stock in 1958.  Just compare the size of “Big Bill” with the standard 4-ton wharf cranes to the left in the photo. On the extreme left is a class 5E also just off-loaded - see next picture.  

50. The final photo of this set shows “Big Bill” off-loading a class 5E from a Clan Line ship.  The comparison in size between locomotive and crane emphasizes the massive structure of this giant that served Durban harbour for many years.  With the construction of electric locomotives and passenger rolling stock moving to South Africa, in particular by the Australian Union Carriage & Wagon Company, the work for this massive crane would largely drop away – certainly in terms of railway equipment.

51. Sir William Hoy typically making plenty of smoke is moving the DEMAG floating crane that could handle loads of 75 tons.  This provided the port authorities with more flexibility in that the crane could be taken to various points in the harbour to handle heavy loads.

52. The Henri G. being turned to set a course out the entrance channel by T.Eriksen, a tug that had served in Durban since 1936.  The Eriksen was accidentally sunk in the harbour in 1965 when she was struck by the propeller of the Portuguese ship Angola but was raised in quick time to continue her service after repairs in the graving dock.  She ended her days in Port Elizabeth when she was swopped with the John Dock from that port in 1967 – having served Durban for 30 years.

53. The Edinburgh Castle is assisted into port by two SAR tugs – one of which appears to making a determined effort to turn the bow of the mailship judging by the wash from the leading tug near the bow.  The vessel alongside in the background is one of the three Victory class ships that were the first Safmarine ever operated. (thank you Alistair) 

54. A fine study of a classic SAR & H tug: the F.C.Sturrock.  Built by the Ferguson Brothers in Glasgow in 1958/9, the Sturrock took the design of SAR tugs to new heights together with her sister Danie Hugo that served in Cape Town. 

55. The Sturrock’s engine room. Her triple-expansion engines, fed from 3 Scotch firetube boilers, were rated at 3096 IHP.  If any reader can identify the men in this photo I would be pleased to add their names to this caption.  

56.  From Engine Room to Bridge: still on the Sturrock, her Master, Reg Morton, is holding the binoculars.   

57. SAR tugs reminded me of graceful swans as they cruised around the harbour; for instance, from almost any angle the Sturrock was a good looker.  I found her in a quiet moment in January 1967.   

58. The steam tug John Dock, shown here approaching the T-Jetty at some speed in September 1968, spent the first thirty years of her career in Port Elizabeth, but transferred to Durban in 1967, and after a further ten years' service, was broken up locally in 1977. In the background, a portion of the Island View area of the port can be seen, as well SAR&H's first side-pipe trail suction dredger Ribbok, in her original black-and-grey livery. 

Three harbour tugs, the diesel-powered Danie du Plessis and the steam tugs J R More and F C Sturrock, assist the Cie. Generale Transatlantique steamer France alongside the passenger terminal at the T-Jetty in May 1972, on the liner's first of two calls at Durban. Then in the twilight of her career under the French flag, France was the longest passenger vessel in the world when completed in 1961. 

60. Steam to the rescue!  In the days before specialist deep-sea salvage tugs were widely available, the harbour tugs were designed to fulfil dual functions of harbour work and salvage, and the tugs performed many notable salvage operations.  Here the J R More is shown towing the laden but disabled Kuwaiti oil tanker Kazimah into Durban Harbour in October 1973. 

61. Dressed overall on the occasion of the 125th anniversary of the proclamation of the settlement of Durban, the J R More, the last large steam harbour tug built for SAR&H, approaches the tug jetty at the Point in May 1974.  This tug, together with F C Sturrock, was involved in a dramatic salvage of the American steamer Aimee Lykes, which ran aground on the Aliwal Shoal on her maiden voyage in October 1963. The MORE presently serves as the centrepiece of the Port Natal Maritime Museum in Durban, although her hull and on-board condition do raise concerns as to her long-term viability as an afloat exhibit.  

62. Can't take my eyes offa he-er!  The J.R.More assisting the Lloyd Triestino passenger ship Europa at the Ocean Terminal in the mid sixties.  

63. Safmarine’s S A Vaal (ex Transvaal Castle) makes a grand entry into Durban as seen from the Bluff. The SAR tug makes sure that her charge enters port safely.

64. A.M.Campbell holds fast until the S.A.Vaal  is safely tied-up at the Ocean Terminal.

65. The first non-steam powered large harbour tug for the port of Durban was the diesel-electric Danie du Plessis, named after a former general manager of the SAR&H, and built locally at the Bayhead yard of James Brown & Hamer in 1969. She was disposed of to CFM in Mozambique in 1987, but subsequently fell into disrepair in Maputo. She is shown here waiting to pick up an incoming vessel in the Durban entrance channel in 1977.

66. The DEMAG floating crane is being moved in the harbour by the Voith tug W. Marshall Clark – named after the renowned previous General Manager of the SAR & H.

67. We now turn our attention to rail activity at Wests on the Bluff and the opening scene is provided by Aussie Graham Watsford who described his excellent photo thus: “An unidentified H2 shunts flat cars loaded with coal skips at the coaling facility at Wests in early June, 1970”. I confirmed his further assumption that Durban was well-placed as a bunkering stop for shipping heading to India, Asia and Australia.  In his photo, Graham captured one of the coaling appliances – there were more along that quayside.  I remember watching them at work and was fascinated how the operator sitting up high in his cab would lower the grab onto a coal bin which would then be lifted and simultaneously swung over the collier’s side, with the trap-door released as soon as the bin was over the ship’s hatch.  This process went on continuously until that particular bunker was full.  The H2 tank engine would slowly move the train of flat cars forward as each bin was emptied.  It was also a dirty operation with coal-dust all over the place.  We agreed that ship bunkering must have declined dramatically in later years.
Today, export coal in very large quantities is conveyed to the Natal Coast at Richard’s Bay (north of Durban) where massive trains of 200 wagons are tippled through rotary couplers onto conveyor belts that feed the ships – a much more modern way of doing things!  (Transport Consultant Alistair Christison advises that these bins were also used for exporting pig iron) 

68. " The H2 tank engine would slowly move the train of flat cars forward as each bin was emptied.........." (from Les's description of Graham Watsford's photo above). 

69. Another Aussie, Dennis Mitchell of Sydney recorded these two H2 tanks working the coaling appliances.  

70. A more modern method of emptying the long strings of wagons coming down from the coalfields is to equip the wagons with rotating couplers.  Before that, the method depicted here was employed - i.e. the whole wagon was lifted and turned upside-down.  There were several of these along the Bluff. 

71.  In 1966, I photographed this H2 busy shunting flat wagons loaded with coal bins. Note her original capped chimney with capuchon.  

72. Another Graham Watsford photo which he describes thus: "The whaling operation at Durban was unusual. The point where the whales were landed and the processing facility were in separate locations and rail transport was used between the two. Here a whale catcher has left a group of whale carcases at the end of the slip, and two have been winched up onto one of the special flatcars and secured. The remainder are floating in the water".  
I can add: The slip was located at Wests opposite an area known as “Point” on the City side of the harbour.  From the slip, the railway conveying the carcases ran around the bottom of the promontory known as the Bluff to a point due south of the slip, in other words on the other side of the Bluff south of Durban (see Bruno's map), where the whaling factory was situated. During the whaling season the smell coming from that factory was particularly unpleasant! 
As a schoolboy living in Durban during the war, I tasted whale-meat in the military camp mess on top of the Bluff where my father was stationed as a pharmacist in the sick-bay.  He took me up there one day; climbing 365 steps up the side of the Bluff to reach the military camp.  The camp was provided for gunnery personnel who manned the large naval guns that were mounted up there as protection against possible enemy attack.  We were very conscious of the war in Durban because of all the naval ships and convoys calling by en route to the Middle East and Asia. In addition, a Japanese reconnaissance aircraft was noted flying over Durban – so our concerns were not unfounded!  

73. Graham continues: "At the loading slip, an unidentified 14R has arrived with another flat car for the remaining whales. When loaded, all will be taken to the processing plant on the south side of the Bluff. In the background, an SAR steam tug assists in the berthing of an arriving freighter". 

74.  An unidentified class 8 was keeping herself busy around Wests in December 1961.  This was a case of a “Kapenaar” in Natal!  Not many class 8s were in use around Durban.   

75. Taking a trip up to the Bluff, I found these two H2s busy feeding the coaling appliances.  These veteran tank engines were ideal for this type of work. Note the collier with open hatches ready for loading the bulk coal.

76. H2 tank engines at Wests as seen from the SAR Bluff ferry. 

77. Class H2's 227 (left) and 330 on shunting duty at Wests on Durban's Bluff. These locomotives were sub-shedded at Wests from Greyville.  Note the 'skull & cross bones' signs on the side tanks, warning against the overhead catenary. 

78. The small sub-shed at Wests on Durban's Bluff was a servicing point for the Class H2 tank engines from Greyville Shed that were used for shunting the various yards in the area. On 7th April 1972, four H2s were receiving attention here, numbers 227, 236, 300 and 330.   

79. On the afternoon of Saturday, 22 November 1975 the RSSA Natal Branch organised a special train from Durban to Wests and Isipingo and then returning to Durban.  It was hauled by H2 No 329 “Moby”.  Here No 329 is seen running around the train at Wests before coupling on and heading south to Isipingo.  The special was intended to mark the withdrawal of the H2s from regular service after almost 75 years of continuous operation.  The main reason for their longevity was that until the arrival of Class 36 diesel shunters earlier in 1975, the H2’s were the only locomotives able to pass beneath the staiths of the similarly aged Bluff coaling appliance at Wests (from the heights of which Brian may possibly have taken this photo), and up to four or five of them were rostered for this work at any time.  RSSA member and prolific Natal correspondent John Gilberthorpe was the good-natured fireman on this train.  However, two of the venerable Class H2s (Nos 329 and 330) were retained in service at Greyville Loco Depot until its eventual closure in September 1976, mainly to shunt the coal stage – no doubt the authorities decreed that any other engines were too heavy (or valuable?!) to send up the rickety structure.

A final note on this picture: today's Health and Safety executive would throw a cadenza were they to come upon this scene with little children scampering over the tracks, no day-glo jackets and a scooter parked foul of one of the tracks.    

80. Bruno Martin also participated in the special event on 22 November 1975 to mark the occasion of the withdrawal of steam traction from Durban and the imminent closure of Greyville running shed.  Bruno adds: "Veteran tank locomotive class H2 4-8-2 No 329 ‘Moby’, one of two class H2 locomotives still working at the Greyville shed, was drafted in to haul a consist of three side-door suburban coaches from Durban station to Wests, then on to Isipingo and back to Durban.  The H2 class tank locomotives spent the last years of service on shunting duties on the Bluff before being replaced by class 36 diesel-electric locomotives on 20 August 1975". 

81. With tanks overflowing, Moby is coupled up for the 10km run back to the junction with the South Coast line near Montclair and on to Isipingo, some 7,75km to the south.  That is the legendary John Gilberthorpe leaning out of the cab.  John has not been well lately but is being well cared for by Irina in Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch.

82. At Isipingo, an extended stop was needed to fill the loco’s tanks from a leaky hosepipe. Thereafter, Moby made the run back to Durban at a fine pace. After arrival at Durban station, many of the participants of the excursion gathered around to thank the crew and to have one last look at Moby before the H2 returned to Greyville to drop fire. Greyville steam shed was closed on 15 September 1976.

83.  We're not quite done with Wests yet.  We just had to include Leith's portrait of 14R 1703, made in May 1971.  Like the H2s, the 14Rs were undaunted by the fearsome hills of Natal - the entire class of 101 engines gave > 60 years service, although from c 1970 onward this was mainly on lowly hauler and shunt work between Durban, Bayhead, Wests and Isipingo.

84. During a visit from Sydney in October 1974, Dennis Mitchell took this shot from the adjacent Bluff Road at Wentworth marshalling yard. Ashley Peter comments:  These are the B13 an B14 shunting-link locos (which were allocated to the Jacobs and Clairwood municipal private siding complexes respectively), taking a simultaneous servicing break; probably at lunch time.  Interestingly enough, although the tracks have long since been removed, the water column still stands in that very spot today!

85. Back at Point: in December 1961 I saw this S2 busy shunting wagons on the quayside. Her sharp staccato exhaust resonated off the goods shed walls.

86. A class 14R fetching breakbulk cargo from the mv Stellenbosch during the 1950s.  Most of us will have forgotten that little more than generation ago this is what quaysides looked like. Today the cranes used for break-bulk cargo have virtually disappeared and there is hardly a dock in the land where the rails have not been tarred over or ripped out. Where they are still there they seldom get used, even at container terminals. 

87. Graham says: "A sparkling clean S2 No 3799 going about its duties shunting the Docks area in early March 1970".  I can add: The Ocean Terminal with the Port Captain’s office tower can be seen in the background. Note also the Ellerman & Bucknall “City” liner at the end of T-Jetty. 

88. In December 1960 I visited the harbour in Durban and watched the off-loading and mounting of 5E1 No 478 onto her bogies so that she could be hauled to Pietermaritzburg Shops for commissioning and release into service.  In this first photo of the set, we see the bogies being moved to the track so that the body of the unit can be mounted.

89. In the second photo, we see two 5E1 bodies already off-loaded from the Clan Line ship and ready for mounting onto their bogies.  My Dad, in the foreground, is more interested in a game of baseball being played by a group of Japanese seamen on the quayside!    

90.  Unit 478 has her body lifted in readiness to mount on her bogies.  My old man, on the right, is finally interested in the rail activity! 

91. 478’s body is swung over a sister to get her into place for the mounting.

92. 478’s body is now ready to be lowered onto her bogies.  Down she comes and if you look closely you will see a man right under her body making sure that she couples correctly onto her bogies – dangerous duty.  Good thing “Big Bill” is handling the lift! 

93. Mission accomplished!  5E1 478 is ready for haulage to Maritzburg where she will be commissioned. 

94.  In January 1966, the new class 33 diesels from General Electric USA were being off-loaded and here are three of them (No's 62,63 & 65) ready for haulage to an SAR facility for checking before releasing them into service. 

95. Another shot of the three class 33s before they were hauled away for commissioning.

96.  Brian was on hand in Durban Harbour to capture the historic arrival of the ten air-conditioned A-1/AA-2 twin dining-car sets imported from Japan when they were off-loaded from the Masa-Maru on Monday, 15 January 1968.  The coaches, numbered 401-420, were brought ashore by the SAR’s monster 80-ton crane at the Point C-Shed berth, which placed them on trestles to await positioning on their locally manufactured Commonwealth bogies.  The coaches were later hauled to Koedoespoort for installation of internal fittings.

The first set, No's 401/2 (named “Gamka”), used for an official handover function to SAR management by the manufacturers, Messrs Tokyu Car Manufacturing Company, on Friday 8 March 1968 on Platform 14 of Johannesburg station.  By the end of March 1968 all these coaches had entered regular service.  Incidentally, two of the twin diner sets were painted in Orange Express colours and the others in standard SAR red and grey.

97. Early in 1972, Brian went to the Point to see the off-loading of brand new Class 34-200 diesels, which arrived fully assembled from General Motors’ EMD plant in Illinois, USA. This order of 50 locomotives, mostly destined for use in the Cape Midlands, was imported through Durban as Port Elizabeth did not have facilities to handle these large Co-Co main line diesels.

98.  A few days later history was made when the SAR’s Chief Mechanical Engineer gave permission for the Class 34-200s to be hauled inland from Durban Harbour in blocks of 16-18 locomotives, each worked by four Class 6E1 units.  Here one of the trains is seen departing from Cato Creek Yard at Durban’s Point, approaching the Quayside Road bridge next to the Customs House.  Even the 6E1’s were rare visitors to Durban in 1972, as the advent of air-braked car trains was still some time away. Class 5E1 units held a virtual monopoly on the vacuum-braked goods and mainline passenger trains over the lines radiating south, west and north of Durban.

99. A further view of the GM Class 34 “block load” trundling along the Esplanade.  Reports at the time indicated that the diesels would be worked directly to the Cape Midlands, with the 6E1 units coming off at the end of the electrified section at Bethlehem after which, interestingly, a number of the “untried” diesels would be started up to haul the others on to Port Elizabeth via Kroonstad and Bloemfontein.  However, it is understood that there are photos of at least one of these loads taken somewhere between Germiston and Pretoria, suggesting that at least one, but possibly more, of the loads was actually worked to Koedoespoort for commissioning. 

In this panoramic view of Durban Harbour, taken from one of the high-rise buildings overlooking Durban’s Victoria Embankment, two Class 5E1 units can be seen slowly hauling a goods train along the Esplanade line from Cato Creek to Dalbridge.  Thought to be taken in 1968/9, the goods train, which includes a large crated abnormal load on a U-type well wagon immediately behind the locomotives, as well as a random assortment of bogie and short wagons, is probably a hauler (local transfer freight) destined for Bayhead, which was the main concentration yard for arrivals and departures of inland general goods traffic (see Bruno's map).  There has always been a strictly applied permanent speed restriction of 15km/h along this route, ostensibly to limit the effect of vibrations and noise caused by heavy goods trains on the numerous tall residential buildings across the road from the railway line.  One can but wonder how necessary this still is in today’s day and age when juggernauts on rubber tyres hurtle along the adjacent road without a care at 60km/h plus!  

101. Two THL photos of the Esplanade showing the railway to the harbour bring this episode to a close: In this view (c 1946) we see the area that was proposed by the SAR Administration for a new Durban station.  This was rejected by the Durban Corporation.  The residential Twines Hotel in the middle of the right edge was my home during WW2 – lots of schoolboy memories of trains including troop trains trundling by on the line to the harbour.    

102. A single 5E on the curve near the Yacht Club is hauling quite a long goods load to the harbour c 1955. 


After publishing Natal, Part 3 covering the Harbour and Wests, a batch of 17 additional images was located in my photo files which simply had to be annexed to Part 3 to complete the presentation of Durban and its maritime activity.

The additional images vary from the golden years of sea travel to more recent times when Voith water-tractors replaced the graceful steam tugs of a past era.

103. The CITY OF EXETER being escorted into Durban by one of the classic SAR steam tugs.  Another tiny vessel – an SAR ferry - appears to be heading straight for the Ellerman & Bucknall vessel as she makes her way across the entrance channel to Point from Wests. 

104. This is the small-craft basin at Point.  Two First-Class tugs are berthed outside of the basin while a pilot boat can be seen at the end of a motley collection of small craft in the foreground. 

105. Cunard’s 34,183 ton CARONIA makes a splendid sight as she prepares to leave Port with the assistance of SIR WILLIAM HOY at her bow and another SAR tug at the stern. The public under the watchful eye of a railway policeman wave goodbye to those lucky folk travelling on the CARONIA!  This is still from the days when ships were beautiful and graceful – not like today’s floating blocks of flats! 

106. The first of three photos showing the ATHLONE CASTLE sailing from Durban on 2nd January 1964. This vessel had a sister ship named STIRLING CASTLE on the UK – South Africa Union Castle mail service. 

In the second photo we see the pilot boat giving the Athlone a friendly blast on her foghorn to bid her “Bon Voyage” as she heads down the South African coast and on to England.  

108. In this last photo of ATHLONE CASTLE, you can see the open hatch near the pilot boat’s bow that will allow the Pilot to leave the mailship and return to Port.

109. Same vantage point but a different ship - the Lloyd Triestino liner EUROPA, sailing from Durban six days later on 8th January 1964 escorted as usual, by a pilot boat. This 11,430 ton liner was built in Italy in 1952 together with her sister AFRICA.  They were regular callers at Durban. This is the first of three views of this graceful vessel as she left Port. 

110. In this second view, the SAR’s pilot boat is positioning herself alongside the EUROPA so that the Pilot can transfer from the liner having completed his duties on EUROPA’S bridge. 

A last view of EUROPA leaving Durban with the SAR’s pilot boat in close attendance. 

112. The CITY OF PORT ELIZABETH leaving Durban on 7th January 1966 accompanied by one of the new diesel pilot boats.  I believe that these Ellerman & Bucknall vessels were a delight to travel on with extremely good food and attentive stewards. 

113. In December, 1975 my late Daughter Alice took this interesting photo at Point showing in the foreground, the SAR’s ferry that provided a service across to the Bluff at Wests.  An SAR pilot boat was also captured in the same scene with the dry-bulk carrier SKJELBRED tied up at the coaling appliances on the Bluff side of the harbour.  

114. The BRAEMAR CASTLE (note the modified funnel) being escorted from Durban by the SAR tug J.D.WHITE. 

On a cloudy day Alice took this fine shot of the Safmarine’s S.A.ORANJE, berthed at the Ocean Terminal on T-Jetty in December 1975.  Two SAR tugs were already in attendance just prior to the ship’s departure for East London and the Cape.  One of the new-generation tugs – JAN HAYWOOD – got into the photo albeit just her stern. 

116. Peter Robinson photographed the S.A.ORANJE leaving Durban with a diesel pilot boat in attendance.  I knew this ship very well, having sailed on her as the PRETORIA CASTLE on three separate voyages when she was still part of the Union Castle fleet.  However, even after Safmarine took her over, she was still managed and crewed by Union Castle. 

In December 1971 Roger Perry photographed a cargo vessel bringing new class 34200 diesel locomotives into Durban from the General Motors plant at La Grange, Ill. in the USA. 

118. During a visit to Durban in July ’93, I photographed the last of the grand steam tugs placed in service by the SAR -  J R MORE and the diminutive pilot tug ULUNDI at the Maritime Museum in Durban.  When this photo was taken, they were still in reasonable condition. 

Roger’s atmospheric photograph, made in September 1977, brings this presentation of Durban Harbour to a close.

In the next chapter on Natal, we will take the old main line, known as the "OML", from Rossburgh to Cato Ridge