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Part 6: Pietermaritzburg - Greytown incl branches - 1 by Les Pivnic ©

Compiled by Les Pivnic with valued assistance from Bruno Martin and Ashley Peter.

A straight-edge laid from the bottom left to the top right of this image cuts across the railway five times. Try it. Barely 4 miles as the crow flies from the centre of town, the sidings in the middle are at City View where, in a final flourish, trains leave the city bowl via a series of 5-chain-radius horseshoes tight as a whiplash.  These GMAs were dragging their 640-ton load around the first of them. The photo was made in 1973 when an extra siding had recently been added; the filling material for its earthworks having come from inside the curve, thereby marring a spot that had been a favourite camping ground over the years.

Camping at City View left permanent impressions on the soul and holes burnt by cinders in the tent. By the sixties you would be woken a dozen times during the night by the explosive percussion of double-headed Garratts clawing their way up the 1-in-30, which, I should add, was equivalent to 1-in-22 on those ferocious curves.  A decade later this hourly disruption had become an almost continuous cacophony as the number of trains increased from 40/day (20 each way) in 1962/63 to double that by 1973, rendering sleep impossible. About this time SAR gave up individual scheduling of trains, simply cramming them into the pipeline using an operating 'system' that seemed to combine staff-and-ticket with smoke signals.  It was a wonder there were so few head-ons or rear-ends (in fact I can't recall any except the tragic collision between the District Engineer's inspection trolley and a Wartburg branch goods in 1969). 

What we are about to describe for you was, for a few years at least, SAR's toughest operation; after 1970, while it lasted, perhaps the greatest steam show on earth. 

In this chapter, we are leaving the Natal Main Line to travel north of Maritzburg on what is known as the Greytown line. Providing transport to service the extensive wattle plantations in the vicinity of New Hanover appears to have been the chief motivation for the development of this branch. Several alignment options were surveyed between July 1896 and March 1897 before a route was pegged out and work started early in 1898. The NGR’s policy at the time was to build low-cost branch lines with the minimum of formation work and then carry out improvements as and when the volume of traffic justified the expense. Consequently, the first section from Pietermaritzburg to Albert Falls adopted a ruling gradient of 1 in 30 partly compensated for 300 ft (91-metre) minimum radius curves. From Victoria Station to the Melsetter summit at Claridge, the line gains 900 ft (274 m) in height over a distance of 7 miles (11km). A noteworthy feature of the alignment on this section is the famous horseshoe on a 300 ft radius curve. The rails reached Albert Falls on 16 February 1899, New Hanover on 6 September and Dalton on 19 October. Train services began operating to these stations as from 10 May, 25 October 1899 and 1 February 1900, respectively. The rails reached Greytown on 3 July 1900 and on 25 July the entire 65 miles (104.5km) was opened to traffic. The iron girders salvaged from the Natal Main Line’s Umsindusi River bridge were re-used for crossing the Dorpspruit, while spans from the former Inchanga bridges were used to take the line across the Mpolweni and Mvoti rivers. 

However, anyone familiar with the area will know that the line first splits at Schroeders with a sub-branch to Bruyns Hill and again at Dalton to serve another sub-branch to Glenside. Heading north from Dalton, the main branch is joined by yet another sub-branch from Mount Alida at Chailey before finally arriving at Greytown.  The main branch then continues to its final terminus at Kranskop. The branches to Bruyns Hill and Glenside were opened in 1915, while the extension to Kranskop was opened in two stages, first to Boscombe (later renamed Ahrens) in 1913 and opened throughout in 1914. The branch from Chailey Junction to Mount Alida, named the Greytown-Rietvlei railway, was opened in 1931 and was built to serve the extensive wattle plantations in the area. 

The Greytown branch together with its sub-branches could well be named "Garratt Country" because Garratts of at least four classes served the entire area over several years until finally being replaced by diesels during 1974.  8th class 4-8-0s were used at Greytown for shunting but Garratts of classes GCA, GDA, GF and GMA did the road work. Double-heading was usual, even with the large GMAs, which have a tractive effort of 60 700 lbs (at 75 percent boiler pressure).  Brian Couzens managed to photograph triple-headed GMAs! They were allowed 365 tons when single while the load for a double-header was restricted to 684 tons (increased to 775 tons for down trains from 1973/4).  On the Greytown line "Up" meant trains away from Pietermaritzburg and "Down" was away from Greytown, regardless of which way the gradients were, of course.

The line was very scenic with an abundance of horseshoes and reverse curves giving photographers the opportunity to take very dramatic photos as you will see in this chapter. City View, less than 10 miles out from Maritzburg heading north, was one of the favourite spots for photographers to capture the spectacle of men and machines battling the grades. The abundance of photographic opportunities at City View will become apparent as readers of this chapter work their way through the numerous photos taken in that vicinity.

In this chapter we also welcome two new contributors to Soul of a Railway.  They are Robert Kingsford-Smith and Glen Mills, both Aussies who spent some time in South Africa in the 1970s photographing the old SAR & H.  Welcome Gentlemen!  SoAR will be that much richer with your contributions.  Glen's photos will appear in Part 2 of the Greytown line.

We also need to thank our regular contributors of photos – Peter Stow, Eugene Armer, Dick Manton, Bruno Martin, Ashley Peter and Greg Hart for the photos from the Brian Couzens Collection held by the Durban branch of the RSSA.  Bruno Martin needs special mention, not only for his regular map contributions but also several interesting photographs including the priceless opening shot of the NGR Loco Depot at Mayors Walk in  Pietermaritzburg which became the core of the SAR's Mechanical Workshops in that City after Union.  Thanks also to Charlie Lewis for his restoration work in Photoshop and Andrew Deacon for the formatting of this chapter.

Please note: Wherever possible, photo contributors have been asked to provide the captions for their photos.

The Greytown line is presented in two parts: This part takes in the Loco Depot at Masons Mill and then after looking in at the NGR Shed at Mayors Walk, we set out from Victoria Yard and travel along the line as far as Ottos Bluff. In the next chapter we will resume our journey at Albert Falls.

1. In the centre of this historical photo is the NGR's running shed at Mayors Walk, built alongside the first Mechanical Workshop at Pietermaritzburg. Steam locomotive repairs were first carried out in Pietermaritzburg by the Natal Government Railways (NGR) when the running shed and erecting shop was taken into use on 19 January 1902. In 1907, the pits in the erecting shop were completed and the coal stage was modified so that longer locomotives could be accommodated. The year 1910 saw the erecting shop extended and two 35-ton overhead electric travelling cranes installed for lifting locomotives. On 1 February 1913, the workshops, which had until then been under the control of the Mechanical Engineer in Durban, were placed under the control of a resident mechanical engineer. At about the same time, the machine shop was extended and additional machinery installed. Further extensions to the erecting shop came in 1923 for the assembly of electric locomotives when the electrification of the Glencoe – Pietermaritzburg portion of the Natal Main Line was undertaken. 40 class 1E electric units were placed in service. One of two experimental shunting locomotives for the Congella Marshalling Yard was assembled at the workshops in 1936, followed by a further 10 units of the class ES in 1939. (compiled by Bruno Martin from information supplied by David Wills). 

2. We now move from Mayors Walk to the SAR running shed at Masons Mill, completed in 19XX.  This line up at the shed on a Sunday in July 1955 had (left to right): class 17, GC, 17, 19,1 and GCA.  All were still in service at the time. 

3. When photographed at Masons Mill shed in January 1955, U 1377 was seeing out its last few months of service by performing hauler work between the Victoria and Masons Mill yards. 

Class U was ordered by CME Collins in 1927.  Ten were designed and built by Maffei in 1927 with detail design by the CME's drawing office in Pretoria.  They were powerful machines with more than 50,000 lbs of tractive effort at 75% boiler pressure, but while Maffei deserves every credit for the tough, well thought out overall scheme they inexplicably accepted Collins' specification of short-travel valves with Z-ported cylinders (this more than 20 years after P A Hyde had introduced modern cylinder design to the CSAR).  The main feature of the design, which may be described as half Garratt, half Fairlie, was the extension of the boiler cradle backwards to the rear buffer beam, thereby facilitating the installation of a mechanical stoker.  In this form they were tolerably successful, working the Natal Main Line from Glencoe to Volksrust (77 miles) over the Ingogo reverses and Laingsnek Pass until the reverses were eliminated and the line electrified in 1938. 

Thereafter, in spite of their voracious appetite, they were employed on the Vryheid-Glencoe coal traffic, gradually being transferred away during WWII to perform inter-yard hauler work on the Reef.  Two were retained at Glencoe until the mid-fifties; the last one was withdrawn in July 1957 having just made 30 years of service.  

4. GC 2184 at Masons Mill in January 1958. There were six class GCs, introduced in 1924 to run on 45lb rail.  Two were stationed at Port Shepstone and four at Masons Mill (sub-shedded at Franklin and Richmond) for most of their lives.  As the lighter-laid branches were upgraded their usefulness came to an end during 1961 after almost 40 years service. 

5. Two GDAs and a GC lined up at Masons Mill in July 1958.  Until the Greytown passenger service was discontinued in 1961 all five GDAs were stationed here. 

6. As you can see, those engines in the previous photo were flanked by classes 1E and 1A!  

7. My allocation lists do not distinguish between classes 1 and 1A (nor less 1B!) but Masons Mill seemed to have fewer 1s in later years.  This unknown 1A was standing outside the 15M shed in 1961. 

8. In December 1960 I visited Masons Mill Loco and found GDA 2258 on shed, waiting for her next turn of duty. During this visit I also found a couple of G class tanks and GC 2181 all out of service but my photos of them were particularly poor and not up to the standard required for SoAR. 

9. Leith came to the rescue with his side-on study of recently withdrawn G 213 in July 1962.  This was the redoubtable D A Hendrie's first design for the Natal Government Railways.  Although they marked the end of the NGR's tank engine era, being soon superseded by Hendrie's much larger-boilered class 1 tender locomotives, the G class was successful and dependable in both shunting and industrial service, all 25 gave more than 50 years service, albeit mainly in shunting and industrial use. 

10. Five years later, in January 1965 I was back at Masons Mill and on this occasion a number of classes 1/1A were taking a breather in the shed before resuming their shunting duties around Maritzburg.  Class 1 No 1266 is in the foreground and a 1A (ex 1B) with Hendrie steam-reverse on the next road.  Several of the various class 1s gave > 70 years service. 

11. Here is 1266 again with a sister coupled behind her – both getting ready for further duty in the yards at Masons Mill. My locomotive allocation lists show that as of July 1972 there were still seven class 1s shedded at Masons Mill. 

12. Engine 1443 was originally a class 1B with a trailing pony-truck under the cab. According to Frank Holland these were the very first “Mountain-type” engines in the World when introduced to traffic in 1904, specifically for passenger service. They were altered to 4-8-0s between 1926 and 1928. 

13. GC 2184 at Masons Mill awaiting attention outside the 15M shop. 

14. Along with classes GM and GF, the GCAs were among the most successful classes of Garratt on SAR: GCA 2199 at Masons Mill in July 1962.  In the background, 8C 1178 was recovering empty B bogies off the old coal stage - about 3 years later it was replaced with a more modern facility when the new shed was built c 1964/5 (see photo 21).  

15. Almost like a scene from the Fiddletown and Copperopolis, 8C 1178 perched on the trestle that served the coal stage, July 1962. 

16. Class 8D 1200 in September 1966. On the right is the now disused embankment leading to the old coal-stage trestle and in the background is the new 15M shop. 

17. A fine portrait of 1A 1266 outside the old shed in July 1962 with another of the same class visible in the background.  At this time there were still 12 of Hendrie's landmark design allocated to Masons Mill. 

18. If the GCAs along with the GFs and GMs were among SAR's most successful Garratt classes, the GFs certainly outdid them in looks. All 64 were German-built (Hanomag and Maffei) 1927/8 and the old adage that if an engine looks right it is right certainly applied to them.  Equally at home in goods or passenger service, with a wide (60lb) route availability, all except one gave well over 40 year's service. That includes four sold to Mocambique.  Frank Holland tells us that the exception, GF 2424, was destroyed in an accident in 1937. 

19. The 25 GOs (all Henschel 1953) showed the bad influence on locomotive specifications by the Chief Civil Engineer - one might almost describe them as white elephants from the start.  As with the GMAs, which were restricted to 15 tons per axle ostensibly to run on 60lb rail, the GO's axleload was held to 13 tons so that they might be used on 45lb lines.  Neither type was used on lines that could not take >18 tons per axle (from the 70s this increased to 22 tons) so both types were unnecessarily limited in their usefulness.  How the CCE's department would have coped with the knowledge that the other SAR was running 22-ton axleload locomotives on 60lb rail as long ago as 1926 will unfortunately never be known. 

The sadness is that no expense was spared when preparing the specifications for these extremely well-built machines, with their cast-steel beds (cylinders cast integral with the frames), self-adjusting pivots, roller-bearing axleboxes, mechanical stokers and mechanical lubrication of every moving part. 

20.  A typical weekday at Masons Mill on the eve of dieselisation, in July 1973.  Visible are classes GF, GCA, GMA and 14R. 

21. Western end of the shed, showing how it was remodeled to accommodate a proper gravity ashpit and modern coal stage.  After only ten years it became more or less redundant as all road work for steam out of Pietermaritzburg had ended by the end of 1974, leaving only shunting and hauler work to linger on until the early 80s. 

22. Twilight years of a great shed. According to the August 1973 edition of the RSSA Newsletter, Masons Mill shed was home to 97 Cape Gauge Garratts (56 GMA/M; 34 GF; 7 GCA) and 4 Narrow Gauge Garratts (operating on the Umlaas Road-Mid Illovo and Estcourt-Weenen branches) – a total of 101 – the first Garratt Century on the SAR.  In addition to the 101 Garratts, there were 13 Class 14R; 6 Class 19A/AR and 4 Class S2 allocated to Masons Mill making a grand total of 124 locomotives. (thank you Bruno Martin). 

23. A pair of GMAs leaving the shed to take yet another double-headed load out of Sleepy Hollow (the local nickname for Pietermaritzburg).  Steam out of Pietermaritzburg certainly finished on a high note. 

24. To make room for the new coalstage and ashpits the 15M shed was moved to the south side of the main shed and admin buildings, c 1964.  Cowans of Sheldon break-down crane No 164 was fired up to lift a GMA's ridiculously small front water tank in March 1974. 

25. All is quiet at Masons Mill shed after the last of the Garratts, Nos. 4077 and 4099, left in May 1982 for Mozambique – their last duty was working the shunt at the Willowton Industrial sidings. With a solitary Garratt, GMA No. 4162 listed as staged, the long reign of the Garratt locomotives on the branches north and south of Pietermaritzburg came to an end.

Masons Mill shed remained open to handle steam locomotives coming in for overhaul and repairs at the Mechanical Workshop in Mayors Walk. When the prolonged drought and falling water levels in the Midmar and Albert Falls Dams restricted the supply of water to the borough of Pietermaritzburg, the shortage of water also affected Masons Mill shed and consequently steam shunting ceased on 16 May 1983. 

26. This photo was taken on a hot summer’s afternoon in the late 1970s when Charles Parry and Bruno were granted permission by the loco foreman, Mr A E van der Merwe, to roam around Masons Mill steam shed – two unidentified 14Rs simmering quietly after having completed their duties for the day. 

27. The sidings at Masons Mill became a graveyard for out of service steam locomotives following the arrival, in April 1974, of the first batch of diesel-electric locomotives at Masons Mill's new diesel shed. Seen in this photograph is a row of staged Class S2 shunting locomotives lined up on ‘death row’ after having been made redundant.  Within a few months, steam traction on the branch lines leading out of Pietermaritzburg was rapidly displaced by the newcomers. By August, the Greytown branch was worked by diesel locomotives as far as Dalton leaving only the far end of the line to Kranskop and the sub-branches steam-operated for a few months longer.

28. Masons Mill Marshalling Yard photographed from the Edendale Road overhead bridge one late afternoon with a solitary Class GMA Garratt on hauler duty taking a freight train up the main line to Pietermaritzburg station.  

The first stage of Masons Mill marshalling yard, comprising 15 tracks, was completed in April 1926 to coincide with the Natal Main Line electrification from Diamana (now Danskraal, Ladysmith) to Pietermaritzburg.  By the late 1970s the yard had grown considerably and was still being expanded to cope with anticipated further surges in traffic from off the Greytown, Cape-Natal and Richmond branches. The traffic increases never materialised because this enormous capital outlay was made fruitless by the Road Transportation Act of 1977. 

29. Class GMA Garratt No.4168 in super-shine condition photographed at Masons Mill a day before the ‘Farewell to Steam’ trip (one of the several farewell trips staged in 1976 and 1977) from Pietermaritzburg to Howick on 23 November 1975. On 9 May 1977 she was involved in a head-on collision with two runaway Class 5E1s which left her front badly damaged and mainframe buckled.  

30. The last steam locomotive to be overhauled Pietermaritzburg Mechanical Workshop was Class 15CA No 2046, seen here at Victoria Yard. To mark the occasion a special test run was organised on 11 December 1985 by the Ass't Mechanical Engineer, David Wills. Members of the RSSA, representatives of the press and staff from the workshops were accommodated in two DZ trucks and two swing door suburban coaches and given the rare treat of a free ride from the Mechanical Workshops at Mayors Walk to Victoria Yard on the Greytown branch.  The engine is running around its train (on the right in the platform road) before coupling up and heading back to Pietermaritzburg station. In the background four class 35-600 diesels (a lash-up that replaced two double-headed GMA loads) just in from the Greytown line, were about to take their load through to Masons Mill yard. 

31. On the 'Kruger Day' public holiday, 10 October 1973, arrangements had been made for a swing-door passenger coach to be attached to a goods train from Victoria Yard to Schroeders and return. Under the direction of Masons Mill Loco Foreman "Links" van der Merwe, GF 2401 "Magdelena" (recently transferred from Nelspruit) and GMA 4141 were assigned to work the train. Here the two locomotives are seen arriving at Victoria with a load from Masons Mill, from which they would uncouple to move over to their train waiting on the platform road. On the extreme right of the photograph the passenger coach is visible alongside the platform, already attached to the train, with the guards van behind. A class 14R and another GMA can be seen in the background.  

32. Victoria Yard in August 1974, right at the end of  steam on the line. Trains for the Greytown line were made up at either Masons Mill or Victoria yards. In this early morning view a GF and a GMA were about to tackle the seven mile, 52-curve climb from Victoria to Claridge. Most trains were double GMA's but the smaller Garratts used on the branches from Greytown and  Schroeders were frequently paired with GMA's when they were brought to and from washouts. This was one of the last workings to go diesel, surviving until October 1974. 

33. North east of Pietermaritzburg's N3 bypass there are extensive industrial estates, all of which were served by private sidings at least until the end of the eighties.  Until the early seventies those sidings were attended by Masons Mill's venerable class 1s, but by 1973 these jobs had been taken over by 14Rs.  On 21 July 74 class 14R 1704 was shunting the Willowton estates near Mountain Rise at the foot of the climb to Claridge. 

34. In April 1968 these GFs brought 1107-down goods with poplar logs, pit props and general freight down the hill from Claridge, about to pass under a new overbridge at Mountain Rise that replaced the level crossing in the foreground. 

35. The 1-in-30 is biting into the momentum of this GCA+GMA combination with a heavy up ballast special in April 1968.  That's the N3 bypass in the background and between it and the train is the industrial line to Willowton industrial estates. 

36. Piloting an unknown GMA, the GF with the springbok heads is No 2417, once a proudly maintained engine in the Nelspruit fleet.  It was transferred to Masons Mill when the Graskop branch was dieselised in May 1973.  The train is an up goods approaching Belfort on the 1-in-30 incline to Claridge. 

37.  The branch was too busy to allow a light engine to occupy precious line space so even the lowly Greytown shunter had to do its bit.  This was 8th class No 1076 approaching Belfort with 1122-up T&P in April 1968. 

38. A pair of GMAs with a full load of fertilizer coming through the disused halt at Belfort in May 1971. 

39. Coal and mt tankers destined for the sugar mill at Jaagbaan along the Glenside branch.  Beyond Jaagbaan the branch was still laid with 45lb rail hence the GCA which was returning to its away-from-home base at Dalton after washout. July 1968. 

40. Coming through Belfort when it was a semi-rural area on the outskirts of Pietermaritzburg, a goods bound for Schroeders was running alongside the Ottos Bluff Road, heading towards City View, with GMAM 4100 leading 4138. During the winter months these garratts tended to run stack first, while in the summer they ran bunker first. 1st September 1973.  

41. Up empties approaching City View.  Theoretically "permissive working" applied to trains in the same direction in a section.  This meant they were supposed to be 20 minutes apart. However, if applied strictly in accordance with the rules, on the Greytown line this would cut traffic clearance considerably.  Hence "staff and ticket with smoke signals", seen here in action. Yes, that exhaust in the background is from a following train! 

42. Up goods drawing into City View in April 1968. Behind the guards van is the white warning board for Belfort halt, no longer needed after withdrawal of passenger service in 1961.  Trains from Pietermaritzburg running towards Greytown were "up".  If you went to this viewpoint today all you would see are houses and the trees have almost entirely disappeared. 

42a. Bruno's large-scale 'drone's eye view' of the horseshoe curves at City View and Claridge will help you identify the exact locations of the next 26 photos. 

43. Entering City View with train staff at the ready.  The siding extension had only recently been completed, as had the relaying of the branch with 115lb rail so it was hardly surprising that the 18,5-ton axleload class 34-200s could outperform the 15-ton axleload class GMAs, especially when working in multiple. 

44. Traffic jam at City View - 1: triple crossings like this were common, in this case there was another train on the heels of the Up train in the foreground. 

45. Traffic jam at City View - 2: another time, but not another place. A down double-headed pulpwood departing, having crossed 1122-up T&P (T&Ps, on this line at least, were invariably single-headed in my experience).  Two potential customers can be seen making their way enquiringly to the guards van of the T&P.  Even if the passenger compartments were empty they could not always be sure of a seat; some guards in the old days were arrogant and intolerably cruel. 

46. GMAs 4150+4045 with down freight, City View, 23 March 1974.  Photos 43, 44 & 45 were taken in May 1974, last month of full steam on the Greytown line. When Rags took this photo a coupla months earlier the lengthening and strengthening of the 3rd road was almost complete.  An interesting aspect of this expensive work is how much in the dark SAR operating and planning departments were on the eve of dieselisation.  The triple loops at City View were never again called into play in the same way as in the steam era due to the ability of multiple-unit working to eliminate four single-headed trains in one go. 

47. Traffic jam at City View - 3: two doubleheaders crossing (a frequent occurrence) while in the background another heads away down the hill.  If ever an illustration were needed of how superior those new-fangled diesels were in mountainous territory this photo illustrates it well.  The low thermal efficiency of steam compelled these Garratts to haul a lot of extra iron-mongery that the diesels were able to convert into payload. 

48. At last things have quietened down a bit. A rare singleheaded block pulpwood had just crossed the double-header heading up the hill to Claridge.  

49. Exerting all of 130,000+lbs of tractive effort, these two GMA's restart their train from City View siding. In the final climb from City View to Claridge the line loops back climbing the hill directly behind the train. The tanker wagons are molasses empties en route to the Sugar Mill at Jaagbaan.  May 1974. 

50. Diesel-training for engine crews was already in full swing by the time Rags recorded this GF 2417 & GMA 4146, paused for a crossing at City View on 22 July 1974.  The GFs were about the best-looking of SAR's Garratts and they sat well on the front of a GMA's feeder tank. 

51. Dave recorded this early working by a pair of class 34-200s awaiting a crossing at City View c July 1974. See my comment in the caption to photo 47. 

52. Little more than a year earlier steam seemed set to carry on forever...... This was an up goods headed by a GF and a GMA crossing a down doubleheader at City View in May 1973. 

53. No 1125-down T&P about to enter City View in April 1968.  The GCA+GMA combination waiting in the loop on the right is on the same train featured in photo 42.  Inside the horseshoe is the grassy knoll where we used to camp at weekends.  It was also a brilliant place to braai on a Saturday evening while the trains kept coming by. You can make out the original course of the railway here, it joins the present-day alignment at the Claridge-end points.  The old formation disappears into the trees in the foreground, tucking tightly under the higher level of track visible on the left. After 1960, when the new alignment was opened, it was used as a maintenance road by SAR and a convenient way of getting to the 'campsite' by photographers. 

54. Five years later our 'campsite' had been devastated by the bulldozers used to push up earth for the widened embankment, and a new township had spoilt the country feeling of the place, but the action was still as good, if not better, than it had ever been.

55. GF 2387 + GMA 4148 climbing out of City View with a Greytown line freight on 27 August 1974.  By this time driver training was in full force and many of the workings had already been taken over by diesels. 

56. The late Roger Perry also had the pleasure of visiting City View and photographing GMAs in full stride as they climb towards Claridge. 

57. GMAs 4098+4162 departing City View on 3 March 1974.  The three ES wagons ahead of the guards van were loaded with wattle bark headed for the NTE tannery at Greytown (in those days everything went by rail!). 

58. Two pairs of GMAs about to cross at City View on 25 March 1974.  The first two wagons of the down train are loaded with pitprops, the remainder is pulpwood destined for the mills along the coast. 

59. We thought you might like to see Rag's brilliant take of City View without the clutter of the title.  It captures the spirit of the place better than most photos we've seen. 

60. On an overcast rainy spring day, GMA 4152+4136 thrashed their way up the grade from City View to Claridge with a goods train to Schroeders. 22 September 1973. 

61. GMA 4170 essaying the 1-in-30 between City View and Claridge with 1122-up T&P.  22 July 1974. 

62. A few months earlier at the same location, this time with a GF+GMA working an up mixed freight to Schroeders.  The crude level crossing is on the 'road' to the campsite. May 1974.

63. On 22 March 1974 the first diesels to be permanently allocated to the Natal System arrived at the new diesel depot at Mason's Mill, Pietermaritzburg.  It was remarkable that Natal, the first System to receive electric locomotives in 1924, was the very last System to get diesels almost exactly fifty years later! They were the Class 34-200s and despite some wishful thinking among local enthusiasts that their size would make them unsuitable for the rigours of the Greytown line, they were soon to be seen taking on this steeply graded and, as we have seen, busy route out of Pietermaritzburg.  In this photo, taken in about May 1974, a pair of the General Motors diesels, with 34-249 leading, are seen hard at work climbing the ruling 1:30 gradient between City View and Claridge.   Interestingly, a single Class 34-200 was permitted almost 60 tons more than a GMA to Greytown, whereas two of them working in multiple were allowed almost 200 tons more than a pair of double-headed GMAs.  For some reason the permissible load for diesels was exactly the same in both directions, so the Greytown - PMB load for a GMA and a 34 was almost identical. It was only in multiple working that the 34s showed their superiority, three units were capable of loads of up to 1 260 tons - previously unheard of on this tortuous route.  Of interest is the fact that these were the same diesels that had been observed not that long before, being hauled up the New Main Line in blocks of 15 to 16 units upon delivery from the USA - Brian's photos of these trains were featured in both the Durban Harbour and New Main Line editions of Soul of a Railway.  

64.  Another load of empty molasses tank wagons heading for the Jaagbaan Sugar Mill near Dalton.  July 1973. 

65. By 1973 the practice of assigning older smaller power to the T&Ps had been abandoned for the simple reason that the loads they could haul were no longer economical and line capacity could not be spared.  This was GMA 4107 with 1122-up T&P in August 1973.

66. One more horseshoe to go and 8th-class 1076 will be in Claridge with 1122-up T&P for Greytown.  That load is probably maximum for an 8 on this line. 

67. GMAs 4149+4083 reaching the summit at Claridge with pulpwood logs and other produce from the highly productive region served by the Greytown branch. 28 March 74.

68. The same train featured in photos 42 and 53 finally made it to Claridge, summit of the climb out of the Pietermaritzburg city bowl. April 1968. 

69. After climbing more than 800ft (much of it at 1-in-30) in less than 9 miles from the last servicing stop at Albert Falls, this GMA was bringing a block load of pulpwood into the final summit at Claridge - arching around the domestic water tanker in the siding placed there probably for the benefit of the resident ganger.  From here it is 7 miles continuously downhill through City View to Victoria marshalling yard. Trains that ran on to the main yard at Mason’s Mill had one or two more moderate gradients to be negotiated.  

70. Claridge is well named.  It is approached from either side by mile upon mile of uncompensated 1-in-30 gradients.  This was a down doubleheader approaching the summit in May 1974. 

71. Rags found a better viewpoint for this double-header at the same location.  GMAs 4113 & 4130 between Hardingsdale & Claridge on 22 July 1974. 

72. Half-a-mile lower down the bank, working a doubleheader load up to Claridge in May 1974.

73. Exerting all the traction their conservative 15-ton axleloads would allow, these GMAs were dragging a block-load of pulpwood around the S-curves on the climb to Claridge in July 1973. Between Hardingsdale and Claridge there was this particularly vicious 5-chain radius reverse curve on a constant 1-in-30 gradient (equivalent to 1-in-22) which brought fully loaded trains down to walking pace.   

In an effort to clear surging traffic during the few years of steam on the Greytown line, the permissable load for doubleheaders in the down direction was increased to 775 tons by decree of the Regional Mechanical Engineer, 'Pikkie' de Wet (he was a small man!). 

74. One of the 775-ton block loads of logs destined for the pulpmills on the coast brought those GMAs down to about walking pace.  The sound was mighty.

75. In August 1974 GMA 4146+GF 2400 dragging a heavy load of logs and general freight around the reverse curve featured in photos 72 and 73 above. Full diesel working was only weeks away. 

The frequent doubleheading of GMAs with lighter power on the Greytown line was because the branches were still laid with lighter rail; Schroeders - Bruynshill and Greytown - Kranskop with 60lb rail were restricted to GFs and the Glenside branch beyond Jaagbaan and the Mount Alida branches both predominantly 45lb sections were only allowed class GCAs.  The volume of traffic on these branches was substantial so there were frequent movements of out-posted GFs and GCAs between their sub-sheds and Masons Mill for their fortnightly boiler washouts, routine preventive maintenance and 15M services.  To reduce line occupation these movements were invariably double-headed. 

76.  At the same location two months earlier Rags encountered GF 2402+GMA 4146 with a fully-loaded mixed freight.  The warning board for Hardingsdale is just visible left background.

77. Mixed freight southbound out of Ottos Bluff in May 1974 near the very end of the big show.  South Africa would never see its like again.

78. Tablet exchange at Otto's Bluff.  Six years earlier there was no talk of diesels and the big surge in traffic had only recently begun.  Line occupation had already become critical so even the lowly Greytown 8th-class shunter had to do its bit, here entering Ottos Bluff with a few loads of pulpwood with 1125-down T&P. June 1968. 

79.  Moments later class 8A 1123 and its short train were safely inside the clearance marker and a pair of GMAs with up empties departed for Albert Falls where they would take water. 

80. A pair of GMAs on up goods cool their heels at Otto’s Bluff in 1970 while waiting for the next southbound load coming upgrade from Albert Falls.  They had been waiting some time already, as can be observed if one looks carefully above the left-hand doors of the B wagon in the siding to the left of the leading loco.  There appears to be the smoke trail of a prior southbound working, which would no doubt have crossed this train at Otto’s Bluff more than twenty minutes earlier, and has since been climbing steadily all the way to Claridge, more or less at the lowest point on the horizon.  

79.  GF 2417+GMA 4146 near Otto’s Bluff with a Greytown line freight on 22 July 74. The train is coming around a recently completed curve easement at Notuli halt (see Bruno's map). 

80. Within a year or two of the first diesels arriving on the Pietermaritzburg branch lines, it seemed as if the critics in SA Rail magazine could well have been proved right in their earlier opinions about the unsuitability of the heavy Class 34s on these lines, as brand new GM EMD Class 35-600 branch line units were drafted in and rapidly took over all the duties on non-electrified lines out of Pietermaritzburg.  Their lighter axle load also meant that they could venture out onto the lightly laid branches such as Glenside, Bruyn's Hill and Mount Alida, putting paid to the last remaining steam turns outside of the immediate Pietermaritzburg city area.  Although the official railway standpoint was that the Class 34s had proved successful on these operations, it was understood that the Civil Engineers were concerned about the effect that their long wheelbase was having on the tight curves, whilst the Mechanical department was reporting excessive flange wear, particularly on leading wheels.  Here in 1977 a pair of 35-600s is in full dynamic braking as they head a mixed goods load downgrade between Otto's Bluff and Albert Falls.  Included in their load are a number of BC wagons loaded with sugar cane, probably destined for the Dalton sugar mill.  The 35s were limited to 330 tons per locomotive on the Greytown line, which was considerably less than a Class 34 or even a GMA, but when operated in multiples of four per train (which they regularly did), they could equal the load of three Class 34s or almost double that of a pair of GMAs.

On this high note (for diesel fans), we'll call a halt to our Greytown line story for now.  The next chapter will take us from Albert Falls to Greytown and take in all the various branches off this fascinating line.