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Part 7: Pietermaritzburg-Greytown, including branches 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.

Having provided a line description for this extensive branch from Pietermaritzburg and its numerous branches in Part 1, it just remains for me to thank the following photographers who have contributed photos to this chapter. 

They are the late George Bambery (from the collection of Robert Kingsford-Smith), Dick Manton, Eugene Armer, THL-HLP Collection, Glen Mills, Robert Kingsford-Smith for his own photos, the late Roger Perry (collection Les Pivnic), the late Dave Parsons (collection Les Pivnic) and Ashley Peter for for providing photos by the late Brian Couzens from the RSSA collection as well as his invaluable assistance with captions for those images and last but not least, Greg Hart for scanning the Brian Couzens photos.  Please note that the latter have severely deteriorated in Durban's hot and humid climate and it is to be hoped that they can all be scanned at high resolution before fungus has destroyed them. 

My grateful thanks also to Bruno Martin for his map and gradient profile. 

Finally, my thanks to Charlie Lewis for his restoration work in Photoshop especially with the BC photos and Andrew Deacon for the formatting of this chapter. 



In Part 1 of this branch line we traveled from Maritzburg as far as Ottos Bluff.  Here in Part 2, we pick up the visual presentation at Albert Falls:

1. Enlarging of the Albert Falls Dam was well underway in this shot of GMAM's 4167 & 4147 climbing the 1 in 40 Grade towards Pietermaritsburg  on 11 July 1974. Prior to the first use of diesels on July 24th, up to nine double-headed Garratts left Pietermaritzburg daily towards Greytown. 

2. Until the last year of steam operation of the Pietermaritzburg branches, the rule that a wagon be inserted between double-headed Garratts was fairly consistently upheld.  Although the GFs were already 40 years old when this photo was made early in 1968, ahead was another 8 years of heavy toil on the uncompensated 1/30 (Greytown) and 1/40 (Cape-Natal) lines. 

This pair was bringing a decidedly mixed maximum load up to the ridge at Claridge siding - including poplar logs for the Lion Match factory at Umgeni, two bogies of gum logs for one of the coastal pulp mills, five ES shorts with pit props and what the rest of the load was is unknown.

3. There were so many branches off the Greytown line that it was impractical to sort trainloads into any particular order.  The practice was to make up trains for PMB at Greytown, Dalton and Shroeders that were then sorted for their ultimate destinations in the extensive yard at Masons Mill.  A typical example was this randomly-marshalled train well under way on the climb out of Albert Falls in May 1974.  Albert Falls dam, enlarged 1973/74 is hidden by mist but the location of the photo is the same as No 2 above.

4. GMAs 4156 and 4165 climbing away from Albert Falls with freight consisting mainly of pulpwood, bound for resorting at PMB.  The late George Bambury made this photo on 8 August 1974. The ruling gradient on the uphill section from Albert Falls to Claridge was 1/30 which on the 5-chain curves was equivalent to 1/22.  When this photo was made several easements were underway, the aim being twofold: the flatter the curve the easier the equivalent gradient and the diesels that were soon to take over decidedly objected to 5-chain radii. 

5.  During the first half of the seventies a constant parade of double-headed Garratts provided a show that had no equal until China came on stream by gradually allowing visitors to see their wares, and in incomparable scenery.

6.  By August 1974 the Garratts were beginning to show signs of a planned run-down in maintenance as the diesels began arriving in numbers.  At the same time, experienced crews were becoming scarcer as the first batches went off for diesel training.  So a combination of dirty boilers and inexperienced crews resulted in increasingly bad cases of priming, especially with engines working cold out of Albert Falls.

7. The conversion of the Greytown line from a sleepy branch in the early 60s began with the abandonment of the passenger service in 1961.  For the next decade SAR's business exploded as more and more plantations and sugar cane came on stream.  In February 1964 this GCA working the daily T&P had just picked up some bogies of pulpwood at Cramond siding, from where it is all downhill to Albert Falls, and was about to park them off for a hauler to collect for the trip up to Claridge.  

8.  Having detached the three bogies it had collected at Cramond the GCA itself would then work a much smaller load (you can see it behind the pulpwood bogies) onwards to PMB.

9.  You can almost sense the calm, almost sleepy atmosphere that prevailed at Albert Falls in the early sixties. The frantic activities that became a feature of the line by the end of the decade could not have been imagined then.  The GF standing at the up parachute tank was used as a hauler engine between PMB and Albert Falls to fetch excess loads that had been left behind in deference to the mighty grade to Claridge (see Bruno's gradient profile above).  At this time (February 1964) the station still had only one passing loop but it did have an old NGR water column which could deliver a tankful of water in a fraction of the time used up by the garden-tap type gate valves fitted in the late sixties (see next picture).

The Albert Falls Hotel, one of the finest in Natal (and cheapest) was just behind those trees on the left within easy reach of the waterfall and even easier of the station.  Drill was to go out at cracka dawn, come back for breakfast c 10 o'clock then bash til dinnertime and what a dinner - all included in your R3,00 D,B&B.  And while the engines were being watered the gricers could rehydrate with a beer or two.....  Sadly, the era of excellent cheap country hotels ended more or less coincidentally with the demise of steam.

10. GF 2401 "Magdalena" pauses for a servicing stop at Albert Falls, watched by members of the local branch of the RSSA.  By the end of 1974 all through trains between Pietermaritzburg and Greytown had been dieselised, and many of the GMAs had already been transferred away from Mason's Mill.  However, the lightly-laid secondary branch lines to Bruyn's Hill, Glenside and Mount Alida remained steam-operated, with three GFs sub-shedded at Schroeders for the first two lines. Alan Clarke, organiser of the Natal Branch of the RSSA at that time, discovered that short-haul train No 1118 from Victoria to Schroeders, and its return working, No 1117, were usually worked by Class GFs on Saturdays, probably to facilitate boiler washouts.  So he negotiated with Operating to have a passenger coach attached to No 1118 on 15 February 1975 for the benefit of local enthusiasts.  Once at Schroeders the coach was shunted onto opposing train No 1117, hauled by GF 2414, which had been specially turned so that it would run chimney-first back to Victoria.  So, a whole day of steam, with several impromptu photo-runpasts thrown in to the bargain, for the princely sum of R1.70 per person!  And to show how blasé local enthusiasts had already become about the much-vaunted "end of steam", Alan was noted to have grumbled unhappily in a subsequent branch newsletter about the lack of support for the outing!

11.  A GCA and GMA taking water at Albert Falls (which was practically at the same altitude as Victoria) before tackling the predominantly uphill 33 miles to Sevenoaks in April 1968.  Note that the water gantries are spaced for double GMAs so the GCA has had to uncouple and run forward to save watering time.

This was a combination of engines that became commonplace during the last decade of steam along here.  Until the sixties the rule that only GCAs could be employed on 45lb sections was fairly strictly applied, thus branches off the 'main line' to Greytown, i.e. Bruyn's Hill, Glenside, Kranskop and Mount Alida could only use these lightweight machines to move the rapidly increasing traffic.  The first section to be permitted to use the heavier and more powerful GFs was Greytown to Kranskop and, with exception of the Mount Alida branch, the other branches rapidly followed, pending their strengthening with 60lb/yard material.  This meant a constant ferrying of GCAs and GFs between the various junctions and Masons Mill for maintenance and boiler washouts.  To save line occupation, by the mid sixties it became common practice to doublehead these engines with the main line power, such as GOs (earlier) and GMAs. 

12. Incoming pulpwood and sugar-cane waiting on the Umgeni river bridge at Albert Falls prior to being admitted to the loop by the guard of an opposing train.  Note that the points are set for the third road and the GMA is way past the clearance marker.  Unless it set back a little before the opposing train got to it it must have been close to a sideswipe.

The circumcised chimney of the GMA (to borrow the name bestowed on it by the late Dusty Durrant) indicates that it once had a cowled chimney for working through the numerous tunnels on the Cape Eastern main line.  This locomotive would originally have been a class GMAM, indicating that it had a coal capacity of 14 tons and an axleload of just over 15 tons.  The only problem was that even 14 tons of fuel was hopelessly too little (more about this when we visit the Cape Eastern System) and the axleload was hopelessly too low - almost as if these impressive machines with all mod-cons were deliberately designed to be replaced by diesel or electric traction as soon as possible.

When the extra M was removed this was supposed to indicate that the baffles in the coal bunker had been shifted to reduce the coal capacity even further - to 11 tons.  This was supposed to reduce the axleload still further so they could operate on 60lb track.  It didn't take long for the operating staff to discover that: (1) those baffles were invisible to the naked eye; (2) nobody in the running staff gave a damn and (3) even had the CCE and CME known about it they probably would have turned a blind eye - the saga of the GMA/Ms was too embarrassing.

Henceforth in these columns we will refer to all GMAMs as GMAs....... 

13. The same train as in the previous photo about to enter the third road at Albert Falls station. As it was a Sunday the station was closed so the guard of the opposing train had to walk all the way from his van to admit the down train, April 1968.

14. On Friday 16 July 1971 GMA’s 4163 and 4093 leave Albert Falls after having taken water and cross the Umgeni River heading north. This bridge was built directly across the top of the falls, the only such feature in South Africa.

15. GMAs rolling into Albert Falls with up empties while the front GF of this doubleheader waters at one of the garden-tap sized fittings installed at Albert Falls c 1966.

16. The imposing bulk of one of the all-time greats of the railway-enthusiast world, AE (Dusty) Durrant diminishes the impact of this pair of GFs (the same ones featured in the previous photo) preparing to work their load of poplar logs up to Claridge in April 1968. Dusty was on his way to tune the crews for a bit of smoke at milepost 18 - see photo 2 above.

17. By the end of 1976 only three Class GMAM garratts remained on the roster at Mason's Mill, used mainly for the haulage of heavy loads between Mason's Mill and Victoria yards.  Then someone came up with the idea of using one of them on a Sunday to haul a passenger train on the Greytown line, which had not seen a complete passenger train for almost twenty years.  The first one was arranged jointly between the Pietermaritzburg Publicity Association (PPA) and the Railway Society of Southern Africa (RSSA) and proved such a success that at least half a dozen more were scheduled in the following couple of years, running to Albert Falls, New Hanover or Dalton, although they were invariably run independently by either the PPA or the RSSA.  In this photo, Brian Couzens captured GMAM no. 4168 crossing the Umgeni River bridge below Albert Falls Dam with an eight coach excursion train returning from New Hanover early in the Winter of 1977.  The last of these GMAMs were finally transferred away from Mason's Mill in 1982.


18. 
On the 'Kruger Day' public holiday, 10th October 1973, arrangements had been made for a swing-door passenger coach to be attached to a goods train from Victoria Yard in Pietermaritzburg to Schroeders and return. (see photo 23 Part 1). Under the direction of Masons Mill Loco Foreman "Links" van der Merwe, Class GF 2401 "Magdelena" and GMAM 4141 were assigned to work the train. In this photo they are seen at Albert Falls on the return leg of the journey from Schroeders to Victoria Yard in Pietermaritzburg, with a load of timber. GMAM 4141 is taking water, while the coal trimmers take a break from their work in the coal bunker of GF 2401.  

19. Peter Stow writes: On Friday 16 July 1971 Class GF 2430 on the pick-up departed southbound from Albert Falls. My 1959 DKW can be seen parked under the tree. 

20. Double-headed GMAs make an impressive sight as they prepare to depart from Albert Falls, one of three watering stops enroute from Greytown to Pietermaritzburg.  Ahead they will engage mightily with the 1/30 uncompensated grades of the nine-mile climb to Claridge which they will crest 40 minutes later before dropping down to Pietermaritzburg.

21. By the 1970s most trains on the Greytown line were double-headed, but single headers did occasionally put in an appearance, as seen here on an overcast and rainy day in the spring of 1973, with appropriately numbered GMAM 4073 climbing out of Albert Falls with a short train to Pietermaritzburg. The concrete sleepers alongside the track were to be installed in anticipation of the coming dieselisation of the branches. Note the headlight on the front tank is not recessed, as is usual on this class of Garratt, an obvious modification that added a few precious gallons of water to the front tank, as well as some much-needed extra adhesion. 22nd September 1973. 

22. In 1976 the enlarged Albert Falls Dam was opened just to the west of the railway line. Built for irrigation and domestic use, this dam has a wall 33m high. This changed the scene west of the bridge completely and a beautiful setting was created. On Tuesday 29 April 2003 a train of empty timber wagons heading north is standing posed on the bridge, which itself has changed in character, having possibly been increased in length with the extra spans having no sides. 

23. The same train as seen in the previous photo – this shot from the top of the dam wall.

24. In this author's opinion the GFs were the most dignified of the SAR Garratts and looked even more impressive when working in combination with another engine of whatever class.  The train was climbing away from Albert Falls on the stretch leading up to Cramond.  In the consist were a coupla DZs loaded with track ballast destined for the new direct link to the Fawnleas branch and behind them is a rake of new ST trucks with stanchions - why it took SAR so long to introduce them is a mystery but what we do know is they saved farmers endless labour previously employed in fastening poles to act as stanchions in DZs and B-bogies. August 1973.


25. Your photographer's ears still ring whenever he gazes at this photo of the same train that featured in photo 35 in Part I of the Greytown line. The GCA and GMA were exerting every ounce of their combined tractive efforts.  The gradient at this point is 1/27 and those four bottom-dumping AYs loaded with track ballast took up most of the permitted 530 tons on this stretch; the remainder of the train consisted mainly of empty DZs and B-bogies for returning with pulpwood.


26.  Cramond was the junction for the short industrial spur to the sawmills of the Clan Sydicate which for many years used an ex-NGR class A 4-8-2T to bring its product down to the SAR sidings.  Apart from sawn timber a substantial quantity of wattle pulpwood was loaded at the SAR sidings (see next picture). 


27. A class GF simmers in the timber sidings at Cramond while her driver has a chat with someone – maybe he is asking for a cab-ride!  SAR photo c 1959/60.

28. GCA+GMA was another attractive combination, especially when the GCA had white tyres.  The load consists mainly of a couple of gondolas of bagasse and empty molasses and treacle tankers on their way from Durban to the sugarmill at Jaagbaan.  As for the perway material scattered at lineside; during the decade 1967-77 the Greytown line was in a constant state of rebuilding and strengthening in preparation for the coming of the diesels.  

29. Train 1122 headed northbound by GF2400 departed Victoria at 07:42 on 29 January 1974 for Greytown with a load of five vehicles.  Two and a half minutes awaiting entrance to the yard at Mpolweni was followed by eight minutes for safe-working as a southbound goods hauled by GMAM 4145 was crossed then a five minutes shunt with three vehicles coming off.  The trolley is one of the smaller types used by Permanent Way Inspectors. 

30. Shortly after a frosty sunrise in June 1968 this GMA was coming through Mpolweni, heading for the Victoria yard with a down freight.

31. A down train bringing a curiously mixed load up the short, steep grade into Mpolweni, August 1973.

32. Peter Stow captured what is now an historic view of two GMAs working an Up goods across the Mersey Bridge near Mpolweni.  The word “historic” is used because Ashley Peter advises that an electrical sub-station was built near this bridge and today Hi-Tension wires are all over the place.  He further confirms that the steel girder portion of the bridge was originally part of the Inchanga Viaduct and that in earlier times there was a siding by the name of Mersey.

33. Another angle on the same bridge with the same train from photo 25, April 1968.

34. GMAs 4103 & 4156 climbing away from the Mersey bridge towards New Hanover with an Up consist of several loads of coal.  20 July 74. 

35. GF 2387 + GMA 4148 a bit further up the bank from the Mersey bridge to New Hanover with an Up freight.  27 August 1974 

36. Four Garratts in three classes crossing at New Hanover; on the left a GF piloting a GMA with Down pulpwood and on the right a GCA leading a GMA with Up general freight. April 1968.

37. In 1968, when Brian Couzens took this photo of a GCA poised under the water column at New Hanover, these little garratts were still in abundance on the Greytown line.  While their main purpose was to work the "Bloudraad" 45 pound rails of the Kranskop, Mount Alida, Bruyn's Hill and Glenside lines, they were regularly called on to assist with local goods movements on the main Greytown line, usually to and from boiler washouts at Masons Mill. This work included the daily tranship & pick-up (T&P, or more colloquially, the "wayside" goods).  

38. GMAs 4098+4162, with Up freight crossing GF 2386 at New Hanover, 23 March 1974. 

39. In the chilly pre-dawn a pair of GMAs come thundering through New Hanover in May 1974.  They would soon be shutting off for the descent to the Mersey bridge.

40. The GF and GMA involved in the crossing scene in photo 36 were now leaving New Hanover, skirting the local wattle pulpwood yard along the way.  April 1968.

41. When this photo was taken late in 1974, the first diesels had already made significant inroads into the motive power position on the Greytown line, but almost as fast as the diesels arrived, so the GMAs were being transferred away from Mason's Mill, to replace aging GEAs and other older locomotives being withdrawn at various depots around the country.  This meant that the 1927 vintage and still reliable GFs remained a critical part of the Mason's Mill roster. Apart from doing essential service on the secondary branches north of Pietermaritzburg, they would regularly be found working the daily wayside T&Ps again.  After having completed some shunting at New Hanover, this loco on the daily except Sundays Victoria - Greytown 1116-up gets underway in typically exuberant GF fashion as it heads for its next stop at Schroeders. Only a few years earlier, the following delightful note concerning this train was contained in the Working Time Books:  "Stops at Harden Heights, Siding 333 and Sevenoaks for school children and at Victoria, Claridge and Hardingsdale for school teachers.  After taking water at Umvoti River Bridge, the train must stop at the halt to allow the school children to detrain in safety."  

Another interesting aside from this area is the now almost forgotten hamlet of York. The early York villagers, Haidee Settlers and their descendants from Yorkshire in England, were reputedly fanatically religious, shunning all temptations such as alcohol and other negative influences from the outside world - they even had a chapel designed as a scaled-down version of a church in Yorkshire.  It is claimed that when the news that a railway was being surveyed between Pietermaritzburg and Greytown reached them, the citizens of York were adamant that the railway, with all the potential evils that it represented, would not be allowed to pass through their town.  They reportedly campaigned so vigorously that the surveyors found another route for the railway, which took it through New Hanover instead of York...but whilst this brought commercial prosperity to New Hanover, it virtually spelt the death knell to York, which has subsequently all but disappeared from the map.

42. GMAs 4146+4099 climb towards New Hanover with a Down freight for PMB 9 June 1974. That's the Mhlalane spruit bridge in the background, which features in the next photo being crossed by up empties.

43. GF 2390+GMA 4162 with Up empties climbing the last 2-mile stretch to its servicing stop at Schroeders. 20 July 1974.

44. GMAs 4103 & 4156 climb towards Schroeders with Up empties, 20 July 1974. 

45. The late Roger Perry took this fine shot of two GMAs – both chimney-leading at Schroeders.  No date or engine numbers recorded.

46. Schroeders was a favourite haunt of the late Dusty Durrant.  More than most, he appreciated steam-busy places and for better than a decade this one provided more than most.

47. GF 2400 at the south end of Schroeders on 29 January 1974 under the coaling facility straddling yard tracks which was used for refueling locomotives while attached to their trains. Upon arrival at Schroeders, 1122-up Victoria-Greytown had its locomotive replaced by GF 2402 while the train was sitting on the main line outside station limits.  Also seen at Schroeders at this time was a goods hauled by GF 2431 presumably off the Bruyn's Hill branch. 

48. The coaling appliance in action.  A pair of GMAM garratts on a Greytown-bound train getting serviced at Schroeders.  Schroeders was probably unique in Natal in that it had a cocopan-operated coal stage set up directly over the running lines, enabling locos to be refueled, clean fires and take water whilst still attached to their train.  However, when double-heading it was usually quicker to uncouple one engine and allow it to clean fire and take water separately while its counterpart was being coaled.

49. The sub-depot at Schroeders with several GFs on shed. No date recorded by Dave but the rickety old structure was demolished c 1965.

50. Early in 1974 a GF approaches Schroeders from the east with the daily goods, 1191-down, off the 15-mile long Bruyn's Hill branch.    Although some sections of this line and the nearby Glenside branch were still laid with 45lb rail, due to a shortage of GCAs a concession was made to allow the GFs (officially restricted to 60lb rail) to work these branches.  It would appear to have been a sound decision as the more powerful GFs worked these lines for many years without trouble until the Class 35s (with a marginally lighter axle-loading and, of course, no hammer-blow) took over in 1976. 

51. A week after the RSSA outing to Schroeders (photo 10) in February 1975, Brian returned to the Bruyn's Hill branch to record the activities of the GFs.  The fact that General Electric Class 35-000 diesels had begun making an unwelcome (from a steam enthusiast point of view) appearance on the Greytown line as a stop-gap measure until the new GM Class 35-600s arrived could well have increased the urgency of capturing these scenes - these branch line diesels would be able to take over the lightly-laid sub-branches from the GFs, where Class 34s had not been permitted.  In this photo a GF on its way back from Bruyn's Hill to Schroeders with daily goods No 1191 trundles through Wartburg station.  The predominance of German names in this area (Wartburg, New Hanover, Schroeders etc) confirms that this part of Natal was home to a sizeable community of German settlers who arrived to farm in the area from the 1850s.  A curiosity on the station is the departmental caravan parked next to the toilet on the platform....could it be a relief station foreman or station master helping out while the resident employee was away on annual leave...? 

52.  Regarding this dreadful accident which happened on the Bruyn's Hill branch c 1968 we have this close to first-hand account from Stuart Grossert:

"I'm attaching a pair of photos which include the DE trolley SAS RT1053.  You mentioned in the Greytown section about the terrible trolley accident on the Wartburg branch.  This was a great shock to my Dad as it happened a year or two after he was moved to the System Engineer's office in Durban.  Four people were killed, his successor DE, the PWI for the Greytown branch, Mr Peters the trolley driver and his African assistant, when they slammed into by a GF on the daily freight.  This section was controlled by a wooden staff, which was found in the wreckage of the trolley.  Clearly the train crew, who would have been informed of the trolley movement when they took off that morning from Schroeders, had left the terminus at Bruyn's Hill without authorisation. All three crew members were charged with criminal negligence and received jail time - very sad.  Most days there was only one train on the branch."

"Dad had a great respect for Mr Peters, who was an excellent and reliable driver, fully qualified in trains working and who never took a chance.  This DE trolley was built by the SAR -- it was not a Wickham. It seated 9 and was powered by an ancient Ford Model A motor - rather under-powered for the long 1:30 grades and care had to be taken that it did not overheat! Apart from this it was very reliable." [you will be able to see the trolley and Mr Peters in happier days in our feature on the Cape-Natal - Les].

53. Train 1190-up, the 6.15 am daily goods behind a GF from Schroeders, has arrived at the railhead of Bruyn's Hill on a Saturday morning in September 1974, with Brian as a passenger in the guard's van.  The guard is busy preparing to shunt out the loaded timber wagons for the return trip on 1191-down, scheduled to depart at 08:32.  Even though passenger trains had disappeared from the Greytown route many years before, virtually all the daily except Sundays T&Ps were still advertised in the public timetable as "passengers will be conveyed in the guard's van of the following goods trains when run..."

54. The year 1974 heralded the demise of big steam on the Greytown line. By the end of the year it was becoming virtually impossible to find any through trains not worked by diesels.  Here a pair of General Motors 34-200 units enter Schroeders with a down goods late in 1974, the front wagons possibly loaded with export bagged charcoal from the Sevenoaks area - a product that would soon lend itself ideally to containerisation......and then within a few years lost to private road transport.....!  Unlike the hard-working steamers, diesels did not need to have coal, water and ash (and even lubrication) dealt with here, making the usual extended stop superfluous.

55. The same train entering Schroeders yard, where a triple set of 34s working in multiple (not triple-headed as they are all controlled by a single driver) are waiting to cross.  This was super-power on the Greytown line and must have made the Operating Office staff rub their hands in glee as the number of trains required to be pushed through the restrictive "sausage machine" that the busy Greytown line had become in steam days diminished appreciably.  But the tenure of the 34s at Mason's Mill was to be relatively short. With the Ermelo - Richard's Bay Coal Line approaching completion (but with overhead electrical traction equipment nowhere near ready), this operation demanded the most powerful diesels available in the country so, within two years of their arrival, these 34s would be moving on to more glamorous duties.  At least there are still a couple of wily GFs lurking in the background in Schroeders yard...!

56. Even though they had to stop for a service at Schroeders, at least they looked good, and how.  A great pity the farmers didn't care much for how they looked, they just wanted their produce to get to market as quickly as possible.  This was GF 2398 and an unrecorded GMA leaving Schroeders for Dalton with empties for Greytown and beyond in August 1973.

57. GF 2387 + GMA 4148 climb between Schroeders and Dalton with a short freight bound for the Jaagbaan Mill. 27 August 74. 

58. The previous photo showed raw stalk cane destined for the sugar mill at Jaagbaan and fertilizer for farms along the Fawnleas branch.  This one depicts gondolas with bagasse mulch for the fields of those same farmers and empty molasses tankers for Jaagbaan mill.  Observant readers may have noticed this is the same train coming around the curve at Cramond in No 28.

59. One of the two daily all stations Greytown-Pietermaritzburg, SuX, about to depart from Dalton in July 1959 with one of Masons Mill's five GDAs.  Bertram Lewis rode this train many times and fortunately it just lasted into the Kodachrome II era.  The service was abruptly discontinued in 1961 for three main reasons: the trains were uneconomical, slower (much slower) than the buses and took up line space at a time when traffic was growing fast.  

60. Pulpwood off the Fawnleas branch (its terminus was actually at Glenside, about 3 miles further on) being assembled into one load for the main line.  This was before the direct link onto the branch, about half-a-mile south of Dalton station, was built in 1974. 

61. GO 2581 with down pulpwood awaiting a crossing with 1116-up T&P in February 1964 (see next photo). When they were delivered by Henschel in 1953 one of the GO's first stamping grounds was the Greytown line, where they performed reasonably well until replaced with GMAs released by electrification of the Eastern Transvaal main line to Komatipoort during 1967.  The released GOs were all transferred to the Eastern Transvaal System where they operated out of Belfast, junction for the Steelpoort line.  The inadequacy of the GOs for this line will be described further when we tell you about that extraordinarily busy branch and its chrome ore traffic. 

62. Until well into the sixties wayside (T&P) duties were performed by the diminutive GCAs.  No 2622, having crossed GO 2581, was about to set off for the north with a rather light load of four empty ES trucks. 

63. A short while later 2581 set out from Dalton for Victoria yard in Pietermaritzburg.

64. The growth in traffic between the previous photos and April 1968, when this photo was made, was phenomenal.  The GF was on the Dalton shunt while the GCA was about to head off up the Glenside branch which was still laid with 45lb material beyond Jaagbaan.


65. By August 1973 it was rare to find less than two trains in Dalton.  Thanks to its auxiliary water tank a GF with a well-loaded 1117-down T&P rolls by nonstop while another GF makes up loads off the Glenside branch shortly before the new triangular junction had been completed (see Brian Couzen's photos 68 and 69 below). 

66. The station foreman at Dalton has closed the crossing gate and flagged the GF on 1116-up, the daily Victoria - Greytown wayside, into the station.  The three wagons of sugar cane would be destined either for the local mill at Dalton, or the large, new Noodsberg mill nearby on the Glenside branch, which can be seen turning out to the left.  In the far left background is the new direct link from the main line to the branch which would shortly be opened, thus allowing direct access from the south without having to reverse direction in Dalton station.  

67. GCA 2622 underway northbound after crossing the down goods depicted in photos 61 and 63.  In the far background, GO 2581 was about to leave with its southbound pulpwood load.


68. Traffic to and from the large Noodsberg sugar mill at Jaagbaan on the Glenside branch had increased to such an extent by 1973 that it was deemed necessary to provide a direct access to the branch from the Pietermaritzburg direction just south of Dalton station.  This section of the branch line had already been relaid with 80lb rail, allowing GMAM locos to run right to the mill and the Working Time Book had up to five double-headed trains a day booked directly from the main line to the mill, to deliver sugar cane as well as to clear processed sugar and treacle (molasses).  Here the SAR New Works team was busy with the realignment of the track to accommodate the third leg of the triangle to facilitate these direct movements, while a double-headed GF/GMA-hauled goods train with a GZ cattle truck doing duty as the obligatory spacer wagon between them, cautiously approaches the working area, almost at the end of the protracted climb from Schroeders. 

69. With the requisite "all clear" no doubt having been given by the platelayer in charge of the work gang, as well as a green flag from the waiting station foreman, the two garratts work in concert to pick up their substantial load on the steeply-graded final approach into Dalton station.  Despite the massive increase in traffic on this route, no station beyond Victoria was ever considered worthy of signalling.

70.  A southbound load of pulpwood leaving Dalton behind an unrecorded GCA and GMA in April 1968.  The siding on the left leads to the Dalton sugar mill.

71. As you can see, the short section of the Glenside branch between Jaagbaan and Dalton was laid with heavy rail to accommodate the GMAs.  4146+4099 were bringing a block load of processed sugar from Jaagbaan sugar mill on 9 June 1974.

72. To make sure he recorded the action on both branches before the dreaded diesels descended upon them, Brian also followed the daily exc Sundays goods from Dalton to Glenside and return, this time in the hands of GF 2401 "Magdalena".  In this photo at Fawnleas in February 1975 he captured the real essence of a rural wayside train and station in the steam era; the engine of 1163-down drawn up next to the old but perfectly maintained wood-and-iron station building; the station gardens with scarcely a leaf out of place; someone looking like the tranship porter leaning against the goods shed, next to some parcels that a local farmer has entrusted to the Railway administration to deliver for him, and which will shortly be loaded into the four-wheeler tranship truck or perhaps into the baggage compartment of the little V-7 guard's van once the train has pulled forward.  Maybe the driver and guard had popped into the station office for a quick natter and possibly even a cuppa with the station foreman, although such exchanges were usually curtailed on a Saturday morning!

73. The short steep section from the Kamanzi river up to Ravensworth really taxed this GF+GMA with its load of stalk cane destined for the sugar mill at Jaagbaan. 

74. Between Greytown and Dalton there were eight private sidings serving sugar cane, wattle and pulpwood plantations.  Each generated substantial but erratic traffic which made it hard to efficiently plan locomotive and train workings.  On a cool winter's morning in July 1968 these two GFs 2402+2386 had just arrived at Harden Heights from Greytown with a complete rake of empty B-bogies.  After some energetic shunting they left again, southbound, with an interesting way of doubling the hill from the Kamanzi river to Ravensworth (see next photo).

75. With ten B-bogies of stalk cane, GF 2402 in picture was banked up the hill from Kamanzi to Ravensworth by 2386.  The two engines then came back light to Harden Heights to pick up ten more loads from the private siding, plus a guards van, before departing southbound again, doubleheaded this time.  After picking up the other ten loads at Ravensworth the whole caravan headed off down the hill to Dalton and Jaagbaan.  Waiting to follow was 1117-down T&P.

75. In the Spring of 1974 a pair of GMAs on a down goods shut off steam as they pull into Sevenoaks station after the sustained 5-mile climb from the Umvoti River.  Double-headed GMA working would rapidly decline during the latter half of 1974 as diesels took over most of the through loads.

76. GMAs 4126+4140 climbing away from Umvoti River northbound on 8 August 1974.

77. GMAs 4100+4114 arriving at Chailey on 31 January 1974.  Notice that the lead locomotive has a “standard” chimney while the second locomotive has a chimney that is truncated.  Referring to Steam Locomotives of the South African Railways Volume 2: 1910-1955 by D.F Holland, 120 locomotives of GMA and GMAM were placed in service between 1954 and 1958.  Initially a number of GMAM’s were fitted with steam-operated smoke deflecting cowls over the chimney and allocated to the Cape Eastern System at East London and Queenstown for working through tunnels.  When dieselization occurred, the cowls were removed leaving a rather truncated chimney visible as the chimney had been shortened due to the tight clearances.  Of the 53 GMAs seen at Masons Mill in late 1973, 27 had truncated chimneys (sounds more civilised than 'circumcised').

78. Seemingly showing that a visual block system was in use on 31 January 1974, in fact train 1188-up, Mount Alida-Greytown, was pushed by the following train from Chailey and the pusher, led by GMAs 4100+4114, is shown dropping back upon approaching Greytown (you can see the end of the guards van on which Glen was travelling on the left edge of this photo). 

Glen reports: "According to 'Garratt Locomotives of the World by A.E.Durrant' p 134, of the 101 Garratts allocated to Mason’s Mill just before dieselisation, 74 were GMAs.  Of these I saw 54 out of the total of 88 GMAs I recorded in South Africa, with 45% of these operating out of Mason’s Mill.  It is believed that the LMS in UK had a policy of one third locomotives in service, one third in workshops and one third awaiting workshops, so seeing 88 GMAs working was a good result. GMA and GMAM designs were identical, the different capacities being adjusted to suit by fitting or removing suitable plates in the coal and water spaces.  The GMA had 11tons-12cwt of coal plus 1650 gallons of water for a maximum axle load of 15tons-7cwt while the GMAM had 14tons of coal, 2100gallons of water for a maximum axle load of 15tons-14cwt.  The only known external difference was the class letter on the number plate!  Conversions took place between the two classes as required with at least one former GMAM having the second M roughly removed by chisel when converted to a GMA(see caption to photo 12)

79. Sometime around June 1974 Brian made a visit to the Greytown end of the line on a Saturday morning and couldn't believe his eyes when not two, but three Class GMA's appeared at the front end of a goods train heading up the grade from the Umvoti River to Greytown.  Unable to believe his luck at this unique sighting, he followed the train to Greytown, taking photos at every opportunity.  However, upon arrival at Greytown he learned that the situation was not quite as it appeared, which can be corroborated by the photos.  It transpired that a GMA on a (very) short up wayside train had failed en route, and a following GMA double-header had come to the rescue, picking up the stricken Garratt plus its two wagon load (the guard's van second behind the locos is the giveaway) and hauled them on to Greytown.  An indication that all was not well with the third Garratt is that nowhere in any of the photos that Brian took can the engine be seen to be doing any work.   Note also that in order to comply with the then strictly applied load-distribution instruction for bridges, the third garratt had its feeder tank moved to the front before proceeding.  This instruction seemed to have been conveniently ignored when the 114-ton Class 34 diesels arrived, as they could quite happily proceed over any bridge in twos or threes without any thought of a spacer wagon...! 

80.  GF 2402 on the outskirts of Greytown at 14:29 on 30 January 1974.  Although about fifty minutes later, this train is probably No 1122, the Victoria-Greytown T&P which Glen had travelled on with the same locomotive the day before but this time it has a bit more realistic loading than the three vehicles into Greytown on the previous day.  

Note Greytown's new fuel depot under construction in the left background.  You can see the earthworks for the yet-to-be-completed private siding to connect it to the station yard.  Sad to think that within ten years the siding would be redundant as the town's fuel arrived by road.

81. GMAs 4100+4114, with an up freight had presumably originated from Victoria, on the left, and GF 2402 on No 1188-up from Mount Alida on the right are shown standing in the “new” yard at Greytown on 31 January 1974.  These two trains had operated as one from Chailey to about half-a-mile from Greytown.  Note the maximum altitude in the yard is in the middle affording quicker acceleration for trains departing.  Date of construction was not known at time of writing.

82. The old sidings at Greytown were situated due south of the station.  In June 1968 a train was being made up with empty B-bogies for dropping off at cane-loading sidings between Greytown and Harden Heights along the main line to Dalton. 

83. GFs 2386 and 2405 worked the southbound train, see photos 74 and 57.



84. Sometime in 1970 a Class GF leaves Greytown with the 08:58 daily wayside 1127-down for Victoria, the guard standing alert at his open van door ready to give the second right-away (green flag) to the driver as the train safely clears the station. 

85. Early in 1974 a pair of GMAs stand ready for departure from Greytown with another impressive load for Victoria......no, I'm joking......they actually only have a guard's van tacked on!  Being a line where much of the loaded traffic originated at intermediate stations, the daily wayside train would often be unable to handle it all, so once a significant backlog had developed, Operating would send a "sweeper" through the section to clear the intermediate traffic - especially loaded timber and/or sugar cane.  This is, in all likelihood, such a train.  Hauling just a van from the origin station, it would be required to pick up as many loaded trucks en route as they are capable of hauling.  At least in those days, when every train ran with a guard's van, with a real live guard in place at the back, it was a comparatively easy exercise for Operating to nominate the first available train to perform this function. 

86. GF2405 performing shunting duties at Greytown on 30 January 1974.  This locomotive was so employed on the three days that the photographer visited the Greytown area and in fact only five GF’s out of a class of sixty-five locomotives were seen during that time.  In comparison, eleven different GMAs were seen during the three days for a total of sixteen locomotives.

87. A Class 8 sets off from the servicing point to do a spot of shunting in Greytown yard sometime around 1966.  Although here reduced to lowly shunting, the WTB load tables for the period did suggest that Class 8s still ventured onto the Greytown - Mount Alida branch as well as the main line to Victoria once in a while (see Part 6, photos 37 and 66).  Apart from the usual Class GCA, they and the GOs were the only classes of locomotive that were permitted to run on this lightly laid line. Quite how lightly laid it was to prevent the ubiquitous GFs from intruding there would be interesting to know, as the latter were allowed over the spindly 45lb rails of the Glenside and Bruyn's Hill lines!  However, the veteran Class 8s were tasked with much more responsible duties in their earlier years on the Greytown route.  I recall my late father, Erich Peter, relating his experiences whilst travelling to and from boarding school on this line - this would have been in the 1930s.  Coming from a dyed-in-the-blood German settler family farming at Keiskammahoek in the Eastern Cape, and until other arrangements could be made, he would travel a circuitous route over several days from their closest station at Debe Nek to the Deutsche Schule at Hermannsburg; between Greytown and Kranskop.  After several changes of train, he would disembark at Pietermaritzburg in the early hours on the third day and Hermannsburg would seem tantalisingly close, but the final 88 miles of mountain-climbing in a four coach all-stations passenger train behind a plucky 8th Class - working virtually flat-out much of the time - would take most of the day, only arriving sometime in mid-afternoon.  As a result my Dad initially only managed to travel home twice a year but clearly never held this against the SAR, which he joined in 1942 and gave 40 years of selfless service...!  

88. When Brian returned to Greytown late in 1968 he found a Class 8 still pottering around the yard on shunting duties, but these more than 60 year old dowagers were clearly winding down and would soon be withdrawn.  Already in this picture the changes in the railway scene on a line used principally for the conveyance of timber may be observed.  Years of labour-intensive vertical stack loading of wood in DZ, B and ES wagons (as can be seen behind the Class 8s tender) were giving way to the newfangled SE-type open wagon with side-stanchions on the right-hand side of the photo.  Whilst these early versions of a dedicated timber wagon were actually converted DZ wagons (the ends are dead giveaways!), they would eventually be custom-manufactured and reclassified as ST wagons of many varied designs and known colloquially in Afrikaans as "ribbetjiestrokke" ("rib-cage trucks").  They made the rapid mechanical loading of timber possible - and were less prone to load shifting when rough-shunted (well, somewhat less anyway).  The earlier variants had removable stanchions to allow timber to be loaded or unloaded from the side, but this was found to be unsuitable largely due to the high rate of damage and loss of these items and the more modern ST wagons have permanently attached ribs and are designed such that their timber loads can only be handled from above. 

89. From the 1940s to the 60s Charlie's Dad rode the Greytown train more than a dozen times, invariably using the hour between arrival of the Up and departure of the Down train to visit his favourite cafe in the dorp.  A curiosity of this station was the siding in the car park.  It seems likely this was used for parking off the coaches so they would be out of the way of the limited amount of siding space in the goods yard.  In fact, it may even have been used as the departure point for 1133-down (no, Charlie never did ask his old man).  Note the original (and stylish) NGR station building made of the red clay bricks produced near Pietermaritzburg.

90. GF 2400 near Woolstone on the Mount Alida branch, 7 August 1974 

91. Having left Greytown at 05:55 on 1181-down on 31 January 1974, GF2402 was making up its train at Mount Alida before returning as Train No. 1188 at 09:12 to Greytown.  Upon arrival at Mount Alida from Greytown, the complete train was shunted onto the goods shed road and the locomotive and water tank detached.  They then proceeded around the triangle to be attached at the north end of the vehicles standing on the goods shed road when, after preparative shunting, the train was ready to return to Greytown.  Since arriving at Greytown the previous day GF2402 had been turned so in the intervening time it must have made another trip to Mount Alida.  Also interesting is the use of water tank 30-021 960 behind the GF on the 43 km run to Mount Alida and return.  This locomotive had been seen in a line-up at Mason’s Mill on 26 December 1973 coupled between two water tanks with hoses not connected.  According to Wikipedia, there were two types of water tank used to supply water to Garratts, all of which were built at the South African Railways workshops at Pietermaritzburg.  In 1938 the X-17 type was delivered for use with the sixteen GM class and a second version of the X-17 was built in 1953 for the first twenty-five GMAs and the twenty-five GOs.  Ninety-five of the X-20 type were built between 1956 and 1958 for use with the balance of the GMAs.  Also, auxiliary water tanks were seen in Natal with other than Garratt locomotives such as 30-027 098 behind 19D2680 from Mtubutuba to Golela on 10 December 1973 and return with 19D2749 and 30-027 039 (both not X-20’s) as well as behind locomotives on works trains, including two different types behind 14R 1723 at Vryheid on 5 December 1973 during construction of the Richard’s Bay line.  Also seen was GCA 2191 at Alfriston on 9 November 1973 coupled to water tank 8X-18 30-020 042.  Unexplained is water tank 30-010 206, classed as X-17, used behind GMA 4148 on 8 November 1973 hauling 1213-down mixed Pietermaritzburg-Franklin and used again on 6 December 1973 with GMAM 4103 on 1225-down Pietermaritzburg-Franklin which became 1236-up Franklin-Matatiele.  This tank number does not fit in the number ranges as indicated by Wikipedia which, however, does state that some X-20 water tanks have been photographed with X-17 markings!  In fact, at least six types of water tank were seen by Glen, as well as the X-17 (two types) and X-20, which were used to supplement water supplies to locomotives.  However, the class series indicates at least twenty types of tank.

93. After taking water at Hermannsburg, Train No 1183-down, Kranskop-Greytown, with GMA 4114 and ten vehicles all from Kranskop, is seen storming up-hill into Greytown on 30 January 1974.  The GMAM took water at Hermannsburg both ways on the 51km long Kranskop line, even though a water tank was present at Kranskop.  The building on the left of the photo is Greytown's coal-fired power station which had its fuel transported by SAR until the national grid took over in the mid 1980s.

94. Until the early 1970s nothing heavier than a GF was allowed beyond Greytown.  This pair, approaching the horseshoes between Welgegund and Ahrens, were working empty B-bogies for loading with cane at the various sidings on the way to Kranskop. July 1968.

95. Feature of the winding route between Welgegund and Ahrens was the series of horseshoes.  The cutting in the foreground is where the previous photo was taken from.  A higher level of the same track is visible on the hillside above the train.   

96. The last of the three horseshoes has been navigated and the same train featuring in photos 94 and 95 is now heading for Ahrens, at a shade under 4,000 feet the highest point between Victoria and Kranskop.

97. Returning from Kranskop with stalk cane for Jaagbaan, July 1968.

98. Rules were made to be broken (this was only as far as the first siding where an extra B-bogie of cane was picked up). Note the brass dome on the leading GF.

99. Three GFs at Kranskop, the front two took a block load of stalk cane to Jaagbaan (it was a daily working) and the one at the back took 1131-down wayside, departing at 15:41 (don't ask about the odd minute).

100. That's Melly recording the GFs assembling their train.

101.  And the block load of sugar cane for Jaagbaan makes an impressive departure from Kranskop.

102. After arriving at Kranskop from Greytown at 0946 on 30 January 1974, GMA 4114 is ready to depart as 1183-down Kranskop-Greytown.  Note that the water tank which was behind 4114’s coal bunker is now connected to the other end of the locomotive at the emergency water tank end.  It was too wet to walk the yard but presumably locomotive turning facilities did not exist at Kranskop resulting in the GMAM running about its water tank.  


In my next chapter on Natal, we move over to the Richmond branch as well as the Cape-Natal line to Franklin and all the sub-branches but before that, Charlie will be presenting his next chapter covering the Montague Pass and then on to Oudtshoorn and Klipplaat.  Hope you've enjoyed the Greytown line as much as we have enjoyed compiling it.