Soul of A Railway ©‎ > ‎System 6‎ > ‎

Part 1: Durban Old Station

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.

We have had several readers ask: “When are you going to cover Natal?” That time has finally arrived and we will kick-off by spending time at the old Durban Station. 

Before commencing with our photographic visit to old Durban, this chapter would not have been complete without the help and input of a number of people who generously provided their time and photos to add to this presentation. My grateful thanks go to the following contributors:

  • Bruno Martin for his beautiful maps and advice on historical images;
  • Peter Stow, Peter Micenko, Stuart Grossert, Dennis Mitchell, Messrs Heymans/Moolman, Charles Baker, Geoff Gooderham, Charlie Lewis and the late Eddie Mecl for all their superb images;
  • Yolanda Meyer of Transnet for THL images;
  • Charles Baker for providing additional contacts for historical images;
  • Ashley Peter for allowing access to the Late Brian Couzens Collection – now under the care of the RSSA Natal Branch and his assistance with information and captions for the Brian Couzens’ photos;
  • Greg Hart for providing the scanned images from the Late Brian Couzens;
  • Rebecca Naidoo of the Durban Local History Museum who graciously allowed us to reproduce several of their historical images through the assistance of Charles Baker;
  • S A National Museum of Military History, Johannesburg via Sandy Buchanan;
  • Andrew Deacon for his formatting of the website
Finally an additional word of thanks to all who made it possible to include images from the Late Brian Couzens who I knew well when he was still with us and actively photographing the SAR all over the Country and especially in his native Natal.

Durban Old Station

Historically, we are dealing with the birthplace of railways in South Africa. Officially, the original Durban – Point railway opened on 26 June 1860.  The Cape followed soon after with the line to Wellington but Natal can lay claim to opening the very first operating railway albeit for a short distance of only 2 miles.

In this presentation, we are including several historical photos but the main emphasis is placed on the modern era where photography was an accepted everyday tool to record railway practice.



In 1877, the Point – Durban – Umgeni railway was taken over by the newly established Natal Government Railways and this administration, under guidance of Sir David Hunter, remained in control until the advent of Union in 1910 when it became part of the South African Railways & Harbours.

The NGR enjoyed the services of Mr D.A.Hendrie who was appointed Locomotive Superintendent in January 1903. Mr Hendrie came with a lot of experience from the Highland Railway in Scotland and had also been employed by Sharp, Stewart & Company of Glasgow – one of the constituent companies that later formed the North British Locomotive Co.  He took all this experience with him to the chair of the first Chief Mechanical Engineer of the SAR in 1910 and went on to design many successful steam locomotives for use on all sections of the SAR.


1. The station terminal building that was opened to traffic in December 1893. There is a story, probably apocryphal, that the roof of this structure was originally intended to go to Canada – note the angled layers of sheeting forming the roof.  The idea was that this roof was designed to shed snow using gravity.  Not much chance of snow in Durban! 


2. The “Princess Christian Hospital Train” is seen standing alongside the main Durban station building. This train was used to attend wounded soldiers during the S A Boer War 1899-1902. Note the engine – it is an NGR Harbour Board saddle-tank 0-4-0 which was used to test the vacuum brakes of the train. 


3. Here is the same train with a Dübs A tank engine ready to depart on a trial trip.  In this photo the train is at the platform under the main station canopy. 


4. Durban Central Station building, completed in 1898 which doubled-up as the NGR office accommodation. It was basically a two-storey building which provided rail passengers with the usual amenities of a major station – ticket offices, rest rooms, dining rooms etc.  This building was later extended when an additional two storeys were added. (see next photo) Note the Durban Corporation tram on the left and how the poor driver was left out in the open on his platform!  

 
5. Campbell, in his book "The Birth and Development of the Natal Railways", says that towards the end of 1903 two additional storeys were added as seen in this photograph which was taken in the 1930s. Rather interesting is the fact that the top-most level appears to have been lifted intact to allow for the additional two floors to be added in-between. To the right is the Loco-Erecting Shop of the Durban Mechanical Workshops while on the extreme left one can just see the layered roof of the old Central Station. 


6. The booking/ticket hall of the old NGR Station remained basically unchanged right through the SAR period until the new station was built at Greyville.  As a schoolboy in Durban during WW2, and during the post-war period, I remember this hall very well.  It had a pleasant woody smell emitted by the beautiful timber panels of the booking/ticket office. 


7.  This photo under the canopy of the NGR Central Station Building illustrates the layered roof that (it is said) was designed to shed snow. The train alongside the left-hand platform appears to be the “Corridor Dining Express”. 


8. A
n interesting old photo showing the yard layout c 1904/5 near the NGR Central Station building as well as the NGR offices and train shed - right background.  


9. Another view of the Durban Station Yard also c 1904/5 shows a line-up of NGR passenger stock and six locomotives all from the NGR tank-locomotive era - some making their presence known with a bit of smoke. Note the classic yard light in the foreground. 


10. This photo-collage presents a few examples of NGR passenger rolling stock including the interior of a dining saloon as used on the “Corridor Dining Express”.  


11. In 1924 a brand-new class GC Garratt is ready to depart from Durban Station with a train for the South Coast, under the watchful eye of Station Inspector James Grossert.  Thank you Stuart for contributing this extraordinarily evocative picture. 


12. We now move into the SAR period when electric traction reached Durban from Pietermaritzburg, during 1936. This was regarded as a momentous occasion in Durban and a photographer was on hand to record the change-over from steam.  This is the first of eight images taken by a Departmental photographer who unfortunately remains unknown. It shows a class 12A departing Durban with the pen-ultimate steam-hauled passenger train. Note the lower-quadrant semaphore signals in the foreground.   

As the Natal Main Line was about to lose the services of one of the most redoubtable types of engine ever to see service on SAR it seems appropriate to mention the long exchange of letters between Sir William Hoy and DA Hendrie regarding the use of the then new 12A's in Natal.  The letters were quoted in detail in Peter Stow's treatise on Witbank-line motive power in Les's Western Transvaal chapter (Part 21). When the 12As eventually did get drafted into Natal is not known but it was probably after the arrival in numbers of 15CAs.  What is certain is that, having acquired them, System Natal would have been very reluctant to part with them, they were worth two more coaches than a 14 on the 1921 Main Line between Durban and Pietermaritzburg - safe to say that the only thing superior would have been a pair of 1E's! 


13. It is time to say goodbye to steam on main-line trains in and out of Durban.  Crowds gathered on the platform to bid the steam engine – another class 12A - farewell and here she is, departing Durban for the last time with a main line passenger train. 


14. I beg your indulgence but here she is again, passing the Durban Signal Cabin. Note the crowds on the platform in the background.  It seems strange that no headboard was considered necessary for such an auspicious event. 



15.  According to the caption this is the “Inaugural electrically-hauled passenger train entering Durban......"  The leading unit is fully-regaled in contrast to the bare smokebox on the final 12A departure for Maritzburg. 


16. In the next photo of this sequence, we see crowds again – this time out of interest to see these strange gear-whining boxes on wheels taking the place of a steam engine.  The two class 1E units on the left, are due to depart with what is assumed to be the first electrically-hauled main line passenger train out of Durban.  The class 14 on the right, looking rather nice and respectable, is probably thinking “who is this new kid on the block – that’s our work”! 


17. With traction motors humming, gears whining and vacuum ejectors screaming, two new class 1E units depart noisily for Maritzburg with the first electrically-hauled main line passenger train out of Durban. The crowds seem to have grown even bigger – I’m sure many of them for the sheer fascination of seeing an electric locomotive at the head of a passenger train.  Note the class A tank engine on the left. 


18. In another cutting from the SAR & H Magazine, we see the first ordinary main line train to enter Durban under electric haulage in a scene that would be repeated countless times (albeit with more modern classes of unit) until Durban station itself was superseded by the new concrete dungeon at Greyville.  
This concludes the eight photos showing the transition from steam to electric haulage on the main line from Durban to Maritzburg. 


19. Similar to the 12A departing Durban with the lower Quadrant signals in the foreground, here are a couple of 1E units leaving Durban with a main line passenger train. The crowds are gone – the novelty has worn off! 


20. A fine view of the Durban railway complex at its greatest extent taken from 320 West Street – a tall office block in the City.  It shows the old NGR Office block and the station, now with additional platforms to the border of the Durban Mechanical Workshops.  This is truly a historical view with the workshops having moved out to Bayhead and the station to Greyville. The scanned press cutting was kindly provided by Charles Baker. 

 

21. First of the massive class 4E electric units were delivered in 1952 and were intended exclusively, for the Cape Western System on the Bellville – Touws River section.  However, due to ESCOM being late with the completion of the Hi-Tension feeds, the early-arrival units went to Natal – the idea being that they would be transferred to the Cape as soon as the wires were energised.  This SAR photo depicts a new 4E departing from Durban with 192-up, forerunner of the Trans Natal.  Note when the 4E units were new, they didn’t have the “eyebrow” shades above the front windscreens that were fitted later in the Cape. 


22.  The corner of West and Gardiner Streets in 1961 showing the old NGR Station and Office Building facing down Gardiner Street. The imposing building on the right with all the columns is the Central Post Office.  Note the SAR Brill coach standing alongside the NGR building.  Brill coaches were used on a regular daily service between Durban and Maritzburg. 

  


23. In 1960, I photographed GCA 2620 leaving Durban with a train for the South Coast. 


24. A local packet to Wests is headed by a new class 5E1 No 451 in 1961. These were the first units to appear in the newly adopted Gulf Red livery and they were also the last electric locomotives to be imported from the UK. 


25. Class 1E No 47 still in its original plain green livery is seen shunting the Durban Station Yard in 1961. A sister with the yellow visibility “whiskers” is lurking in the background. Note that No 47 is still fitted with the early multi-framed pantographs. 


26.  
A general scene of the station in 1961 shows a 14R quietly simmering at the head of a local passenger train.  No sign of the new red & grey livery for passenger stock yet.  


27. In September 1956 there was a comprehensive purge of the A class 4-8-2T's. They were small and good to look at and one had plenty of time to study their lines at Durban Station where they had been conspicuous on pilot duties for nigh on 50 years.  Somehow the bigger and much less pretty H2 tanks didn't quite cut it, although being more powerful than an A they were probably better at the job. Your photographer disgraced himself by slicing off half of "Natal" while trying to get a shot of H2 227 on the parcels shunt in February 1964. 


28. This is platform 11 at old Durban.  The building supporting the water tank is the back of the NGR office block and that on the right with the tall arched windows is the Loco Erecting Shop of the SAR Mechanical Workshops.  This is the platform that used to regularly receive train 71 which invariably brought in all sorts of livestock – goats, fowls, day-old chicks and farming equipment – tractor tyres, milk cans and all the rest! It was indeed a fascinating part of the old station. 


29.  Having come into Platform 8 with the Orange Express, its class 5E1 units had uncoupled and were about to take the escape crossover that protected the start of platform 11 (see also Bruno's map and Les's photo 28 above).  As soon as the units were released H2 227 drew forward, enabling photo 27. 


30. Platforms 9 and 10 were relatively new additions. As you can see they were still under construction in this photo of 14R 1723 with 40-up, the 12:35 Durban-Botha's Hill All Stations in July 1952.  Note the convenient train-viewing balcony leading off the top floor of the System Office building.  We have yet to see a photo taken from there although there must be several!


31. One of Greyville's gun engines (even deep underneath the smokebox was spotless), 14R 1733 was about to depart with 746-up, the 10:00 crack train to Port Shepstone, in February 1964.  On the left, "Kaaiman", the elliptical roofed type A31 dining-and-kitchen cars of 199-down, the Trans Natal, stand awaiting clearance from platform 7, having arrived earlier the same morning.  Note the open corridor-side windows of the kitchen car.  With no air-conditioning the heat from the coal-fired ranges must have been almost unbearable on a Durban summer's day. 


32. A few mornings later, 1733 was back in town at the head of 745-down from Port Shepstone. 


33.  Another view of the same 745-down taken mainly to show the gent in contrasting attire: traditional hat with western-style suit.  The transition to more westernised dress began in earnest in the early 1950's and today, sadly, is complete except for festive occasions.  By contrast, the policeman is in uniform that was issued pretty much from the beginning of our railways and, also sadly, vanished with the disbanding of the Railway Police in 1989. 


34. Class 5E 334 departing with 68-up the 17:38 all-stations
to Pietermaritzburg via Pinetown while   14R 1737 awaits its 17:50 departure with 866-up all-stations to Umkomaas in January 1963. 
 
Italics were deliberately used to emphasise the slowness of this train.  It took more than four hours for the 71-mile journey!   



35. It's that #1733 again, this time with 746-up, the 10:00 to Port Shepstone, in February 1964.  As Peter Stow has pointed out, 1964 seems to have been the first year that clerestory stock was not included in the South Coast sets.


36. Commencing with the November 1963 timetable, at 12:15 on Saturdays Durban had a simultaneous departure - theoretically at least.  Having spotted this in the locally-issued pocket timetable, Charlie set himself up for the glorious sight of two steam departures charging out of the terminus.  This was the 12:15 Amanzimtoti all-stations with a GF in charge......... 
 


37. The other half of the simultaneous, the 12:15 to Maidstone with a 14R in charge, left 2 minutes late! 


38. Class 14R No 1729 steams out with a local train for the North Coast. 


39. Another class 14R No 1720 is seen arriving at Durban with a local passenger train in 1961. 


40. The procession of local trains in and out of Durban provided plenty action for a railway photographer.  This is 14R No 1746 heading out to the South Coast with another local passenger packet. 


41. In Railway Street (Soldier’s Way) in 1961, one could get a fair photograph of the original NGR Central Station canopy. In this photo, we see the first evidence of the new livery of red & grey and an ex NGR side-door suburban coach. 


42. Taking a look inside the grand arch-layered roof, it looks so peaceful and quiet. At times during the day it was quiet but come 5 o’clock these platforms were very busy and crowded with commuters to various destinations including Wests, Pinetown and the South and North Coast. 


43. 
In December 1961, two 5E1 units arrive with the Trans Natal from Johannesburg.  In those days this was a daily service between the two cities and was very popular during the July holidays and at Christmas time.  Bookings had to be made well in advance of one’s intended departure date. 


44. Class GF Garratts were used extensively on the Verulam and other North Coast local passenger services.  Here is 2408 leaving Durban for her North Coast destination. 


45. Class 5E1 No 446 is awaiting departure for Wests while an H2 shunts in another rake of suburban coaches alongside platform 1. These old 4-8-2T's engines certainly gave the SAR Administration stalwart service for over 60 years. They were originally 4-10-2s – having their trailing coupled axle removed by the SAR between 1910 and 1922 (Paxton and Bourne: "Locomotives of the South African Railways" p 32). 




46. Peter Micenko describes his photo thus: Despite the plethora of electric multiple units in and out of Durban’s old station, there were many passenger trains requiring full rakes of mainline carriages. My photo provides a lot of interest here at Lord’s Yard from both carriage and trackwork aspects. 


47. Another shot of the H2 on station pilot duty in 1961 shows the original oil-headlamp which has survived after so many years’ service, albeit on shunting duty in the latter stages of her life.  


48. 
In photo 25 we saw class 1E No 47.  Here she is in the new red livery and sporting the new Metro-Vickers standard pantographs. She was working a local passenger train to Pinetown.


49. An unidentified 16BR departs Durban with another local passenger train. These reboilered 16Bs were accepted as part of the 16CR class but this engine was still noted carrying her class as 16BR. 


50. A green “whiskered” 1E was photographed on arrival from Pinetown in December 1961. By this time Durban had lost its semaphore signals – they were replaced by searchlight-type colour-light signals with route indicators and electric points machines controlled by a new signal box at the throat to the station. 


51. The Trans-Natal Express is ready to depart for Johannesburg – first stop Pietermaritzburg with two 5E1s in charge. These units, imported from the UK, still had the standard large headlights.  In time, as new orders were placed with the local Union Carriage & Wagon concern in Nigel, Transvaal, these headlights would be modified with smaller lamp-housings.  


52. Another train to Pinetown – this time with a class 1E in charge. The visible part of the train is all in the new SAR livery – albeit somewhat faded already! Note the body-language of the driver – I’ll bet that he was an ex-steam man leaning out of his cab like that! 


53. An unidentified 14R departs Durban with a local passenger train. The Greyville steam men were under strict instructions to avoid black smoke at Durban Station and this photo shows that the standing instruction was generally observed. 


54. The Trans-Natal Express arriving in Durban behind two 5E1s. Except for the “Reserved” saloon immediately behind the steam-heating unit, all the coaches are steel-bodied vehicles – type E-16 for 2nd class and C-34 for 1st class. Just visible behind the signal are Union Carriage saloons which would gradually replace the E-16s and C-34s.
 

55. The Late Eddie Mecl also took a few photos at Durban – this is his shot of a 14R departing from platform 2 with a local passenger train. 


56. Roger Perry also spent time at old Durban where he found 16BR 809 on station pilot duty in August 1963, ready to shunt the empty Trans-Natal to the Yard. This particular engine, in her original form as a class 16B and resplendent in royal blue livery, worked the 1934 Royal Train from Johannesburg to Klerksdorp. 


57. In 1963, the H2 tank engines were still doing station pilot work at Durban. Here is No 329 at work in the passenger yard. The coach immediately coupled to the engine is an ex-NGR side-door suburban coach with characteristic clerestory roof - a feature of NGR's passenger stock. 


58. Eddie found another local train at platform 4, also with a 14R in charge. You might have noticed the general cleanliness of Greyville engines – this 14R was no exception. 


59. What a train!  After two nights and a day, and 1,300 miles, the Late Brian Couzens photographed the Orange Express arriving in Durban drawn by two 5E1 units. The coaching stock is all Union Carriage and Wagon-made, still carrying the cream band across the windows but this distinctive livery wouldn’t last much longer. A decision was taken c 1971 to simply use red-and-grey liveried coaches on this train in order to use new coaches as they were placed into service. 


60. A local train arriving from Pinetown with a rather grubby-looking class 1E at the head-end, in 1964.  Note the Imperial Brown compo-van behind the unit – the change-over to the new livery which was commenced in 1960, did not happen overnight! 


61. One of the highlights for Durban railway enthusiasts was the annual visit of the Blue Train, filled with hopeful punters for the Durban July Handicap held on the first weekend in July. After all the passengers had disembarked Geoff Gooderham stayed to photograph the train being hauled to the Lords Ground carriage sidings by a typically clean Greyville based class 14R in the late 1960’s. I imagine that the shunters, after their shift ended, might have gone home and proudly told their families how they had ridden the Blue Train that day.  


62. The Blue Train was normally confined to the Johannesburg – Cape Town route but once a year it was chartered by well-heeled passengers going to Durban for the July Handicap. The late Brian Couzens took this interesting shot of the train being shunted out of the station to the passenger yard where it was stabled before returning to Johannesburg after the event. The engine handling the train is a class 16BR. 


63. Class 14R 1918, an ex-14A as evidenced by the absence of sand boxes on the running board, is gently positioning the Orange Express alongside platform 7 to couple to its guards and baggage van, which had been placed at the dead-end of the platform earlier in the day for loading prior to its departure for Cape Town, in December 1968. The coach immediately behind the locomotive was not part of the train and returned to Lords Ground coach yard with the locomotive. 


64. Two class 14Rs No's 1741 & 1736 arriving at Durban with a heavily-laden 369-down from Empangeni. This was a daily except Sundays service.
  A point we have frequently made is that nearly all the windows are open with passengers looking out of the windows.  The fourth vehicle is an ex-CGR day/sleeper saloon. 


65. A pair of 1E's with widened cabs passing Durban signal cabin as they headed a four coach local train bound for Pinetown.  


66. I’ve mentioned before that Greyville engines generally were kept clean but occasionally an engine would be given the full treatment.  Here is 14R 1756 in January 1964 absolutely resplendent! This engine was more than likely a regular engine for this particular crew – hence the ornamental brass ornaments on her smokebox door. 


67. It is just gone 09h30 on the Post Office clock and 1702-up to Empangeni is departing from platform 4. The date is 1969 and by this time the three 3rd-class main-line saloons normally behind the locomotive had been replaced by suburban coaches, no doubt released by the arrival of new 4M EMU stock ex-Cape Town in the mid-to-late 1960’s. On the right a 4M2 EMU is entering the station.  


68. On 5 September, 1971 the Durban branch of RSSA organised a special to Port Shepstone behind GCA 2623, here ready to depart from platform 3.  The train consisted of Hendrie main line balcony coaches. 


69. During 1971 withdrawal began of Greyville's GCA's.  By October they had all been withdrawn so this would have been a farewell run. The GCA's had given > 40 years of impeccable service and now, with completion of the South Coast electrification, they were no longer needed.  A dwindling number of us remember their noisy work on the Port Shepstone trains, invariably with total thrash between stations.
 


70. Locomotives for main-line trains in the winter months from May to September had to propel the steam heat vehicle from Umbilo electric running sheds to Durban station. Clearly it is not a cold day, given the shorts worn by the driver’s assistant as he signals the driver towards the stationary coaches of the Orange Express. However, the temperature could drop quite rapidly as the train climbed inland. In fact, it is December 1968 and it can only be assumed that the steam heat vehicle was either on transfer or to heat the water on the first generation Union Carriage and Wagon coaches which did not have geysers. Note the immaculately dressed policeman on the platform.


71. 1.    With the 2 class 5E1 locomotives now coupled, the Orange Express stands proudly with its distinctive headboard ready to depart. 



72. The Blue Train always had a spare dining car in the blue livery should the need arise to have a replacement.  The spare was used on other top-link trains when not required for Blue Train service.  This is Wegmann twin “MATIGULU” shortly after arrival in Durban from Johannesburg on the Trans Natal in January 1964. 


73. 
I always wanted to get a photo of class 1E No 1 and my wish finally came true at Durban in January 1965, when she was spotted leaving her train at the platform.


74. The White Train arriving in platform 6 at Durban station on 29 June 1973 behind immaculate Class 5E1's  E823 and E824.  The occasion was possibly the State President's annual visit to his winter holiday home at Umdoni Park on the South Coast.  The train returned to Pretoria on 19 July. 


75. Brian's three-quarter rear view of the White Train drawn up at platform 6. 


76. Brian was also on hand to photograph the departure of the White Train on 19 July 1973 as it left Durban. The two modified DZ wagons behind the Vapour-Clarkson steam heating tender were provided to carry the State President’s official cars. 


77. 
Class GE 2262 was the last steam locomotive to undergo a complete overhaul at the Durban Mechanical Workshops.  To mark the occasion a special train was arranged from Durban to Amanzimtoti and return on 21 April 1972, with 2262 hauling three coaches of workshop staff and invited guests.  Soon after "running in" on local workings, she would make her way to Zululand where she would put in a few years more service at Empangeni before being withdrawn and eventually scrapped. 


78. When the 15CB’s and 15CA’s arrived in Natal in the early 1960’s they were used on, amongst others, the night and day passenger trains to and from Empangeni on the north coast line and on passenger trains to and from Kelso on the south coast line. Here 15CB 2067 drifts into Durban with the 06h14 local from Tongaat on the North Coast line on 14 December, 1968. 


79. What a change of scene from the earlier photos in this chapter!  This is a general view looking at all the old platforms but not a steam engine in sight!  Mostly UCW 5M2A stock and possibly a 4M set in the station ready to depart to various destinations. 


80. In September 1972 when the new Blue Train sets were placed in service between Pretoria and Cape Town, Dr Loubser wanted at least one of the old Blue sets to be hurriedly painted in a green livery so that it could commence service from Johannesburg to Durban as the “Drakensberg Express”, hopefully capturing the Christmas trade. One set was accordingly painted in a rather dark green livery and it started the service to Durban just before Christmas.  Here it is arriving in “Durbs” as we used to call it behind two 5E1 units.  Photos of this train in the original dark green livery are quite rare but Brian managed to nail it!   


81. Two years later in 1974, after extensive interior rebuilding, the second Blue set entered service in the more familiar “Eau-de-Nil” light green livery. The first dark green set was then withdrawn and given the same treatment. Here is the Drakensberg Express leaving Durban in the new light green livery with two 5E1s. In this photo, Brian also managed to capture the revised front end of 5E1 units built at UCW in Nigel, Transvaal. The headlamps have been reduced in size and the curved leading edges of the cabs have been squared-off. 


82. Thanks to an Aussie visitor, Dennis Mitchell, I can include a fine photo at Durban showing the Trans Natal at platform 8 while the Drakensberg Express can be seen at platform 6. 


83. Durban station was normally a hive of activity but there is hardly a soul in sight in this Sunday view of a type 4M2X motor coach at the head of its set standing at platform 4 in April 1978 ready for departure to Port Shepstone.


84. The days of the old Durban station are numbered as set C-22 is ready for departure to Port Shepstone alongside platform 3 while a type 5M2A set waits for departure from platform 2 in this late afternoon view in October 1980.  Compare this view with photo 34. 


85. A type 4M2 set heading for Port Shepstone threads it way out of Durban towards Berea Rd station in May 1980. 


86. The arrival of the Drakensburg in Durban could best be described as sedate as it curved into view past the signal cabin towards its platform. It is a clear day in this May, 1980 view. 


87. The interesting trackwork in the foreground of this shot of a type 4M set arriving in Durban shows a diamond crossing and symmetrical double slips.  


88. As a 4M set runs in alongside platform 2, another stands in platform 4, its red marker still needing to be removed before departure. 


89.  1.    An empty type 4M set arrives at platform 4 to work a train to Port Shepstone in May 1980. 


90. This was one of Durban’s first attempts at parcel trains in the late 60’s before dedicated parcel 5M2A’s became available.  Talk about superpower!  This combination and load must have achieved 0-45mph (a 1E's top speed) in about 3 seconds flat. Peter Stow writes: "Class 1E number 12 and a sister seem an overkill to pull a single coach 6286 of type U-17, previously used for some years on one of the Durban - Mooi River sets, into Durban station as one of the first examples of a dedicated parcels train service in the Durban area. In subsequent chapters examples will be shown of such services down the South Coast and on the old and new main lines. This type of operation lasted until dedicated type 5M2A parcels motor and driving trailers were delivered from Union Carriage". 



91. Promptly at 09:15 on the morning of 14 November 1980, the final Trans-Natal to arrive at the old Durban Station pulls slowly into platform 8.  Note the beautifully spotless condition of the Class 5E1's allocated to top-link passenger train duty in those days.  One wonders how many of those passengers peering out of the windows were aware of the historical significance of the event. 


92. This is the old “Station Calendar” or train departure board photographed on the final day of train movements out of old Durban Station. I recall, during WW2 when I lived in Durban, an elderly Hindu lady would often be seen standing in front of this board meditating.  As a schoolboy I wondered what she was doing but never had the courage to ask her. Ashley Peter adds: The busy afternoon peak commuting scene at old Durban Station on Friday, 14 November 1980, belies the fact that the station would officially close that night, and all operations moved to the new Durban station about 2km away in Greyville.  There would however be a hiatus of several days whilst the final track layouts and signalling was completed, and buses would convey passengers between Umgeni and Dalbridge, with the new station scheduled to open first thing on Monday, 17 November.  Interestingly, long distance passenger trains for the Main Line were arranged to arrive and depart from the rather unpretentious Jacobs station during this changeover period.   

The removal of Durban's station (at the insistence of Durban Corporation) from the heart of the city to Greyville, 2km away, was a disaster from which neither rail commuter traffic nor the CBD ever recovered.  The wasteland that is Durban's CBD today bears testimony.  


93. The regular 5M2A numerical set that would have worked the last train in from the Old Main Line had been replaced by 4M2 spare set SP6 on the night of 14 November 1980 when the old Durban station closed.  Here it stands in platform 5, waiting to move off to the staging yards at New Durban for its next assignment, which will be from the new Durban station. 



94. Old Durban Station was no more!  Ashley Peter writes:  "The old Durban station was only partially demolished and in fact most of it still stands today, albeit in a slightly more slimmer shape than before - but I suspect that much of which was removed consisted of later additions anyway.  Although its fate was in the balance for several years after closure in 1980, a fairly vocal "Save the Station" campaign led by Professor Barend van Niekerk and supported by the National Monuments Commission, eventually won the day and it was decided to retain the station and its train shed.  Van Niekerk never got to see the success of his efforts as he passed away whilst on a visit to Bolivia in 1981.  The municipality was however of the opinion that if Commercial Road could be extended it would greatly ease road traffic congestion in the city centre and as a compromise it was decided to trim the NGR building down and to move the train shed to allow the road to be extended, resulting in the building becoming something of a traffic "island" in the city centre.  It was used as a tourist information centre for a number of years, but the reluctance of tourists to visit the city centre has meant that it no longer performs this function.  The train shed roof was successfully jacked horizontally about 20m away from the station office building to allow for the road construction and one of the photos supplied shows the two new pillars erected on each side to support the weight of the relocated roof.   This building now houses a health and fitness centre for the Virgin Active international chain of gymnasiums." 


95. This photo shows the old canopy being readied for the move. Thank goodness that sanity prevailed and that both the facade of the old NGR Office Building and the old station canopy were saved. 


96. The restored facade of the old NGR Office building as it appears today.  On the extreme left one can just make-out the layered roof of the old station canopy. 

In closing this chapter dealing with old Durban, I received very interesting information on the EMUs in use around Durban from Ashley Peter who was an operating clerk in the System Manager's Office during the period when steam traction was being replaced to an ever-increasing degree. 

Ashley writes (in answer to my query): 

"When did 4M2 stock get replaced by 5M2A?  That is quite a long story, as the two ran side by side in Durban for many years - in fact there is still a 4M2 motor coach dumped at Springfield Flats ERS today, looking very much the worse for wear...!

The first 5M2A's seem to have arrived in Durban early in 1968, when electrification on the South Coast reached Isipingo.  Their use was extended to Amanzimtoti in June 1968 and to Kelso in September of the same year.  Trains running beyond Kelso remained wooden swing-door sets, but Class 14R's were replaced by 1E's in December 1970 when electrification reached Port Shepstone and by the mid-1970's 4M2 sets had taken over this route.

Obviously, as the 5M sets did not have any steps, they could only be deployed as the platform raising project proceeded.  The kwaMashu (1963) and Umlazi (1968) lines would probably have been built with high level platforms from the start, but 5M sets only began running here sometime around 1968, possibly due to a shortage of modern sets and unsuitable platform heights north of Durban.  The Durban - Crossmoor line used 5M sets from the start in 1971, whilst the next lines to change over were the Durban - Wests, Durban - Stanger and Durban - Pinetown sections in the early 1970's (Pinetown changed over in February 1972), although trains beyond Pinetown remained largely wooden stock until the end of the passenger service as platform heights were never addressed between Pinetown - Cato Ridge - Pietermaritzburg.  Similar situations prevailed between Kelso - Port Shepstone and Stanger - Empangeni.  The Durban - Mariannhill - Cato Ridge New Main Line route was the last to change over, with raising of platforms only being completed in the late 1970's.  Presumably due to the shortage of motor coach train sets, even after the introduction of 4M and 5M's on the Pinetown line, a couple of links remained locomotive-hauled swing-door coach sets, hauled by 1E or 5E units, until about the mid-1970's.

In fact, 4M sets continued running in Durban until well into the 1980's - as can be seen from Brian's photo (No 93 above), which was taken on the night that Durban's old station closed towards the end of 1980.  However, probably due to a lack of maintenance, the 4M sets became more and more unreliable, and eventually virtually every set had class 5E1 units permanently attached as motive power.  Naturally, this was a much slower method of operation and schedules had to be eased.  The motor coach pantographs would be raised to facilitate train lighting.  Eventually, they gave up on the 4M sets and, amazingly enough, there was a large-scale return to the old steam side-door stock, hauled by 5E1 units.  These initially ran on through trains from Durban to Port Shepstone and Empangeni, as well as Pinetown - Cato Ridge - Pietermaritzburg and were later augmented by main line coaches as the older swing-door stock was withdrawn.  The subsequent shortage of serviceable coaches resulted in the locomotive-hauled service on the South Coast being reduced to just Kelso - Port Shepstone shuttles.  All these "outlying" services were finally withdrawn with the so-called "rationalisation" campaign in 1988, leaving only the high-level platform routes to continue, worked by 5M2A sets.
"

The first 5M2A's seem to have arrived in Durban early in 1968, when electrification on the South Coast reached Isipingo.  Their use was extended to Amanzimtoti in June 1968 and to Kelso in September of the same year.  Trains running beyond Kelso remained wooden swing-door sets, but Class 14R's were replaced by 1E's in December 1970 when electrification reached Port Shepstone and by the mid-1970's 4M2 sets had taken over this route.

Obviously, as the 5M sets did not have any steps, they could only be deployed as the platform raising project proceeded.  The kwaMashu (1963) and Umlazi (1968) lines would probably have been built with high level platforms from the start, but 5M sets only began running here sometime around 1968, possibly due to a shortage of modern sets and unsuitable platform heights north of Durban.  The Durban - Crossmoor line used 5M sets from the start in 1971, whilst the next lines to change over were the Durban - Wests, Durban - Stanger and Durban - Pinetown sections in the early 1970's (Pinetown changed over in February 1972), although trains beyond Pinetown remained largely wooden stock until the end of the passenger service as platform heights were never addressed between Pinetown - Cato Ridge - Pietermaritzburg.  Similar situations prevailed between Kelso - Port Shepstone and Stanger - Empangeni.  The Durban - Mariannhill - Cato Ridge New Main Line route was the last to change over, with raising of platforms only being completed in the late 1970's.  Presumably due to the shortage of motor coach train sets, even after the introduction of 4M and 5M's on the Pinetown line, a couple of links remained locomotive-hauled swing-door coach sets, hauled by 1E or 5E units, until about the mid-1970's.

In fact, 4M sets continued running in Durban until well into the 1980's - as can be seen from Brian's photo (No 93 above), which was taken on the night that Durban's old station closed towards the end of 1980.  However, probably due to a lack of maintenance, the 4M sets became more and more unreliable, and eventually virtually every set had class 5E1 units permanently attached as motive power.  Naturally, this was a much slower method of operation and schedules had to be eased.  The motor coach pantographs would be raised to facilitate train lighting.  Eventually, they gave up on the 4M sets and, amazingly enough, there was a large-scale return to the old steam side-door stock, hauled by 5E1 units.  These initially ran on through trains from Durban to Port Shepstone and Empangeni, as well as Pinetown - Cato Ridge - Pietermaritzburg and were later augmented by main line coaches as the older swing-door stock was withdrawn.  The subsequent shortage of serviceable coaches resulted in the locomotive-hauled service on the South Coast being reduced to just Kelso - Port Shepstone shuttles.  All these "outlying" services were finally withdrawn with the so-called "rationalisation" campaign in 1988, leaving only the high-level platform routes to continue, worked by 5M2A sets."


I will continue with Part 2, turning our attention to Greyville Loco Depot.