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Braamfontein Yard (2) by Les Pivnic ©

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Although there is not much to add to the introduction to Braamfontein Yards given in the previous chapter, it might be useful to mention that the SAR adopted a policy country-wide whereby steam loco depots would be removed from central city areas.  Several of these removals took place long before Braamfontein was moved out to Krugersdorp.

The old Cape Town Tennant Street shed was moved to Paarden Eiland; Port Elizabeth’s North End shed went out to Sydenham; Pretoria’s roundhouse near the station went out to Capital Park; the old roundhouse at Bloemfontein was removed to the other side of the yards alongside the road to Mazelspoort and so on.

This policy wasn’t applied in every case however.  The large steam depot at Greyville in Durban and the depot in East London were never removed until they closed – mainly because in those cases, steam traction was being eliminated and new depots were simply not required.

When Braamfontein went to Krugersdorp and the old loco was demolished, a couple of pit roads were purposely left intact to provide a resident fitter with the means of inspecting the few shunt engines that would remain on duty in the old yard.  These engines would still run out to the new depot at Krugersdorp Millsite for heavier maintenance and boiler wash-outs.  So while a few remnants of steam power for shunting turns could be seen for a few more years in Braamfontein, it would never be the same.  I will let the photos and their captions reflect the changing scene.

1. A rather forlorn-looking 16CR stands in an almost deserted shed, she was still around for the shunting duties mentioned above. 

2. Two class 7s which had toiled since before the turn of the 19th century were now finally retired and awaiting an uncertain fate – both standing alongside what was now a ghostly-quiet Braamfontein Running Shed.

3. In February 1961 I again visited the old Braamfontein Loco and apart from a couple of shunting engines the place was deserted.  These shed buildings were earmarked for demolition so even these photos had a measure of historical value attached to them.

4. As I walked around familiar ground I passed the old 15M Shop and an S2 was sitting there as if waiting on repair but if she did need something attended to, she would have to work out to Krugersdorp Loco unless it was of a very minor nature that the fitter could handle here.

5. The ghostly atmosphere in this old depot was tangible!  A few mossies [= sparrows] flitted around the deserted running shed.

6. Even the two class 7s have gone.  They were probably hauled away for scrapping at another site.  In the foreground, apparently abandoned, is a brass concertina railing for the inter-balcony connection on a Hendrie saloon.  Being predominantly brass, nowadays it would have disappeared in five minutes!  In the far distance you can see the smoke stack for the stationary boilers next to the light tower – but no smoke.  However, this was still not the end of class 7s in Braamfontein – I would see another one still in steam!

7. As I walked away from the old loco I came across this curious combination for a photograph – a class S2 and a3E waiting for their next turns of duty.  The diminutive boiler on the class S2 is really prominent.

8. The Blue Train had arrived earlier from the Cape and it was being shunted into the Blouloods.  Once inside the shed, these coaches would be thoroughly washed outside and cleaned inside for the next trip to Cape Town.  Steam was still used in this yard for most of the shunting.

9.  Seen and photographed at the ERS, these three 1Es nos.186, 156 and 187 were ready on duty to go out on Reef hauler work which involved transferring goods loads from one yard to another.  After the 5Es and 5E1s were placed in service in Natal several class 1Es were released to the Transvaal for such work on the Reef.

10. Another 1E no. 158 on one of the staging roads near the ERS.  It was still in its original Natal green livery but looking a little grubby by SAR standards. 

11. In April 1961 a special train was assembled for the delegates to a Metallurgical Conference.  I’m not sure where the train took the delegates but judging by the assembled coaching stock, no expense was spared in providing first class accommodation including one of the latest Wegmann A-37/AA-38 diners and the spare Blue Train lounge car 795 seen in this photograph.  Note how clean all the coaches are!

12. In my introduction I referred to the new coach cleaning plant installed in the South Passenger Yard.  Here it is in action washing a 5M set in August 1962.  Note the powerful jets of water rinsing the train as it leaves the installation.


13. After observing the washing plant I walked into the ERS to see what was available for my camera.  The first offering was this class 3E no.193 in a somewhat faded red livery.  The earlier green livery certainly weathered better than the Gulf Red.    


The overall scene in the ERS was interesting in that the 3E was in company of veteran 1Es and the newer 5E Series 2.  Behind them another pair of 3Es with one receiving attention – hence the red flag attached to the leading green 5E.  

15. A close-up of the red-flagged group of units shows to good effect the better weathering of the older green livery!  For the benefit of overseas or younger readers I need to explain that the term “unit” was applied originally in Natal to electric locomotives because the class 1Es worked singly or in combinations of two or three units per train.  The word seemed to stick and for many years electric locomotives were colloquially known as “units”.  


16. Also photographed in April 1964, was this combination of a Series 2, 5E1 no.684 built locally by Union Carriage & Wagon coupled to a newly-outshopped 5E.  This pair of units was ready to go on duty and left the Yard shortly after I took the photo. 

17. Taken on the same day as the previous photo I found class 7 No 993 still earning her keep on the shunt in the Passenger Yard.  This little 7 was destined to have a rather colourful end to her life.  After more than 70 years service on the SAR she was sold to Zambesi Saw Mills where she saw further service for several more years until the ZSM closed in 1974.  She was then given to David Shepherd the well-known British wild-life artist who took her to England and she ended up on display in the Whipsnade Zoo before finally going to the NRM in York.  Braamfontein to York – interesting!  No 993 had until very recently done main-line service in South West Africa, hence she is superheated and equipped for steam heating.  

18. I purposely took this photograph in April 1964 to show how the old Steam Depot had disappeared.  Not many years earlier my camera would have seen a fully operational Steam Depot from this point in the Yard.

19. Coach 9078 on the same day, fresh out of shops and ready for service.  I had many trips in this actual 2M2 motor coach and her sisters.  I fondly recall the soft suspension which resulted in a gentle bouncing-action as it drew to a stand at a suburban station.  The bays with the larger windows originally had tables fitted but these proved to be a nuisance especially in peak hour when a passenger at the window needed to get off, those next to him or her would need to move out into the central aisle to allow the trapped passenger to get out.

20. Back at the ERS diesel-hydraulic class 61.002 was in the Depot to shunt electric locos that couldn’t move under their own power.  These diesels looked smart in the new red livery. 

21. My visit to Braamfontein in April ’64 also proved interesting in that I found a REAL KAPENAAR lurking near the old Catering Building.  It was a 3rd class driving trailer converted from a Cape 1M motor coach!  The de-motored bogies and the heavy underframes with the characteristic holes in the side-members identify this old girl dating back to 1928!


22. Another rare sight – this time at the new Catering Block in the North Passenger Yard also in April 1964. This was the SAR Counter Car rebuilt from a single diner A-18-T MATESI.  She was loaned to the Rhodesia Railways – hence the RR livery. 


23. Another visitor passing through Braamfontein was this newly out-shopped A-37/AA-38 twin diner NGULANA in Orange Express livery.  Once she left for either Cape Town or Durban to take up her duties, we would not see her again in the Transvaal for several years!  I thought that she looked splendid in this livery!  


24. Just over a year later – in May 1965 – our little friend 993 was STILL shunting in Braamfontein and she looked rather respectable too!  She hadn’t been sold to ZSM yet.  


25. In March 1966 I again visited Braamfontein Yard and I found these three class S shunters having a chin-wag but unfortunately I couldn’t understand a word that they were saying – it was in German!  I also noticed how well kept they looked considering that there were no regular engines left in Braamfontein!  


26. My friend Eddie Mecl also photographed one of these clean S class locos shunting 5M stock in the Yard in the late 1960s.


27. Possibly on the same day Eddie photographed this class 4AR in the Yard. She was standing very close to where the old electric turntable had been.  Doesn’t she look good with her Pyle National headlamp?  The sealed-beam headlamps that replaced these looked awful with their tiny little rectangular boxes! 

28. In April 1969 a major railway event took place in the form of a special all-steam run of the Blue Train from Johannesburg to Cape Town and return.  The Historic Transport Association in conjunction with the SAR arranged for a special set of locomotives to haul the train on its journey of almost 1000 miles each way.  Reg Tarpey, Deputy GM saw to it that special locos could be laid on for the trip. It was decided that a class 16E borrowed from Bloemfontein would work the first leg from Johannesburg to Klerksdorp.  This resulted in two 16Es coming up to Johannesburg for the trip.  Engines 855 and 859 – the latter as a back-up in case 855 ran into problems.  The two 16Es were sent to Krugersdorp Loco where they were temporarily stabled.  While there, Charlie McLean arranged for engine 855 to come through to Braamfontein for a few photographs.  16Es were no strangers to Braamfontein but they hadn’t been seen here since 1953.   Charlie Mac arranged for Driver Cooper (in the cab) to bring 855 alongside the old coalstage – thus re-creating history! 

29. I took the opportunity to photograph 16E 855 alongside a coalstage that she hadn’t seen for 16 years!  This was history in the making as it would soon be demolished!  Engine 855 had to be content with the coal that she got on this day because the special high-grade cobbles that she had previously enjoyed in the 1930s were no longer available.


30. Charlie McLean (retired Driver, Special Grade), Senior Driver I.H.F.Cooper and Fireman S.P.F.Potgieter alongside 855 on 2nd April 1969. More photos of this illustrious occasion will appear in SoAR when I deal with the Cape Main Line from Johannesburg to Klerksdorp where we'll see 855 out on the road with the Blue Train.


31. On 26th April 1970 I made my way to Braamfontein ERS because I had word that the very first class 6E1 was arriving at the depot from Union Carriage.  Locomotive No 1227 was the second of her class numerically but the first to be delivered.  She made an impressive sight in the depot.  

32. An SAR photo showing the new Catering Building and Yard that was tucked into the north-eastern corner of the Queen Elizabeth Bridge.  Note the smoke stains already on the fascia of the platform area where dining cars were stocked and also the coal supply for kitchen cars that were not yet equipped with gas stoves. If you look very carefully you should notice a coach detached at the back and between the Bridge and the Catering Building.  That vehicle was single dining car A-21 WILDEBEESTE that I had staged at Catering for the National Collection. Unfortunately, she had to be moved eventually to Krugersdorp Loco and there she was burnt down to her frames by striking railway labourers.  An old Cape veteran destroyed by senseless vandalism!

33. Back at the western end of Braamfontein I found four engines on shunting duty – classes S and S1 on the left, Hendrie reboiler in the middle and a couple of S2s on the right - thus all three of SAR's 0-8-0 shunter types in one photo! In this photo one can also see the Blouloods [= nickname for the Blue Train shed] behind the engine nearest to the camera. The engines on the left are over the two pit-roads that were retained for inspection purposes.

34. Late in August 1972 a Railway Photographer was sent to photograph the final departure of the old Blue Train for Cape Town.  By special arrangement this train was hauled out of Johannesburg by two of the 6E1s specially painted in the livery of the NEW Blue Train.  The headboard on the leading unit was also the new headboard for the new train that would be in revenue service within a week.


35. The same two 6E1s brought the old Blue Train back into Johannesburg on her final trip from the Cape a few days later.  This train passing through Braamfontein had come to the end of the line as the SAR’s premier express but she together with her sister set would continue to offer superior service as the Drakensberg Express in the coming months.

36. The SAR had a permanent exhibition in the Government Pavillion at the Rand Easter Show.  The Railway’s exhibit was put together by the Publicity & Travel Department under the guidance of Peter Whitesweet who was one of the senior display artists in that section. Early in 1973 Peter came to see me in the SA Railway Museum office and said that they would like to mount a full size locomotive outside the Pavillion.  I then contacted George Barclay in the GM’s Motive Power office and asked him if we could have an engine for this purpose.  After he had made some enquiries he came back to me and said that a class 16DA no.876 has just been released from a Heavy Repair at Bloemfontein and that we could have this loco if we wanted it.  I immediately said - YES PLEASE!  Engine 876 was worked up to Germiston Loco where she was prepared for the transfer to the Milner Park Showgrounds to serve as a centre-piece for the SAR display. I mentioned to Peter that one of these locomotives was painted blue back in the days when they were working the Union Express from Kimberley to Johannesburg.  Peter then promptly asked the Loco Foreman at Germiston to paint the engine blue!  The Germiston Loco breakdown gang with steam and diesel cranes then brought the engine to the Braamfontein North Passenger Yard where she was transferred to RMT heavy-haul road vehicles for transport to Milner Park.  It all went well and she proved to be a great attraction at the 1973 Show with a qualified driver on the footplate to explain the workings of a steam engine to young budding engine drivers!  Roger Perry took this portrait of her standing proudly outside the Government Pavillion.


37. During the 1980s an exhibition (ITEC) of railway material was held in the Milpark Yard off Braamfontein.  As the SATS Museum we displayed our class 1E no.1 that had been restored for museum purposes.  Unfortunately, we had no way of knowing at that time, that our efforts would be in vain!  Like so many other priceless pieces of SAR equipment, it eventually became derelict in some yard due to the lack of financial allocations in the Railway Budget – this brought about by political changes that were already looming behind the scenes. 

38. In 1989 the staff at the ERS in Braamfontein was given permission to run steam on the Friday departure of the Trans Karoo between Johannesburg and Klerksdorp.  They eventually also worked the return trip inbound on Saturdays. Initially they got hold of class 25NC 3476 to do the work and they spruced her up quite magnificently!  She was later joined by a couple of sisters and on the odd occasion by a guest engine from nearby Sheds.  Roger Perry caught 3476 in action as she steamed out of Johannesburg and past the Braamfontein Yards. These workings continued until at least May 1993 when I took my last photo of a steam-hauled Trans Karoo.

But that was not the end.  These workings continued for almost another four years, as related by John Faulkner:

"The BRR 25NC's worked the Friday Trans-Karoo until early 1997. Their last run was in March with a special to Potch dam. The locos were 3404 (Elsabé), 3422 (Maryna) and 3476 (Griet) with occasional help from Krugersdorp's 3407 (Pauline),  Germiston's 3472 (then Lilly now Elise) and Springs' 15F 3135 (Matilda). The drivers did not like using the F because the mechanical lubricator on the 25's made them too lazy to oil around! Operating insisted that two locos be used for the Saturday return working to maintain the times but, on one occasion, the second loco had to be taken off at Potch with a broken stoker engine. They left Potch 13 minutes late and arrived in Jhb on time! The driver was a young chap who was learning to drive steam but, sadly, a short time later he was dismissed for being under the influence on the footplate!"


39. I always had a soft spot for the class ES steeple-cab locos which were known by the running staff as “Studebakers”.  This link to an American car manufacturer was brought about by the fact that the two long bonnets either side of the cab were likened to a sports model Studebaker! 

40. This collage brings my Braamfontein chapters to a close.  I thought that it would be of interest especially to modellers to see the well-known Vapour-Clarkson steam heating tenders in four different liveries from the original green to the red & grey; then the Spoornet orange and finally a rather drab blue-grey.  All except the original green were photographed in Braamfontein North Passenger Yard.

We have spent enough time in the Yards so now it is back to the main lines.  The next chapter will take us from Johannesburg via Krugersdorp to Zeerust, stopping just short of Mafeking which was on the Cape Northern System.