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Krugersdorp - Zeerust - Mafeking (home signal) (2) by Les Pivnic ©

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The introduction to the previous chapter provided most of the background to this line but a few aspects relevant to this second segment dealing with this section need to be mentioned.

In April 1969, a special working of the Blue Train to Cape Town from Johannesburg involved Krugersdorp Loco – hence its inclusion here.  The two class 16Es brought up especially for this momentous occasion from Bloemfontein were temporarily stationed at Krugersdorp and I have included a few photos showing the pre-trip activity at the Depot.

In February 1970, a farewell to the class GM was also arranged by the Historic Transport Association by running a special train from Johannesburg to Swartruggens and return.  This trip will be covered in this chapter.

We will also see the appearance of diesel traction – first working alongside steam before taking over completely – this being made possible by replacing the 60lb track with heavier rail.

The demise of steam gaining momentum led to a number of additional steam-hauled specials on this line using locomotive classes that back in earlier times would have been improbable if not impossible on the 60lb rail.  Classes 12AR, 15E, 15F, 25NC and even GL 2351 “Princess Alice” made an appearance and to my eyes looked totally out of place!  To see a green 25NC worshond – 3407 passing through Boons looked ridiculous but such a working did take place with “Pauline” working a private special to Koster!  A 15F worked the train back!  Thank heavens we didn’t see a 16E along here!

However, with the series of steam festival workings between Kimberley and De Aar we did see some crazy combinations like a 16E double-heading a 12AR – it is a wonder that those making such arrangements didn’t pair a 15CA with a Wickham trolley!

The foreign motive power on the Zeerust line brings this chapter to a close.

We will then move on to the final chapter dealing with this line which will concentrate on the tragedy of the SATS Museum at Krugersdorp Loco.

1. A 5E1 Series 5 No1058 was photographed near Grosvenor working the Rhodesian Mail to Krugersdorp in December 1968.  Note the newer versions of the RR coaches with their elliptical roofs.  They were basically similar to the SAR E-16s and C-34s but were provided with new-style elliptical roofs when repeat orders were placed with Metro-Cammell in the UK.

2. On 30th March 1969 I went out to Krugersdorp Loco to see the two 16Es that had been sent up from Bloemfontein for the special Blue Train trip mentioned in the introduction.  The two engines selected were No's 855 and 859 seen here with 859 “Bloemfontein” nearest the camera (note the missing gearbox on the return crank - it was removed by the fitters for repairs).  It was arranged that 855 would actually work the train with 859 as back-up.  I don’t think that A.G.Watson would have approved of these arrangements which seemed to cast doubt as to whether a single 16E could do the job!  In any event 855 did not let her designer down – she performed magnificently even with an additional lounge car in the consist!

3. In this photo of No 855 “Johannesburg” we see – left to right – Driver Cooper who was booked to work the train as far as Klerksdorp; John Silver one of the HTA organisers; John Nicholson interested in the poppet valves on the engine; Charlie McLean, pensioner Driver Special Grade and Running Shed Foreman Lottering. The special hideously ugly headboard was already test-hung on the smokebox door. 

4. Portrait of 855 ready to work the Blue Train to Klerksdorp.  A really magnificent machine! 

5. Another view which tends to enhance her beauty!  There is something about a big-wheeled Pacific that makes them stand out especially in company with other locomotives.

6. A close-up of her simple poppet-valve motion adds further evidence of the gracious beauty of these Watson-inspired engines. 

7. Back to normal activity on this line in August 1969, we see GMA 4085 working a goods train towards Magaliesburg.

8. Taken from the same spot, GM 2306 thrashes up the grade leaving Magaliesburg westbound en route to Zeerust.

9. Another shot of 2306 as she steams past Watershed, an unprepossessing siding and shelter marking the ridge between the catchments of the Limpopo and the Vaal Rivers - in other words, the continental divide!

10. Roger Perry was no stranger to the Magaliesburg district.  Here is one of his photos taken in November 1969 showing a GM on the main line at Magaliesburg Station ready to depart for Zeerust.

11. Class 19D 2762 was photographed in August 1969 approaching Magaliesburg with 321-down local from Pretoria.

12. GMA 4085 climbs away from Magaliesburg with a goods train for Krugersdorp. She was photographed near Orient siding. 

13. At the same spot in August 1969 we see class 31.041 & 31.014 working a train of gypsum towards Orient siding.  This was my first encounter with diesels on this line.

14. Taken by surprise when confronted with diesels, I ran across the road and took another shot of them heading up the grade.

15.  Roger Perry took this evocative shot of the line just west of Magaliesburg.

16. Class 4ARs were regularly seen coming from or going to Zeerust from Krugersdorp Loco.  Here is one of them near Syferbult on 1st February 1970. 

17. On the same day, another pair of 31s with number 034 leading was coming through Chidima with a goods train.  I never saw class 31s working the Rhodesian Mail. Note the guard with his foot on the points tumbler! 

18. GMA 4145 was photographed near Chidima working 1398-up - the Rhodesian Mail in February 1970

19. I previously mentioned GM 2294 being selected for the HTA farewell special to Swartruggens.  In this shot taken on 1st February 1970 near Syferbult she is seen on a test trip with Driver Dreyer working a goods train prior to working the HTA special.

20. The last photo in the previous chapter introduced the memorable celebration by the Historical Transport Association (HTA) on 7th February 1970 of more than 30 years of service by the GMs on the Mafeking line.  On the outward journey of the HTA special (which turned around at Swartruggens), GM 2294 ran bunker-first in really foul weather which was to prevail for most of the day.  The stubbornly traditional Beyer-Peacock designed bunkers were emphasised at Seekmore where the special crossed a down freight.  

21. Coming home again.  After a prolonged service stop at Swartruggens 2294 made a spirited start in anticipation of the solid 1-in-40 for the next fourteen miles as far as Chidlima siding, before some relief along the level stretch to Koster.

22.  The HTA special with 2294 very obviously in charge, climbing out of Swartruggens on the return journey.  The old girl put in a fine performance which would have put a smile on CME W A J Day’s face! 

23. In Part (1) we mentioned how busy the Mafeking line was before completion of the Beit Bridge-Rutenga connection in 1975.  Finding a path for a trainload of enthusiasts was not easy, as manifested at Mazista where an eastbound cement block had to be parked off in the goods shed dead-end to make way for 319-down and the HTA special.

24. Ooo----die donkie!  Chasing the train we got another shot near Koster. Even the burro was intrigued by the special making a lot of noise as it steamed past!  

25. And yet another triple crossing with the HTA special, this time at Koster with 2294 leaving town in style.  Compare this photo with John Phillip's one (No 50 below) taken barely two years later.  No doubt Operating was pleased that this excursion was a one-off!

26. In the late afternoon a stray sunbeam accidentally found its way onto the train just before Orient, between Magaliesburg and Krugersdorp.

27. In the gathering gloom 2294 made a heroic final effort on the last mile to Wes-rand with her 600-ton load of 15 carriages.

28. In the early 1970s Bruno Martin was also chasing GMAs on the Zeerest section and photographed this goods train near Koster.

29. This is the first of six photographs selected from a batch taken in August 1970 during a trip out on the Zeerust line.  The GMA with a goods train was photographed near Vlakdrif.

30. Another GMA soon put in an appearance coming from Zeerust.

31. The Rhodesian Mail was also photographed at “Perry’s Point”.  This name referred to Roger Perry who made this particular spot his own for taking photos on this line.  There was a small mound on which one could get a good elevated view of the track and Roger put it to good use over several years. 

32. The Mail was chased and our next spot was at Seekmore Halt.  The roofed structure on the left was actually a rather smart gate for the property seen on the right.  I was somewhat surprised to see that the property’s fancy gate was built on the railway reserve but it looked good!

33. The next vantage point was Watershed.  The Rhodesia Railway saloons looked very smart in their brown and cream livery with the railway’s crest amidships on each coach.

34. There was no shortage of trains to photograph – another GMA steamed past with a goods train heading west.

35. August 1970 saw us on another jaunt out on the Zeerust line.  This time we were lucky in the sense that a GM running chimney-first had been arranged for another enthusiast and we were able to take advantage of it. Here she is working the Rhodesian Mail near Seekmore.

36. Doubling back towards Magaliesburg another GM appeared from the west with a VERY mixed load.  If you look at the back of the train you will see a mixture of passenger vehicles in this consist.  I suspect some empty coaches were being worked back to Braamfontein.

37. Our final photograph on this particular outing was of a GMA climbing away from Magaliesburg. We gardened out some khakibos before the GMA steamed past heading west.

38. Eastbound trains from Mafeking encountered a gradual rise through typical African bush as far as Ottoshoop, from where the terrain changed markedly as it descended quite steeply into the Marico basin.  This down goods had actually originated at Slurry with a block load of bagged cement for highveld retail outlets.

39. A considerable amount of traffic originated and terminated at Slurry - as with 3314-up goods leaving Ottoshoop with GM 2303 on a December afternoon in 1971.  Most of this train consisted of pea coal for the PPC cement works and empty bulk cement wagons for its product.  The photo was taken from the R48 overbridge, the building of which a few years previously had created the necessity for those miniature repeating home signals half-way up the post.

40. Getting out of the Marico basin involved a climb of 900ft in the first 16 miles westward out of Zeerust.  It doesn't sound like much but there are quite a few stretches of 1-in-40. In December 1971, GM 2292 was bringing 3306-up through Buffelshoek siding with goods for Mafeking and beyond. 

41. Practically the whole climb between Zeerust and the summit consists of a succession of wide sweeping reverse curves, as in this case on the approach to the summit at Windheuwel siding.  GM 2303 is working 3314-up, the same train featured in photo 39 above.

42. This chapter would be incomplete without examples of Roger Perry’s work at “Perry’s Point”, his lookout on the grade west of Magaliesburg!  Here is one of his photographs taken at his favourite spot – a GMA working a goods train to Zeerust.

43. This is Roger’s view of the Rhodesian Mail with a smart GMA in charge passing his lookout. 

44. Roger also made this magnificent photograph of a GM double-heading a GMA coming by with a heavy mixed load of goods, including a dozen loaded ballast wagons.

45. He moved further up the grade out of Magaliesburg for this photo of a GMA working a goods train west towards Zeerust.

46. We didn’t often see 19Ds on the Zeerust line except for the local passenger train from Pretoria but Roger got lucky and captured this fellow coming down-grade towards Magaliesburg with a load of cement wagons.

47. Two GMAs crossing – the train coming towards Roger near Magaliesburg was the in-bound Rhodesian Mail, 1399-down.

48. Roger photographed this GM working 1398 somewhere out on the Zeerust line but unfortunately did not record exactly where he took it.  The GM looks really purposeful and powerful.

49. The exact location of this Roger Perry photo is also not recorded but he obviously followed the GM working the Rhodesian Mail and got this one of it stirring up the dust at a level crossing in the flat-looking countryside between Vlakdrif and Breetsvlei.

50. When John Phillips toured RSA in 1974 he was just too late to find steam along the Mafeking line, but that it was still busy, if not busier, is apparent from this multiple crossing at Koster on 6th September.  Perhaps we're bigoted and old-fashioned but it seems hard to believe that TWO class 33 diesels AND a steam-heating van using IMPORTED fuel could have been more economical than a SINGLE GMA using coal MINED ON ITS DOORSTEP!!!  No. Steam was old-fashioned.  That's why it had to go! 

51. Thanks to Dave Wardale and Roger Waller SAR did back one last effort to show that steam WAS economical.  That these efforts proved their point is beyond question.  That they were ultimately fruitless is also beyond dispute.  Put that down to the idea fixed in every railway manager's brain that steam was past its sell-by date.  We'll have more of this debate in the chapter dealing with the Kimberley-De Aar main line.

The last Roger Perry photo in this chapter is something special!  He was again out on the Zeerust line to photograph this excursion being worked by the Wardale 19D 2644 and Don Pretorius’ 15F 3153 Melanie.

52. In October 1985 I was tempted to go out and photograph 3153 working another HTA special on the Zeerust line.  I mentioned in the introduction how it was difficult to accept main line engines working in Garratt country.  Well, it was awkward seeing a 15F on this line but nevertheless I decided to record the event.  Here, 3153 is seen in action not far from Swartruggens.

 53. She hammered past me with safety valves blowing – quite an impressive sight! 

54. Leaning into a curve she really looked splendid as she worked her train towards Magaliesburg 
through veld that was still dry and brown from the Winter season.

55. The man himself – Don Pretorius – at the throttle of his beloved Melanie!

56. Eventually class 34s became the standard motive power on the Krugersdorp – Zeerust – Mafeking line.  Here are two of them in Krugersdorp Loco – 34-441 in original SAR livery with cab-side number plates and coupled to her – 34-465 in the later Spoornet livery sans number plates.

57. A railway, even one as run-down, neglected and decrepit as South Africa's once proud network has become, can still provide memorable moments.  Let Robert describe his photo taken on the January 2015 Rovos Rail trip to Victoria Falls:

"The sun was sinking in the sky; there had been a storm at Krugersdorp so there were some good evening cloud effects especially as we approached the station of Swartruggens at 1850, due at 1710 still exactly 90 minutes late. We were held here for permission to proceed for 22 minutes but the light was fantastic, with perfect glints straight down the track onto the train.It really looked magical – even better from the observation car with a beer in hand! We had now completed 152 miles so had managed 84 miles in the previous 155 minutes – a huge improvement in speed!" 

58. In 1988 I was transferred to Krugersdorp Loco to set up an office for the SATS Museum and oversee the proposed development of the planned major railway museum at that Depot.  This is the typical view that I had from my office window!  Two 15Fs – No's 3153 "Melanie" and 3016 "Krugersdorp".

59. 15F 3016 was something of a pet engine for me.  When she was in shops having a Heavy Repair in Bloemfontein for the SATS Museum, I arranged for the cladding of the new boiler to have radiused edges to the firebox cladding (see next photo) because it improved the appearance of the engine.  When she returned from Shops she was used on enthusiast specials and like her sister 3153, was stabled at Krugersdorp.

60. Here is the standard 3B boiler that I selected for 3016 in Bloemfontein Shops.  The Erecting Shop Foreman was very helpful in assisting with this exchange of boiler.  Technically-speaking the sharp-edged boiler cladding was correct for this engine but knowing that she would be used on steam tours I decided to let appearance take preference over historical accuracy.  Regarding the green colour: when outshopped at Bloemfontein, this engine was painted in the same green livery that had earlier been applied to 25NC 3407. When she arrived at Krugersdorp Loco it was decided to repaint her blue in recognition of her service on the Blue Train link at Braamfontein with Bill Thackeray as her regular driver.

The 3B boiler brings this chapter to a close – we will pick up next time with the tragic episode that developed at Krugersdorp Loco with regard to the Museum development there.  It would be more appropriate to refer to the LACK of development there!