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Natalspruit to Vereeniging (3)

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In Part 3 we take a final look at the Natalspruit – Vereeniging section. We will also take a closer look at the line from Redan to Grootvlei and Balfour North as well as the running shed at Leeuhof near Vereeniging. For the sections mentioned above I am pleased to hand over to Peter Micenko who was an SAR/SATS civil engineer in the areas referred to.

Before handing over to Peter I need to mention that the change-over to electric traction on the Natalspruit – Vereeniging section resulted in me spending more time elsewhere and the intensity or volume of photos on the section diminished dramatically. However, my coverage did include the temporary revival of steam on passenger trains between Johannesburg and Kroonstad when the Administration granted a special concession for steam to work the Amatola to Kroonstad in the 1990s.  It was a wonderful but relatively brief return to steam on at least one of the passenger turns on the section. I’m referring to normal trains and not the several special passenger trains over a number of years that were worked by steam as part of special working.

Peter Micenko now takes over to give you another perspective of trains working over the sections referred to above (as usual with reference to Bruno's maps).  Peter:

Thank you Les, I think a good start would be to give a little background to a railway's beginning and location. The geology and geography of South Africa have always had a profound impact on commerce and transport, whether it is the source of minerals or agriculture to provide the primary economic driver or the location of the transport corridor between centres.

Africa’s topography with a huge, high central plateau and steep descents to the narrow coastal fringes dictated against river navigation and overland transport more or less was a choice of walking, animal drawn wagons or mechanisation in the form of railways. The topography dictated the physical courses of the many railways that converged on the Witwatersrand and the symbiotic train operations that resulted.  The “Bushveld Igneous Complex” geological feature provided the mineral source and also the East-West orientation of the Witwatersrand railways but the need to link to the Free State and Cape Cities manifested itself in long gradients as the north- south oriented railway needed to cross predominately east-west oriented rivers and watersheds. Many of these rivers were quite significant and river crossings were not only determined by the route’s needs but also the resources available to the engineers and entrepreneurs of the time. Since time immemorial the location of such major infrastructure investments has impacted upon economic development.

Just how strategic is the crossing of the Vaal is shown by the many railways that converge on it. The line from the river crossing at Vereeniging to the junction of the Natal mainline at Union was completed in 1892. Another line from the western Witwatersrand (where the first discovery of gold was made), linked Langlaagte to Vereeniging in 1904.  Later developments in the area were an eastward reaching branch line from the Cape mainline at Potchefstroom to the agriculturally rich area of Fochville, completed in 1928 and extended to a junction with the Langlaagte-Vereeniging mainline at Houtkop in 1966. In 1951 an east-west branch from the Union –Vereeniging line at Redan was constructed, linking into the Balfour North- Bethlehem line at Grootvlei. The latter had been built southwards to Grootvlei in 1924 and extended to the provincial border at Villiers in 1926 where it met the line through Reitz and Frankfort that had come northwards from Bethlehem. Essentially agricultural in nature, in modern times the very rural Bethlehem-Villiers-Balfour North trunk route has been seen as a potential strategic link to Natal and will be covered in more detail in a later chapter of Soul of a Railway.

At the time of construction of the bridge at Vereeniging in 1892 the Vaal River was only crossed by the Cape mainline at Fourteen Streams and the Natal mainline at Standerton. Both the latter railways were independent of each other (but at least they were the same gauge!).  Although the Bloemfontein-Johannesburg line actually began with the objective of linking the ports of the southern Cape to the Witwatersrand (known colloquially as the Reef), for convenience I will describe the railway in the reverse - or "Down" direction, starting from Union (the junction with the line to Durban) just south of Germiston, to Makouvlei. The latter is on the Johannesburg-Bloemfontein route just south of the Vaal River and, until the abolition of the Regions in 1994, was the official boundary between the Western Transvaal and Orange Free State Systems (from 1980: Regions).

The following is a brief description of the route. Trains leaving Johannesburg at an elevation of 5735 feet descend for 9 miles to Germiston at 5479 feet. Seven miles further on, at Union (junction with the Natal mainline), the railway has descended to 5210 feet. Next is Natalspruit at 5092 feet - quite a large station with a significant goods yard and many private sidings accessing the industries of Alrode and environs. Many times whilst performing track inspections in the Wickham and later Trackmaster trolleys we got held at Natalspruit. The story goes that the station foreman was tried out for selection as fullback for the Blue Bulls rugby side on the grounds that not even the Blue Train could get past him (perhaps another urban legend).

Departing Natalspruit the line climbs past an interesting halt called Airport to surmount a ridge just south of Angus at 5145 feet elevation before dropping down into the valley of the Klip River which it crosses at 4912 feet before rising a few feet at Daleside and then dropping back down to 4889 feet at Meyerton and 4751 feet at Vereeniging, 49 miles from Johannesburg - the railway having followed the valley of the Klip River for most of its route.  The railway crosses the Vaal River at Vereeniging and finally the regional boundary with the Orange Free State System at Makouvlei, 51 miles from Johannesburg. Passenger train timings typically allowed 1 hour and 18 minutes for the best of the expresses from Vereeniging to Germiston. The 40 mile, 728 feet climb being generally, against the engine.  A start to stop average speed of just on 30 mph or 50 kph in modern currency was timetabled on this generally straight route.

Later in the mid 1980’s a direct line took off at Daleside and strode northwards direct to the Natal mainline (covered by Les in earlier parts of Soul of a Railway) at Mapleton- Glenroy and then via some new lines to the East Rand and then on to the new Bapsfontein marshalling yard known as Sentrarand.  Outside the scope of our history, these are mentioned solely to note the most recent developments in the area.

The dates in the preceding paragraphs are the original openings of the various lines (please also refer to Bruno's map) but like any developing system as traffic developed so did the train operation requirements and lines became doubled, re-aligned, and electrified over the years to accommodate the continually expanding traffic being experienced by the SAR up until the 1980’s. The Houtkop - Fochville (- Potchefstroom) link, although built as single track, was constructed with double track formation to facilitate future doubling which was duly carried out in the late 1970’s (c 1975 "Houtkop" became "Houtheuwel").

Vereeniging itself was the southern end of the PWV (Pretoria, Witwatersrand, Vereeniging) suburban network. Not only did mainline passenger trains to the south and west travel through the region but also suburban passenger trains running to Johannesburg either via Germiston or Grassmere as detailed by Les in parts 1 and 2. A daily except Sunday mixed ran from Balfour North to Leeuhof via Grootvlei although it only connected with the “Reef” at Redan.

With all of these lines converging on the heavily industrialised region around Vereeniging it is logical that there would be quite a lot of train marshalling and even a locomotive depot to supply the many shunt, and mainline turns.  This was located to the west of the Vereeniging town centre at Leeuhof, and the resultant access lines completely encircled the city.  The industrialised nature of the area dictated many private sidings and certainly there were many between Redan and Vereeniging serving the steel and heavy manufacturing industries. Many, like Samancor at Meyerton and Iscor Vanderbijl, had extensive networks and had several full time shunt locomotives allocated to them or their own private locomotives. Even Klip Power Station in the mid 1970’s required two 15F’s on the shunt.

Enough background. Although not endowed with chocolate box scenery, the area more than made up for this with its undeniable economic contributions to one of the world's great railway systems as shown by the following photographs.


1. Although steam traction was largely gone I still spent time on the line to Vereeniging.  It was something of a novelty to see electric units working trains south to the OFS. In this scene at Redan on 13th December 1959, two 5Es were working a goods train to Kroonstad.


2. Another pair of 5Es was also photographed at Redan working 4Up to Germiston and Johannesburg from Kroonstad on the same day.  Another train, more 5Es – I would soon grow weary of this monotonous procession!


3. Ah, some steam to break the monotony!  Germiston was still using 12ARs to work goods loads to Leeuhof and here was one of them passing Three Rivers level crossing between Redan and Vereeniging on 13th December ’59.


4. Class 5E No 328 was ready at Vereeniging on 13th December 1959 to work a Johannesburg local passenger train via Lawley.  It wasn’t too long ago that Driver Hoffman had stood exactly at the same spot with class 15A No 1970.  The log below reflects a typical run behind a class 5E from Vereeniging to Johannesburg via Meyerton.  




5. On 27 December 1959 two 5Es, No 323 leading, arrived at Vereeniging with the East London and Port Elizabeth express – train 432/3.  This train was split at Bloemfontein and with additional through saloons added from other places, worked forward to their destinations as two separate trains – each with dining and kitchen cars attached.
 

6. I started to use 35mm colour film in 1960 in addition to maintaining B & W as a film medium.  On 3rd July of that year I photographed two 5Es with No 337 leading departing Vereeniging for Germiston with a heavy goods load. 


7. Class 3Es were also used on the Vereeniging locals.  Here is one on 3rd July, drawing a local set out of the yard at Vereeniging.  She would clear the points and then set back alongside the platform to load passengers for Johannesburg via Lawley.


8. My last photo for the day was train 438 - the express from Port Elizabeth as she set sail for Johannesburg via Lawley with 5Es No's 302 & 574 in charge.  As can be seen, 302 was still in her original plain green livery.


9. In 1962, on the road near Angus, I spotted a 3E working a local passenger set to Vereeniging.  Loco-hauled trains would soon be replaced by electric multiple units on this service.
 

10. A 15F (unidentified) came through from Germiston near Angus heading a goods load south – probably to Leeuhof.  So steam was still in partial use on this line in 1962 and would, in fact, continue through to the eighties.


11. The 15F had hardly disappeared beyond Angus when class 5E No 334 passed by with empties heading north to Germiston or Springs – probably the latter en route to Witbank.


12. In 1962, the Johannesburg – Vereeniging service changed over from loco-hauled sets to EMUs.  This was my first trip on an EMU to and from Vereeniging on a 2M1 set – I was also introducing my future wife to train travel on this very train.  It worked – she loved it!


13. While waiting for our return trip to Johannesburg on the EMU, class 3E No 205 came through working a goods train to Kroonstad.
 

14. In my introduction to this chapter, I mentioned that the intensity of my photography on this line would be dramatically diminished and so it was.  It was not until February 1964 that I again found myself on previously familiar ground!  South of Angus I photographed a 15F working a block-load of coal en route to Leeuhof.


15. After a lapse of several months I was at Natalspruit on the 10th 0f October 1964 and shot this 15F working a heavy goods load south, also probably to Leeuhof.


16. On 28th February 1970, the RSSA arranged for a coach to be attached to a goods train from Grootvlei to Redan.  Here is class 24 No 3685 making up the load at Grootvlei before we left for Redan.


17. The shunting is complete and 3685 is ready to depart with her “mixed special” for Redan.


18. During our brief stop-over at Redan on the same day, I took this shot of 2x 5E1s with 966 leading, working a mainline passenger packet from Bloem and Kroonstad north to Germiston and Johannesburg.


19. Here we were, heading back to Grootvlei past Redan-Oos signal cabin with 3685 at the head-end.  The trailing open balcony provided a wonderful spot to get photos from the train.  On the right, a 15F is waiting to work coal into Klip Power Station which can just be seen behind the signal cabin.


20. The two lines start to converge as we moved east from Redan and which now revealed the Klip Power Station in the distance on the right.  This power station was the biggest electricity generator of its type in the Southern Hemisphere for several decades until it was surpassed by even bigger stations elsewhere on the ESCOM power grid.


21. At Bosrivier it was time for 3685 to cut-off and take a drink of water from the overhead feed-pipe.


22. Back at Grootvlei, here is the mixed with our classic Hendrie balcony day/sleeper saloon bringing up the rear.
 

23. On 20th October 1970 the Historic Transport Association (HTA) arranged with the SAR Publicity Department to run a special tour train (Jubilee Special) from Johannesburg to Mossel Bay and Port Elizabeth with steam traction for 99% of the 10-day trip. Roger Perry took up a vantage point near Kliprivier to photograph the special as it passed through with 15F 2903 in charge as far as Kroonstad.  This trip was emulating the pre-War “Round-in-Fourteen” tours run by the SAR themselves.
 

24. Roger chased the train on to Vereeniging where we had a lengthy stop for water – 2903 had to cut-off and go to another line to access a water column.  This gave Roger time to get over the river and take up a position on the OFS bank to photograph our train again as it crossed the bridge.
 

25. Moving forward to 22 September 1990, I was near Kliprivier with Ginger Miller – we had decided to photograph the Amatola being worked by steam (which I referred to earlier) from Johannesburg to Kroonstad. While waiting for the Amatola to appear, three diesels came by running north to Germiston.  As can be seen, one of them is already sporting the new “Spoornet” orange livery.  In 1990, S A Transport Services had become Transnet with Spoornet as the railway division.  It was our intention to regard this change-over to Transnet as our cut-off point in this photographic essay but for various reasons there will be exceptions to the rule from time to time. 
 

26. This is what we were waiting for near Kliprivier!  Class 25NC No 3472 stabled at Germiston was entrusted with working the Amatola passenger train to Kroonstad.  She didn’t disappoint us and made a fine sight as she sped by heading south to Vereeniging.  “Amatola” was the very appropriate name given to the mainline passenger service between Johannesburg and East London.

  
27.  Ginger and I chased the train and after some risky manoeuvres on the road, we managed to get another shot of her as she thrashed through Henley-on-Klip. 


28. In November 1990 we were at it again – this time class 15F No 3040 was in charge and driver Piet Steenkamp was wasting no time in getting his train to Vereeniging!  The weather was closing in but we were determined to get something on film. We had set up on the platform at Mpilisweni Halt south of Natalspruit which previously was known as “Airport” when Palmietfontein was operational many years earlier. Ginger and I seemed to attract rain on our photo-outings but then that is what one expected during the summer months – a Highveld storm in the afternoon!  So we determined to get a photograph of 3040 working the Amatola to Kroonstad, getting the photo at Mpilisweni under a threatening sky.  On better days we chased this train all the way to Koppies in the OFS – virtually half-way to Kroonstad! 
 

29. In December 1990 we again took up position at Mpilisweni to get STEAM on the Amatola but something must have gone wrong – the train appeared behind two class 16E electrics (6E1 rebuilds) with No. 16.227 leading!  By this time SAR pride was rapidly becoming a distant memory.  Just look at the weeds and the rubbish.  Evidently the loco staff couldn't even be bothered to put on the "Amatola" headboard.  We took the shot and then went home. 


30. In December 1990 we also photographed the Algoa with 2x 6E1 locos in charge with No E869 leading near Kliprivier. By this time colour-light signalling had replaced the old semaphores.  The “Algoa” was the name given to the Johannesburg – Port Elizabeth service, named after the bay on which Port Elizabeth is situated. 

Previous train timing logs for the Union and Midway - Vereeniging sections were all for local passenger trains.  Readers might find my log for the Port Elizabeth - Johannesburg Express of interest.  I am also including one final log in the form of a comparison between steam and electric traction that shows booked times against an actual timed run.




These logs bring my personal contribution on this section to a close but the chapter continues under the able guidance of Peter Micenko – over to you Peter:


The Grootvlei- Redan line was opened in Jan 1951 to allow coal traffic to come directly from the colliery near Grootvlei to feed the Klip Power Station.  Although now disused, it traversed good agricultural countryside but was almost a precursor to the Coal Line as it linked coal mines and industries. As an east-west route paralleling the Vaal River it crossed many southward flowing tributaries, the most notable being the Klip River just east of Redan on an impressive multi-span concrete arch viaduct and the reinforced concrete pier and beam bridge over the Suikerbosrand River at Bosrivier. This was one of those interesting SAR stations located in a very isolated area with little traffic generated or received but needed solely for train operating purposes, notably crossing trains and attending to the needs of steam locomotives. A basic goods platform was provided but I rarely saw any freight in it. The yard consisted of the main line and two loops with all three roads controlled by semaphore signals on standard 3-post gantries.

Interestingly although the major tonnage was hauled by double headed 15F’s this was only between Grootvlei and Leeuhof as the Balfour North - Grootvlei - Bethlehem line was still laid with 30 kg/m rail.  It is interesting to note that the section north of Grootvlei was originally built as a private siding, although Les tells us it is shown on a CSAR map dated 1904 and it only became part of SAR in 1924.  Balfour North-Grootvlei-Bethlehem was only relaid in the early 1980s with heavy rail cascaded from the first coal-line upgrade (this included crown re-profiling with on-track rail-planing machines and was done so efficiently that it won a national productivity award, bringing kudos to the railways at the time). To the west of Bosrivier is a large modern dam built by SAR for its locomotives as the station was far from any water reticulation network.  At the time of its construction the railways were still an important infrastructure provider in much of rural South Africa.

Although I did see several double headed coal and maize trains, from the late 1970s train movements other than the daily mixed became quite rare on this line as changes in Escom’s power generation activities reduced the coal traffic to Klip Power station. The modern face-brick station building and staff housing at Bosrivier were eventually demolished. As traffic dropped so did the track maintenance budgets. The timber sleepers used in parts were not replaced as they became life expired, cuttings eroded, track drainage silted up and steel sleepers rusted, with the result that the line fell into disuse. A sad end for what was once an important line and an illustration of the mineral and energy traffic that was a strong part of the country’s economic and social development.


31. On Good Friday 1981 a 15F with 5514-up T&P, Redan - Balfour North, crossing the Suikerbosrandrivier at Bosrivier.  In typical SAR fashion 5514 was an unadvertised mixed although classified T&P, here just departing Bosriver for Grootvlei where the locomotive will turn on the triangle of lines formed to access the private sidings preparatory to re-attaching to its train and working onward to Balfour North.  But before venturing any further along this interesting cross-country route let us visit the extensive freight facilities in and around Vereeniging.
 

32. A group of servicing staff at Leeuhof locomotive depot with one of their pride, class 15F No 2914, on a muggy day in January 1979.  I hope this picture inspires the hardworking Reefsteamers stalwarts and their supporters to continue contributing labour and finances to progress the firebox repairs on this locomotive.
 

33. One of Leeuhof’s “painted ladies” 15F No 2906 that shared the south end shunt at the time enjoying the morning sun at the northern end of the ramp to the coal stage. The date was January 1979. At the time the south end shunt had three of these painted engines. My records show 15F’s, 2906 “Fransie”, 2908 “Smokey” and 2914 “Madel” 


34. In the mid 1980’s Leeuhof locomotives started to return to the clean appearance of the 1970’s. Here we see a bulled-up 15CA Number 2045 at the coaling stage in Leeuhof loco depot. The loco sports the polished jewellery and name for which SAR loco crews were renowned.  The elephant’s foot pedestals in the ash pit were installed in the remodelling in 1979/80 but look as if they have been there for decades.
 

35. Not particularly photogenic but typical of Leeuhof in 1980, were some grimy 15F’s next to the slightly cleaner “F” from Balfour North in early Spring of 1980. In the background can be seen the recently completed northern leg of the new turning triangle.
 

36. The new Carriage and Wagon (C&W) workshop at Leeuhof was built to the east of the yard and between the locomotive depot and the Yardmasters new office building (seen in the distance). This necessitated relocating the turning triangle, water tower and ash pits. The replacement ash pit being the modern type where all shovelling was downhill from the engines to the pits then from the pits to rail vehicles to take away the ash and clinkers. The coaling stage remained in place but the new triangle was built with additional ash pits slightly to the north and west between the coal stage and the yard entrance.  The watering facilities still needed to be kept operating while a new water tower was being built by the staff of Shop 76 at Elandsfontein.  The original turning triangle was progressively surrounded by the earthworks for the C & W project. So tight was the timing that the old locomotive triangle, which had started out on an embankment across some low lying ground, finished up in a two-metre cut through the new C & W earthworks. At that time SAR construction activities were still very extensive and demand for rails and structural steel work was always a bottle neck. From memory this was my first encounter with the SAR water chemists who had a program of checking locomotive water quality and adjusting the various chemicals needed to reduce harmful impurities.
 

37. The staging of the work at Leeuhof was quite tricky and in winter of 1980 we see two grimy 15F’s taking water from the only water column working at the loco at the time while the new double gantry and ash pits were being built to the north west of the coal stage. Timber sleepers have been offloaded and stacked ready for construction to start on the track work of the new triangle. In the background is a string of loaded DZ wagons for the coal stage and a water tanker which seemed to be used on the daily Potchefstroom shunt that originated in Leeuhof as a train and worked its way through to Potch via Houtheuwel (originally Houtkop) and Fochville.
 

38. Late summer of 1980 sees the 15F off the Balfour North mixed taking on coal for the return to Balfour North.  Leeuhof’s coal stage was of the “Armstrong” type with its associated coal shovelling but by this time had scored a “Jumbo” mechanical grab. Also visible are the 2 turnouts which will shortly be installed to enable commissioning of the new ash pits. 
 

39. Early summer of 1980 sees 15F 3136 with a hand-me-down type EW tender at the Leeuhof coal stage. Boiler swapping has taken place over the years and the most recent has given 3136 an austerity boiler.  In the foreground a goodly supply of second-hand rail for the new triangle. The Jumbo is offloading cobbles from the high capacity modern BAD wagons for future consumption.
 

40. February 1979 sees the daily mixed for Balfour North departing Leeuhof North behind a moderately clean 19D. There were several triangular junctions in the Vereeniging area and in the background above the second B wagon can be seen the colour light signal giving access to the apex of the junction leading into Leeuhof yard from the Alloy junction to Houtheuwel line. In the right foreground (heavily weedgrown - a foretaste of things to come) is a turnout and track leading to some of the many private sidings in this industrial area at this time. 


41. At the same location on the same day as the previous photo this block load of coal destined for the power station at Grootvlei, pulled by doubleheaded 15Fs, was exiting Leeuhof Yard. Redan to Grootvlei was constructed in the early 1950s as a heavy-duty cross-country mineral line with 48 kg/m rail as befitting its planned role.  However, to the end of the 1970s the Balfour North- Grootvlei section of the long rural branch to Bethlehem was still light-weight 60lb rail (30 kg/m), hence 19D’s on the Balfour North mixed as in photos 40, 42 and 43.
 

42. Balfour North sub-shed had an allocation of three class 19D’s for local shunts and the daily mixed to Leeuhof via Grootvlei. March 1979 sees a domeless Dolly still with its original flanged chimney.  This is one of Volksrust loco depot's 19D’s departing Leeuhof North with the return working to Balfour North. By this stage the locos had lost their distinctive star smoke-box motif as seen in the photos of the Bethal - Volksrust mixed in a previous chapter of SoAR. Notwithstanding, the locomotives were still reasonably clean.
 

43. Winter 1979 and closer in to the double track triangular junction at Leeuhof North sees the daily mixed to Balfour North with an unknown 19D on the point. The train on the left is another train awaiting access into Leeuhof Yard. The observant reader will notice 2 types of sleeper fastenings and some mechanical signalling equipment for the catch point.
 

44. The lovely South African ballad by Anton Goosen ”Geelperskereen” (Yellow peach rain) talks of the “railway perske wat in die ketels val” (railway peaches picked into buckets). In the spring of 1980 we see a 15F with a freshly-cleaned fire and thin smoke from the chimney of its decorated smoke box drawing an eastbound mixed away from Bosriver past the “railway peaches” of previous customers’ repasts. In the left background is a well-flowing Suikerbosrand river fed by the long days of soft “geelperskereen” (yellow peach rain- a characteristic of rain in the Transvaal in late spring). On the right is one of the modern face brick houses built for the station staff in this isolated location.
 

45. In 1981 the SAR ran a 10 day Steam Safari and on Good Friday the recently restored 16DA No 879 was tasked with hauling a nice rake of all-steel type C34 clerestory day/sleepers between Redan and Grootvlei from where a 19D would take over for the onward run to Bethlehem. Here she is seen pulling out eastwards from Bosriver station over the six-span, reinforced concrete “beam on pillar” bridge typical of construction in the 1950s. 


46.  The morning sun was still clearing the horizon in July 1986 as 15F number 3111 worked the daily mixed towards Bloekomspruit. By this time passenger accommodation had been reduced to that provided in the guards van. At the time the regular performers on this run were 15Fs 3111 and 3114. 



47. By the early summer of 1982 the Balfour North-Bethlehem line had been re-laid with heavy rail released from the Coal Line upgrades which has enabled the Balfour North 19D’s to be replaced by 15F’s.  The summer storms that have benefitted the young mealie crop in the left foreground have also caused a washaway near Vaalrand. After piloting the first train slowly over the temporary repairs and giving the “proceed” signal to the driver of the late-running mixed to Leeuhof, a well rugged-up Permanent Way Inspector Geldenhuis walks back to his gang. He and his gang, including a much younger Permanent Way Engineer Micenko, will have been on duty for well in excess of 24 hours by this time. 


48. In spring of 1980 a 15F drifts down the easy grades from Goedbeloon into Bosriver station where 10 minutes were allowed for locomotive purposes.
 

49. The silos of Goeiehoek dominate the skyline as the stoker lays on the coal for the climb ahead to the ridge before Burtholm. It is October 1980 and the train has a good load of paying freight and a single coach for passenger accommodation. 


50. Halfway between Grootvlei and Redan lay the isolated station of Bosriver. In busier times this station was fully signalled with 3 post semaphore signals, a modern station building and detached housing for the station master and his foremen. There was no village or settlement within miles and the main reasons for its existence were purely trains working, crossings and locomotive water.  The station’s overhead tanks and gantries at each end of the yard were supplied by a modern dam constructed specifically to supply water in the days when "the railways" had to provide all its own utilities and support.
 

51. Mid-summer 1980 sees an unknown 15F at Bosriver with the daily mixed. The locomotive water facilities were quite extensive whilst this was one of the few times I saw a goods wagon in the station. One of the station staff houses on the rise behind the water tank with its well cared for garden was still in excellent condition. The station building itself was also face brick but hidden by the train in this view. Water was supplied from a large modern concrete dam nearby which many farmers had their eye on.  I had no hesitation in recommending the lease of the dam to the local “Railway Personnel Fishing Club” for recreational angling when steam was finishing.
 

52. After cleaning fire and taking on water at Bosriver, the driver of  3111 class 15F opens up for the climb to Goeiehoek.  In the background is the Suikerbosrand River which has its headwaters in the vicinity of Leslie on the Springs-Bethal line.
  
A note from Charlie:  By the time that steam was finishing the line was also losing all its traffic so this magnificent photo is a suitable note on which to close this chapter. 

And one from Les: This brings our Union to Vereeniging Part 3 to a close.  Next, we will take a look at the Germiston - Witbank line - in particular - the Welgedag - Blackhill section.  Our coverage will stop short of Witbank because that station will be dealt with at length on the old Eastern Transvaal System.  The mainline between Germiston and Witbank was strategically probably the most important and certainly the heaviest freight carrier throughout the 70-year life of the SAR.