Soul of A Railway ©‎ > ‎System 7‎ > ‎

Part 13 - Eastwards from Germiston, Part 1: Germiston East to Brakpan by Les Pivnic and Peter Micenko ©

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 authors.

Western Transvaal System – Germiston East to Brakpan

The main lines running due east of Germiston to Boksburg, Benoni, Brakpan and Springs pass through a heavily industrialised area – that is apart from the chain of gold mines that were at one time a major part of the mining activity on the Witwatersrand. Heavy engineering works could be found especially between Boksburg and Benoni. The fully-developed maze of SAR tracks were interspersed with numerous private lines belonging to the mines and various industrial concerns as well as hordes of private sidings. The ERPM Mine at one time boasted the deepest mining activity in the industry and they had a large railway system on their property that serviced the shafts and the refinery. In fact all the mines on the East Rand operated railway systems of various sizes using a wide variety of steam locomotives – some bought second-hand from the SAR and others as brand new industrial locomotives. We recommend that you study Bruno's map of the intricate network in this area before reading further.

Having been treated to the magnificent Langkloof in the narrow gauge chapters, it will take some adjusting to appreciate the change of scene to an industrialised main line but it is to be hoped that the trains themselves will offer sufficient railway interest to compensate for the lack of beautiful scenery. Mine dumps can’t compete with mountains!

The lines linking Germiston to Springs were fascinating for railway enthusiasts – particularly if you were not blinkered on steam traction. Germiston Loco Depot provided the bulk of motive power for this main line eastwards. Common sights in terms of loco classes were 15F, 12A, 12R, 12AR, 15AR, 16CR and in the yards like Angelo – classes S & S1. Added to this were the electric locos – classes 1E, 2E, 3E and briefly even the 4E! From 1958, class 1 DE (class 31) added diesel electrics to the scene which were soon followed by classes 32 and 61 – the latter being diesel hydraulics from Germany.

Until the late 1950s steam-hauled passenger trains east of Germiston to Witbank and Breyten were still worked by Braamfontein 15ARs and 16CRs with an occasional 15F on the job. Germiston engines tended to do most of the goods work as well as the shunts and pick-ups.

On the electric side, the EMUs operated an intensive suburban service that terminated at Springs with a steam-hauled connection from there to Heidelberg (cut back to Nigel c 1959). Electric locos worked the “haulers” moving loads between yards because in those earlier days, steam still dominated on the main lines radiating away from the Witwatersrand.

Vantage points to watch and photograph trains could be found along the full length of the main line all the way to Springs but if one had to nominate particular spots then I would say that the section between Boksburg East and Dunswart as well as Apex were good. Beyond Springs, to either Witbank, Bethal or Nigel/Kaydale, one left the catenary behind but by 1961 the Witbank line was electrified – fortunately only after we had had a good innings of photographing steam without overhead wires spoiling the photos!

I have asked Peter to describe the intricate network east of Germiston, territory that is familiar to him as it was his home turf for more than two decades.

THE “SPRINGS EASTWARD” RAILWAY by Peter Micenko

Part 1: Germiston to just west of Springs

The next chapter of “Soul of a Railway” deals with the portion of the Western Transvaal Region’s “Springs Eastward” railway between Germiston and the regional boundary near Breyten. I am not sure if I landed this task because South African’s regard Australians as coming from the “Far East” or because I lived and worked in the Witwatersrand’s “Far East” for so long. You will find the following brief fits in very nicely with the photographs, and repeat consultations of Bruno's maps will be similarly rewarding.

Before I start, the heading may seem unusual, so herewith a short explanation. At the former “Emma’s View” station near Bethal there is a gravestone unlike the several others along this particular railway and definitely different to the war graves found along many other railway lines in South Africa. At this station, hidden amongst the “khaki-bos” and sheltered by a few scraggly cypress pines, is a 2m-high polished stone obelisk, engraved to mark the grave of an engineer of the “Springs Eastward” railway line. Just who and why he is buried there remains unknown to me to this day. How more appropriate then that a railway track engineer should choose this as inspiration for the title of this chapter of “Soul of A Railway”. Maybe later I will share an amusing anecdote about this gravesite and a more recent District Engineer. Also, we will follow up the story of the grave and the unfortunate engineer and post the information when we find it.

This chapter of the lines East from Germiston to Breyten will be covered in 3 parts:-

  • Germiston to near Springs
  • Dunswart- Modder B- Springs- Nigel
  • Springs eastwards to Breyten including the Bethal-Volksrust branch line.

So on with the first part. Certainly Johannesburg’s railway history began in this very area, and it was very much intertwined in the future history, politics and economy of South Africa.

The East Rand’s generally easy terrain was ideal for railway construction and the proximity of easily mined coal to power the developing industrial mining area of the Witwatersrand ultimately resulted in a veritable spider’s web of railways. In this chapter we shall concentrate on only part of this network but it is necessary to illustrate how all of the lines fitted together and Bruno’s excellent maps will help illustrate these.

Starting where Les’s earlier chapter on the junction complex at Germiston left off, the piece of railway from Germiston to Springs essentially follows the orientation of the outcropping “gold reef” and subsequent mining activity. More importantly, in the tree-scarce grasslands of the Highveld, it provided a more robust transport link from the nearest coal reserves to the fuel hungry young gold mines of the Witwatersrand. Originally built by the NZASM and known as the “Rand Tram”, the line was the pioneer railway of the former Transvaal Republic. When I first saw this portion of South Africa’s railways it was already a quadruple track, electrified mainline carrying intensive suburban passenger, national freight and very heavy coal traffic. To use John G Kneiling’s terminology: both a “Wholesale” and a “Retail” railway. The permanent way west of Springs was consistent with its heavy traffic and generally SAR57 kg/m rail on concrete sleepers, such that this “tramway” was no longer recognisable as such.

Railway lines to the east of Johannesburg tend to be relatively easily graded but do maintain one similarity to those to the west. They all run along the topographical ridge which forms part of the national and continental watershed. The matter of a few centimetres of lateral distance determines whether a raindrop will flow east to the Indian Ocean or west to the Atlantic. From Johannesburg, through Germiston to Springs, the railway generally follows an easy falling gradient. In the section to Springs all drainage is to the south and the Vaal River catchment – which, of course, ends up in the Atlantic via the Orange River. The topography is such that the railway drops from 5735 feet elevation at Johannesburg to 5479 feet at Germiston 9 miles out and 5338 feet at Springs 29 miles distant. There were two interesting up grades in this length, notably between Boksburg and Benoni and Brakpan and Schapenrust.

In fact Benoni was originally on a branch off the line to Witbank at Dunswart, because of this ridge. The original Witbank line took the easier route following the contours south of Benoni, from the multiple junctions at Dunswart through Rangeview to the double junction of Apex. From Apex the Witbank line continued to the north of the “Rand Tram” via Modrea and Geduld to Welgedag. Springs was not only the eastern extremity of the electrified Reef suburban service but also junction with another line to Welgedag, another to the Volksrust line at Rooikop (crossing over the suburban lines near New Era on a very skew bridge which was nick-named by the perway gangs as “die donker brug” (the dark bridge) because it was so long that it almost created a tunnel underneath. There was also a single line branch to Nigel and another junction with the Volksrust line at Kaydale to the north of Heidelberg but that will be covered in the next chapter.

Most of the stations between Germiston and Springs were quite substantial with large goods yards and large if not extensive networks of private sidings serving the many industries in the area.

Major stations were:

  • Angelo with its extensive shunting yards and junctions to the Germiston-Pretoria lines, and links to the East Rand Proprietary Mines network amongst other mines.
  • Boksburg East with its extensive goods shed facilities.
  • The complex junction of Dunswart with its own yard and private siding network including a steel mill and a historic platform for race-course traffic.
  • Benoni again with extensive goods yard and private sidings.
  • The simple yet busy junction of Apex, latterly with a truncated version of what once was an extensive network of private sidings and mine lines including access to the original coal mines that the Rand tram linked with Johannesburg’s gold mines,
  • The smaller Brakpan goods shed and extensive private siding networks to industries and mines.

This network of railways also created a demand for shunting locomotives at the various stations in addition to the large shunting yards at Angelo, with its electric shunts on the north and steam on the south. The Angelo steam shunts were generally S1 shunters from Germiston while 5Es were used on the electric side in later years. The steam depots at both Germiston and Springs supplied shunting locomotives to the various yards and stations most of which had un-electrified tracks and private sidings. Some of the photos will show the tender-tank rebuilds for shunting of the former Natal Government Railways (NGR) H class tanks. Angelo was also the only place where I saw of one of the Fairbanks Morse fast watering columns, although by this time it was isolated and unused in the north-side yards.

The lines in the complex east of Germiston continued to expand and develop until, almost 90 years later, the Bapsfontein “Sentrarand” complex with its tentacles of feeder lines would curtail this railway expansion and once operating, bring about the death of such busy yards as Angelo (for our take on this mega-concentration yard please refer to the caption to photo 9. However, Welgedag continued its heavy coal traffic shunts to the end of steam but the new Road Transportation Act, Act 14 of 1977, started the major move away from rail as a ‘Retail” transport mode.

A picture is worth a thousand words so lets get into the following photographic collection from a variety of railway photographers over the years. This will concentrate on the SAR as it was and before the Sentrarand lines came on stream, although possibly our authors can be persuaded to review a possible future part to deal with the extensive private siding and mine railway operations.


The railway geography between Germiston and Springs gets complicated so I suggest you use the maps to orient yourself when reading the captions to the pictures.

1. Dave Parsons was ready just east of Germiston near Delmore to shoot this 15AR working what was almost certainly a Witbank passenger train heading east to its first stop at Benoni. This photo would have been taken C 1950.


2. During 1955 I was at almost the same spot to photograph the same train but at trackside and this time with a 16CR in charge. Note the bell buffer of the old-fashioned link-and-pin type coupler. Those old buffers survived in service long after knuckle couplers had been introduced (knuckle couplers had a slot to accommodate the bell coupler’s link). With limited tender-first working, it was not considered essential to change the front couplers on the older classes of locomotive. Unusual on a train like this was the use of a goods guard’s van in the consist.

 

3. Dave was in the same area east of Germiston when this EMU parcels packet came by with a 2M2 motor coach (purpose-built for parcels traffic) as motive power. 


4. Stopping briefly with the late Frank Garrison at Oosrand (Eastrand), we found two 15Fs shunting a heavy load out of the Yard on 11 September 1960.


5. Dave captured this interesting scene with a class GEA departing on an eastbound goods while a class 6 and a class 13 simmer quietly in background near a stop-block. In the far background, just above the first wagon of the goods there is a class 12R passing by on a freight. I'm guessing that this photo was made near Angelo, c 1950. Unfortunately, Dave left no records with his negatives – no dates, engine numbers or locations.


6. In April 1981 Dick Manton found Springs 15F No 2950 running a healthy Up hauler on the mainline between Angelo and Delmore. In the foreground is a typical Reef slimes dam with self-seeded pampas grass that are greening these stark man-made features in the otherwise flat terrain of the East Rand. Another locomotive can be seen under the East Rand Proprietary Mines (ERPM) rail overpass. In the centre far distance is the Cinderella Dam and on the horizon, the head gear of Cinderella mine shaft. On the right can be seen a disused mine shaft head gear and the "triangle" of the once-extensive ERPM railway system.


7. On another occasion, Dick Manton recorded a 10-coach electric suburban "Yo-Yo" plying the "Up Main" while a couple of S1 shunting 0-8-0s worked the yard. This image gives a better view of the elevated ERPM line and its embankments as it not only had to cross the SAR tracks but also the busy Main Reef Road. One of Johannesburg’s man-made mountains visible in the right background.


8. An SAR photographer took this fine shot of a “U-Boat”- class U Garratt-Union, number unrecorded, on the East Rand working empty hoppers back to Witbank. Neither the exact location nor the date was found in SAR’s photographic records.


9. Another illustration of a GEA in hauler service on the East Rand in the early 1950s, taken by Dave Parsons. The loco trails a feeder tank and balcony saloon in use as a caboose. It might be useful to define some old SAR jargon: A hauler worked yard to yard, with no shunting in between (that was usually left to the various S classes). A tranship goods ("tranship and pickup" or T&P as described in some WTBs) distributed wagons from the yards to private sidings and station goods yards for collection by the customer.

The use of new GEAs on the cross-reef haulers needs explaining. Motive power was a problem almost from the beginning. There always seemed to be too many wagons to clear, so the haulers rapidly got heavier and heavier. Hendrie's class 12, actually designed for the Witbank coal traffic, were a godsend in hauler service, and his 12A even more so. However, by the mid-1920s even these powerful machines were proving inadequate, and within a few years MF Mallets, the new-fangled Fairlies and when the class 18s fell from favour on the Witbank run due to their enormous appetite for coal and other frailties, they found employment on the haulers. After completion of the Glencoe-Volksrust electrification in October 1937 the situation was eased by the release of Union Garratts ("U-boats") from Natal and, underlining how important these haulers were, even brand new class GM Garratts were nabbed on occasion by operating for these workings. From 1947 new GEAs were given these duties and this continued until the five Western Transvaal members of the class were transferred to Natal in 1954 whereupon another new type, class GO took their place. When GMAMs came flooding into the W Transvaal System in 1957 they displaced a number of GMs on the Mafeking line which were then employed on the haulers.

For a decade from 1950 caboose working came into favour. This was a desperate attempt to keep the wheels rolling night and day and we have already described how it was applied year round to the Postmasburg ore traffic and in the fruit season in the Langkloof. On the Reef, caboose working was modified in that crews usually were not away from home for longer than a week - they signed on and off wherever the engine happened to be at the end of their weekly stint. Barring breakdowns, the locomotives would stay off shed for three weeks until their boiler washouts were due.

Behind the hauler system as it developed on SAR lies a whole philosophy of railways. In the wake of the 19th century gold rush and the Boer War, the Witwatersrand became increasingly industrialised - a process that continued unabated for more than 70 years. From Krugersdorp in the west to Springs in the east, mining camps had turned into villages which in due course developed into towns. By the 1890s all were connected by rail and soon all had their own goods yards. From early on Germiston, where the pioneer east-west line of the ZASM between Krugersdorp and Springs formed a junction with the main lines to the Orange Free State (and the Cape) and Pretoria, was the focal point of traffic in the Transvaal. By the time the SAR came into being in 1910 it was already the busiest junction in South Africa and would remain so until long after SAR ceased to exist.

As the numerous industries associated with gold and coal mining developed, Johannesburg's satellite towns acquired extensive goods yards and private sidings - the latter eventually numbering in the thousands (nearly all gone today). These in turn needed sorting yards to distribute wagons to their correct ultimate destinations - a complicated job that gave the lie to the traditional belief that if you were dumb you got a job as a shunter on the railways. All along the Reef the satellite towns had their own sorting yards that acted as collecting and distribution points and every day dozens of invariably-overloaded haulers with randomly-marshalled wagons connected these outlying yards with the main ones at Germiston and Krugersdorp. Germiston handled business for the North Eastern Transvaal, Natal, Cape Eastern, Cape Midland and Orange Free State systems while Krugersdorp dealt with the Cape Western and Cape Northern systems as well as international traffic for Bechuanaland (now Botswana), Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and north of there.

When surging post WWII traffic began to swamp the Reef yards, Bloemfontein came into its own. A 40-track double-hump retarder yard was built there whereafter Germiston no longer sorted consignments for the south but sent them in random lots down the OFS main line for distribution from the new facility. This would have been even more efficient had the Chief Mechanical Engineer not issued a directive that all short (4-wheeled) wagons were to be shunted to the rear of the train. We have already mentioned what an enormous waste of time, money and resources this was. Despite inevitable delays resulting from this directive it was possible to get a wagon from almost any private siding on the reef overnight to Bloemfontein and within four days to the southern Cape. During traffic surges things got frenetic but on the whole it was a system that worked well, especially after the introduction of computerised wagon tracking in the 1960s.

So, where does a "philosophy of railways" come in? Well, it is a simple and obvious one, universally applied in the trucking industry: THE CUSTOMER COMES FIRST!! But surely you may well ask, railwaymen understood this simple principle? Unfortunately not. By the 1980s the majority of railwaymen were well and truly putting railwaymen first. Those who clung to antiquated concepts of service and duty were outnumbered and their good works undone by the "me first" brigade. With business booming, the very idea that SAR's success stemmed from its monopoly and this monopoly gave its employees a sacred responsibility to the public, was forgotten. Railwaymen had unwittingly become grist to the trucker's mill.

And so it happened that someone hit on the bright idea of building a centralised concentration yard that would collect all wagons from every goods yard and private siding on the Witwatersrand (and even much further afield) and distribute from there, and vice versa - without consideration that it would be a process that would put a minimum extra day between every customer and the receipt of his goods (in practise it turned out to be more than two extra days per consignment, but that is another whole story). In 2013 rands it cost R50 billion to build stage I of Sentrarand marshalling yard at Bapsfontein with its extensive approach tracks and 28km long double-track holding oval for trains waiting to enter the arrival sidings (mercifully, stages II to IV never got built). This was a lot of money to pay for the biggest white elephant our railways ever invested in. Take a look at Bruno's map of the Reef track layout. You'll see, for example, that a wagon destined for the Western Cape from a private siding in Krugersdorp had to travel 100km on a westbound hauler before being marshalled into a Cape-bound train and coming back past Krugersdorp on its way south! All very well for SAR, but imagine the expression on a businessman's face as he watched his Cape consignment, dispatched from his siding two days previously, coming back past his office window!

What could and ought to have been done? We have already mentioned the highly effective computerised truck tracing system in use since the 1960s. Using technology readily available by the 1980s it would have been a minute fraction as expensive as Sentrarand, and incalculably more effective, to upgrade tried-and-trusted methods by lacing computerised wagon, hauler and train management into the truck tracing programme. Even so, the crucial element in such a plan would have been the expeditious handling of consignments - something that proved a physical impossibility with Sentrarand. An expensive lesson indeed!


10. On 12 February 1961, two class 61 diesels came by near Oosrand with empties heading east. At this time class 61s were still in use on open line work – they would soon be relegated to the shunt.


11. Diesel-hydraulic 61.006 was in action at Angelo yard on 9 May 1965. By this time she had been given a new coat of paint in the then standard Gulf Red livery and was confined mainly to shunting duties. When introduced as class DH1 in 1959 to enable a direct comparison with the DE 1 (later, class 31) General Electric diesel-electrics these Henschel machines (with GM engines) did not show up well. There were only seven in the class which had a nominal starting tractive effort higher than the 31s. Continually in trouble, all were retired in 1967 and eventually sold to Rhodesia Railways.


12. I spent a fruitful couple of hours near Boksburg on 18 April 1960 and photographed an almost continuous procession of trains heading to and from the East Rand/ Eastern Transvaal. Here is 15F 2957 untypically working the Witbank passenger from Johannesburg. This train was usually worked by a 15AR or a 16CR so that the bigger engines could be more gainfully employed on the heavy coal trains.


13. On the same day, class 15CA 2050 came through with a light goods load from Witbank. This was also not a common occurance – we seldom saw 15CAs on the East Rand in those days.


14. Again on the same day, close to old Boksburg Station – note the station building behind the train – 15F 2914 came thumping past with a heavy coal drag from Witbank. Post WWII South Africa experienced unprecedented and continuous economic growth, continuing almost to the end of SAR in 1980. There was a chronic shortage of rolling stock so that all types of open wagons including DZs and Bs were used on coal traffic.


15. The next train to pass Boksburg on 18 April 1960 was a “Bombela” migrant mine-worker’s train en route to Mozambique with two class 32 diesels in charge.


16. A Saturday in July 1978 saw this Germiston 12AR departing Boksburg East with a down tranship working. The train is on the “Down slow” or “Af stop” in Afrikaans, no doubt as it will be held further up the line at Dunswart to allow suburban and other more important trains to pass. The track in the foreground was part of a long private siding that served the brickworks and other industries to the north of the main line. Perhaps because their boilers jutted so aggressively forwards, like a prizefighter's jaw, the 12ARs always looked eager for work. This was borne out by their performance - in their reboilered and/or unreboilered formats the entire class gave more than 50 year's service.

17. A muggy summer Saturday in November 1976 saw Springs 15F No 3060 working its Up tranship goods across the Trichard Street railway bridge on the Up main at Boksburg East. At that time Springs’ locos carried yellow number plates and smoke box door wheels while Germiston painted them red.


18. Dave Parsons made this classic photo of doubleheaded 15CAs (engine 2825 leading) on a heavy coal train somewhere on the East Rand in the 1950s.


19. In December 1976 a 15AR stops on the Up siding awaiting the opportunity to draw forward and cross the Up and Down main lines into Boksburg East goods yard. A varied and interesting load with 10 foot SAR containers in 4-wheel DE wagon, mine props in another, and tarpaulin sheeted wagons conveying anything from groceries to furniture, or any other general goods - this was, after all, before the Road Transportation Act of 1977 when everything in the railway garden still was rosy, and suburban goods depots could hardly cope with all the business.


20. On 31 May 1961 at this 5M EMU set R7 in the then new red and grey livery was heading from Boksburg towards Germiston and Johannesburg.


21. Back on 18 April 1960 this 15F trundled through Boksburg heading East with a goods train. The curious thing about Boksburg Station was that the platforms were not adjacent to the station buildings. A footbridge linked the platforms to the Station proper with the usual ticket offices etc.


22. Class 1-DEs 734 & 728 added interest to the procession of trains on 18 April 1960. The GE class 1-De, later classified 31, had an amazing impact on SAR motive power. They were initially ordered for shunting and short “hauler” trips between yards on the Reef and also to eliminate steam traction from the new Johannesburg Station. They soon proved their worth on fully-fledged open lines, working anything from coal drags as in this photo, to the Trans-Natal Express from Johannesburg to Volksrust! George Barclay, the senior clerk in the GM’s Motive Power office confirmed that they had been an unqualified success - this was bad news for steam fans!


23. On the same day I photographed 15AR No 1828 with a mixed goods load coming through Boksburg – as I said the procession of trains was almost continuous! As one guard’s van disappeared down the line, another train was coming on – sometimes from both directions at the same time and I had to make quick decisions as to which to aim for! Note the early application of “Park ‘n Ride” under the shady trees in the background (first person to identify both those 1950s-model American cars gets a free print of Les’s photo from Charlie).


24. Another muggy summer Saturday saw this class 3E working a Down goods comprising mostly cattle wagons with general freight bringing up the rear. The train was on the Down slow as it crossed Trichard Road, indicating that it would be looped to drop off wagons or held at Boksburg East or Dunswart to allow a path through traffic onto the line through Rangeview to Apex. The concrete work in front of the loco is the toe end of a retaining wall for the elevated Up-end, Down-side electrified goods yard head shunt.


25. A 12AR on the Down siding road at Boksburg East on a Sunday evening in winter of 1978, awaiting shunt personnel to arrange wagons for dropping off into the goods yard. The sun has set leaving the lovely winter Highveld twilight glow yet dark enough to show up the warmth of the cab. From memory I was on my way down to Durban that night via the “Trans Natal”, as part of the geotechnical investigation for the new rail flyovers for the remodelled junction near Booth.


26. December 1976 saw this 15F leaving the majority of its train in the Up siding at Boksburg East while pulling forward to enable it to cross over the Up and Down lines to perform collecting and dropping of wagons.


27. A rare occasion circa mid 1976 was this class 24 pulling a dead 24 down the grade from Dunswart through Boksburg East. It took me completely by surprise and I did not quite stop the train. The scene is typical of the “Soul of A Railway” in steam days. I do not know the reason for the movement - whether it was ex Lothair or locos from Springs made redundant by the electrification of the Nigel line earlier that year. The photo shows the “attendant” on the dead loco, the rods having been removed for the movement and a store of material in the cab.


28. To illustrate my earlier comments on the density of traffic at Boksburg on a single random day’s outing, on the left is the van of a passenger train moving away just as 12R No 1935 steamed towards us with another coal train.


29. Saturday afternoon in December 1976 saw 15F number 3033 working freight from Springs under the combined footbridge at Apex. The train appears to be mainly maize trucks so no doubt is from further east. For Charlie's take on these "combined" footbridges and other Apartheid-era extravagances, please refer to the caption for picture 32 in System 1, Part 4: "Touws River-Beaufort West".


30. 15F 2918 also put in an appearance at Boksburg on 18 April 1960 with yet another mixed goods load heading towards Germiston – probably Angelo Yard first. Using 120 roll film one had to be pretty adept at changing rolls after every 12 exposures!


31. In October 1976 15AR 2023 had been bulled up for a special passenger train to Bethal which was subsequently cancelled at the last minute, so the engine was grabbed by Operating and put to work to run haulers between Springs and Germiston. This engine remained clean even when seen many years later in Port Elizabeth. The signals indicate a train occupying the Down main. The bridge and trackwork in the foreground indicate a common but visually pleasing riveted plate girder bridge with ballasted deck, still maintaining timber sleepers with E3131 chairs over the bridge itself, and concrete sleepers with Pandrol fastenings elsewhere. All day long these cross-reef haulers gathered in rakes of traffic to be re-assembled for far-off destinations – at Germiston for the southern Cape, Natal and North-eastern Transvaal and at Krugersdorp for the Western Cape, South West Africa and Rhodesia via Bechuanaland (Botswana).


32. The SAR photographer recorded an interesting scene at Boksburg East c mid-fifties with a 2M1 EMU (set R21) departing east for Dunswart while a 15F with a goods train waits for her turn to continue eastwards. Note what must have been a brand-new S2 shunting the Boksburg local goods sidings on the extreme right.


33. Dave was on hand at Dunswart to catch a nicely turned-out 15F heading east via Rangeview with a long string of empty type A coal hoppers c 1950.


34. Dave, using a box camera recorded this interesting image of the original Benoni Station. Unfortunately, no date available but I think that might be young Charlize Theron sitting on the SM's knee.


35. One of Springs depot's “regular“ 15Fs, No 2950 shunting the goods shed road in the extensive goods yard at Benoni in the late 1970’s. This was the era of heavy industrial activity with the local abattoir requiring a shunt engine 7 days a week.


36. On a cool, misty morning in April 1981 with dew still on the ground, Dick Manton got this bulled up Springs 15F coming out of Benoni on a short "Up" Springs-Kaserne hauler.


37. On 14 August 1960 I planned to ride the Witbank passenger train and through not checking the time table properly, I missed the departure from Johannesburg. My dad generously offered to chase the train to Benoni so that I could join there and do the day return trip. Here is class 16CR 814 arriving at Benoni. My dad got a speeding ticket for his trouble so I was not his favourite son for awhile! 814 gave me a very exciting run to Witbank especially on the return leg. Although it was all stations between Witbank and Geduld, the wonderful Hendrie Pacific really showed her paces between stops!


38. Apex junction was a very good place to observe trains and set up for railway photography. On 2 April 1961, 15F No 3043 steamed past with a down goods heading for Welgedag and Witbank. I was so impressed with the photo possibilities at Apex that I returned on a regular basis.


39. Still at Apex on 2 April 1961, this all 3rd-class 2M1 EMU set came in from Springs and Brakpan en route to Benoni, Germiston and Johannesburg. The Reef EMUs ran an intensive service between Springs on the East Rand and Randfontein on the West Rand via Johannesburg, much denser on weekdays. Also there were 3rd-class only rush-hour services via the Mineral line to termini at Farringdon and Westgate.


40. In July 1962 I was back at Apex and got another bag of photos. First on the scene were two class 1Es with a block load of coal from Welgedag heading west. This was less than a year after the Welgedag-Witbank electrification had been energised, which raises the interesting speculation as to whether these venerable old units had worked all the way through from Witbank because delivery of new 5E1s from Associated Electrical Industries (AEI) to cover this project had lagged behind.


41. A going-away shot of these two old Natal stalwarts in their original green livery as they gear-whined past me was too much to resist! The route-indicator signal shows that this train was heading west via Rangeview direct to Dunswart and Angelo Yard.


42. A class 3E came through with empty bogies heading for the Witbank area. The route indicator and colour-light signal was giving the driver the right-of-way direct to Welgedag via Modrea.


43. Two class 31s running light and still in original livery came by heading west with a 5E approaching from Rangeview with a goods train.


44. A 5M EMU set from Springs pulled into Apex during that July 1962 visit. At that time the red and grey livery included an aluminium-painted roof to the coaches. At a later date the gulf red would be replaced by a more austere overall red oxide, including the roof.


45. A class 12R running light also came by heading East through Apex. Note the slimes dam in the background – not as pretty as the Langkloof!


46. In December 1976 this Springs 15AR No 1850 worked a down tranship goods, tender first, through Apex, crossing the diamonds of the double track junction and taking the line to Springs via Brakpan. Almost out of sight behind the tender is one of the architecturally more pleasing modern designs of SAR signal box in the Art Deco style - and what better era to portray a steam railway. At the time of writing, this engine is still with us in Bloemfontein but compare the ugly, plain-stovepipe chimney with the more graceful design originally applied to the Watson standard boilers as seen in the previous photo. The scene shows the ubiquitous self seeded peach trees on the left, palm trees on the platform, a wooden maintenance ladder for the overhead wires, , electrically driven point work, colour light signals with a variety of route indicators and still reasonably clean and weed-free track and yard.


47. My July 1962 visit to Apex provided additional excitement with this 15F hammering through the station with a goods heading for Angelo Yard – her stack-talk sending shivers of excitement down my spine! I always preferred the heavier beat of a 15F or 23 to the sharper exhaust of a 15CA.


48. A 5M set No R5 coming around the curve from Anzac as it enters Apex junction on 21 March 1965.


49. A recently out-shopped 5M motor coach brings up the rear of another EMU set en route from Springs to Randfontein – stopping briefly at Apex in March 1965 before heading for Benoni.


50. The walkway of the old mechanical signal cabin at Apex provided the SAR photographer with a good vantage point to photograph a 15F with a heavy coal train from the Witbank area heading west.

51. 5M set R15 from Randfontein is seen departing Apex on 21.3.65 heading for Anzac, Brakpan and Springs. The line heading straight past the camera is the direct line to Modrea, Geduld and Welgedag.


52. The official SAR photographer did a brilliant job of depicting this prewar-model 15F with a rake of empties for the Witbank coalfields, almost certainly pre-1950. There are several interesting things here, beginning with the engine itself, still with its original flanged chimney (which I much preferred to the later plain stovepipe version), combined twin-clack top-feed, turbogenerator mounted on top of the boiler (a worse place for it is difficult to imagine) and original large-diameter angled pop valves. This is a prewar-model 15F still with its 15E-pattern version of the standard 3B boiler. From the walkway of the old mechanical signal cabin being shared with the signalman you can see the single-aspect colour-light signal with old-style illuminated panel indicating whether westbound trains were going straight on via Modrea to Welgedag as this one is, or turn right to Brakpan and Springs. Note the pre-apartheid lattice footbridge with its obtrusive high panels put in to discourage members of the public who might be inclined to poke their arms through the laticework to grab the 3000V catenary.


53. After catching the train home from Springs to Anzac of an afternoon in the early 1980’s I would sometimes see a steam working. On this day I saw an “austerity” 15F working a down tranship. The four cement tankers at the front of the train were bound for Brakpan either for the bulk cement facility or the concrete sleeper factory. Both these had rail access off the complex of private sidings running out of Brakpan. Behind the train are the local golf course and the memorial to the “Special Constables and Mine Officials" killed in the Miners Strike of 1922. Despite many enquiries and discountable urban legends this Australian has never been able to establish the history behind the unusual choice of name for this Brakpan suburb. The track is on Fist-fastened concrete sleepers.


54. Late afternoon in late winter saw an “austerity” 15F drifting gently down the grade towards Anzac halt after the small amount of effort to surmount the dip immediately after Apex. The train with its random assembly of bogies and shorts that would indicate a tranship goods has passed between the old pre- Boer war coal mines to the east between the railway and Main reef Road and the newer and hence actually documented coal mines to the west of the line. A period of heavy rains in the early 1980’s led to several small sinkholes from the latter actually working to the surface due to the collapse of those workings. My job at the time had me checking their effect on the local rail reserve with the Government Mining Surveyor. They were able to advise the zone of influence and my subsequent checking of soil cracks showed how accurate their measurements and calculations were.


55. This fine photograph by the official SAR photographer was vaguely captioned as "near Anzac" and certainly had Les and Peter scratching their heads. It definitely wasn't Anzac and the mine dumps might have been New Kleinfontein, however the position of the shadows and the proximity of the dumps suggest that this 15F working a general goods train towards Angelo yard was most likely taken in the vicinity of Deep Levels halt on the Welgedag-Modrea-Apex section. The mine dumps in the background would have been part of Brakpan Mines activities. How times have changed. In the 1950s Modrea was seeing 15Fs pounding through with heavy coal trains several times an hour! Despite the erstwhile provision for quadrupling the track, all traces of the railway in this location have since disappeared. The platforms, although unused, were present in 1982.


56. A Saturday in January 1979 saw Germiston's prestige 15F No 3040 approaching Anzac halt with a down tranship goods while a solitary sunflower looked on. The red-painted smokebox hand wheel confirms its home depot. A few bulk cement tankers for Brakpan while the rust on the fillers for the other tank wagons would indicate that their destination was Ergo for another load of acid recovered from reprocessing the mine dumps. Fireman appears to be studying his injector to ensure that it picks up. At the time of writing this engine is still with us at Bloemfontein.


57. A January day in 1979 saw this Springs 15F (as indicated by its yellow-painted smokebox hand wheel), working its train easily up the grade from Brakpan to Apex. The first two vehicles were well wagons, probably loaded with transformers or similar heavy equipment in packing crates.


58. Other than a handful of engines reserved for tour trains, by the mid-eighties most of the engines that we knew and loved so well had disappeared. The "S" classes were no more so the mighty 15Fs were reduced to shunting and trip work. Dolled up 15F "Betta" was shunting Brakpan yard. The DZ wagon contains concrete sleepers from the Grinaker factory and is interesting as it has arch-bar bogies yet modern doors. The cleanliness of the wagon would indicate that it was recently ex-works.


59. The pride of Springs loco was 15F No 2985. Here she (or he) is, lifting a train of cement tankers up the grade from Brakpan to Springs in the mid 1980s. The engine carries the name "Springs" on its smoke deflectors but has lost the name "Hilton" (after Hilton Parks, the Western Transvaal Locomotive Superintendent) which it carried at an earlier date. Ultimately this engine became the last to be overhauled and receive special treatment by Springs Depot. Although it had lost its official Springs nameplates to No 3135, it carried copies arranged by local enthusiast Nigel Cooke and a local Springs business. These were recognisable by the additional small "Debex" logo on the Springs nameplates and were carried by 2985 and class 25NC No 3422 in the 1990s. Although renamed, at the time of writing the locomotive is still with us in the Eastern Transvaal. Behind the train are some of Brakpan's factories, the roofs of which were brought down several years later in one of the Rand's rare heavy snowfalls. The location of this photo was the embankment for the new road overpass built on the site of a former mine railway overpass that crossed the SAR main many years previously.

60. For our last photo in this chapter we return to the west just outside Germiston Station near the loco depot. Peter, providing the information for this photo, says: During the 1970s it became very rare to see a steam freight working the mainline through Germiston. Most freight off the Springs line worked over the flyover that crosses both the Springs and Pretoria mains and in through the mains in the shunting yards. This was the only time I saw such a working and depicts a Germiston 15F working a cattle train on the Springs up main just in front of the Germiston loco coal stage. The two tracks behind the engine are the up and down mains to Union junction while the tracks in the foreground are Down Pretoria, Up Pretoria and down Springs.

Before we sign off we'd like to introduce you to Aussie-born Peter Micenko, a major contributor to this chapter and we hope in future episodes. Although Peter lived and worked in South Africa for 25 years and married a boermeisie - the delightful Joanne - you can tell he's Australian because he just chundered out the cab window of Springs' prestige F (hence the somewhat sheepish expression). Peter rose to the rank of Senior District Engineer on our SAR which, incidentally, takes second place to the original SAR based in the city where he was born, Adelaide. Railways are in Peter's blood and he is now employed in Queensland in a very senior capacity.

And that concludes this chapter, the first part of the "Springs Eastward Railway". In the next part we will visit Springs loco, its yard and go down the line to Nigel.

.