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SOUL System 7 – Part 5, Germiston and Surrounds by Les Pivnic ©

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With this segment of the Western Transvaal System we continue our visit to the greater Germiston area. As with the previous parts, the photographs will appear chronologically which results in moving around the area in no particular order.
In SAR days the Western Transvaal system generated more traffic than all the other systems combined.  Within the scope of this map (thanks Bruno) there were more than 100 private sidings worked by private locomotives and more than 1000 private sidings serviced by SAR, many on a daily basis. The map shows the central position of Germiston – hub of the nation's railway activity and busiest railway junction by far in South Africa with some 800 trains/day at the end of the SAR era in 1980, of which about a third were freight workings (according to a Wikipedia entry, Clapham Junction, reputed to be Europe's busiest, handles 2000 trains/day – almost all passenger).  

1.  Germiston yard on Christmas Day 1959 was understandably quiet. Even class S1 3815 was taking a break from its usual arduous duties.  Before the huge Sentrarand hump/retarder yard came on stream, Germiston and Angelo yards were a hive of activity – shunting mostly with S1s went on 24/7.  These ‘local’ concentration yards were a vital link in the wagon flow from private siding to ultimate destination.  Being close to the customer they should and could, in the computer age, have been able to expedite consignments more rapidly than the trek to Sentrarand, some 70 km north of the centre of gravity of what were once SAR’s multitude of single-wagonload clients with their private sidings along the reef – the bread and butter of the railway.

2.      In 1960, class 3E locos were still working main line passenger trains from Pretoria. I was near Geldenhuis Station to record this 3E working the Pietersburg – Johannesburg train on the final leg of its journey.  It is amazing to reflect that back in those times it was perfectly safe to walk in relatively remote parts of the Reef with camera in hand.  These days such vantage points would be fraught with danger!

3.      After the Up Pietersburg had passed, it was followed by 192 – the Trans Natal Express from Durban – Class 32s were doing the honours on this particular day.  From 1958 until completion of electrification in May 1964, 199 and 192, the crack expresses between Johannesburg and Durban, were worked by Germiston-based diesel locomotives – classes 31 and 32. 

4.      In December 1959, class 15F 3044 departs Germiston for Volksrust with train 193 – destination Durban.  By this time the fast trains were already worked by class 31 or 32 diesels as already mentioned but the lesser passenger trains were still being worked by Volksrust-based 15Fs.


5.      Dave Parsons also ventured between the mine dumps near Driehoek to record the Blue Train heading for Johannesburg with two class 32s in charge.  The Blue Train in those days would occasionally be used in the winter season to take punters to the Durban July Handicap – hence a photograph of this train in unusual territory.  The 32s would have worked the train from Volksrust.

6.      15F 2922 is seen working the Germiston Breakdown train back to the Depot after attending to a derailment.  The second last vehicle in the train is of particular interest.  It started life in 1938 as K-44 van no.4311. It was painted in the Union Limited livery of blue and cream and worked on that illustrious train up until the air-conditioned stock came into use in 1939 – see Western Transvaal System – Part 1.  After a few years in general service, it was withdrawn as a passenger van and it became part of the Germiston Breakdown train.

7.      In 1960, the Johannesburg – Vereeniging local passenger trains were still unit-hauled steam sets and would remain so for a few years yet.  Here is 3E 203 approaching Germiston from Elsburg with a Vereeniging local.

8.      In July 1960, 15F 2976 was approaching Germiston with train 196 ex Volksrust and Durban.  Take a closer look at the driver – his posture at the regulator tells me that he was proud to be in charge of that train!  That was one of the wonderful aspects of the old SAR – most of the staff took pride in the railway.

9.      Class S1 no.3809 simmers quietly in Germiston Yard with typical Reef “scenery” as a backdrop!  I often popped into the SAR tea room on platform 4 & 5 to have a pie and gravy while listening to several S1s hammering up and down the Yard, making up trains for destinations in all directions from the City.

10.      A pair of relatively new 5Es approaches Germiston from Angelo with a goods train in 1961.  By this time electric traction had taken over considerable work from steam and the basic 5E/5E1 design would remain for many years to come.

11.      At Germiston steam wasn’t dead yet!  Some time during 1955 I grabbed this shot of the ashpits as I passed by on a train from Vereeniging. There was a time when Germiston Loco was the biggest Steam Depot in South Africa.

12.      When it was commissioned in 1956, Kazerne Hump Yard to the south of Johannesburg on the RML, was the first mechanised classification yard in South Africa.  Here is a SAR shot of the line feeding the “King” retarders, “Queen” retarders and sorting roads.

13. This is the control panel overlooking the “Queen” retarders – SAR photo

 14.      Looking up the hump past the “King” retarders. SAR photo.

15.      An interesting view of Driehoek, looking west, showing a 2M2 EMU arriving there en route to Johannesburg.  Thanks to Bruno Martin and John Middleton for information about the NZASM tank shunting the industrial service line on the left - ie on the south side of the tracks - which originates from a series of spurs near India Junction.  The ZASM tank may be from Scaw Metals India Junction site which had a ZASM until a diesel arrived in 1956. This is probably the line shown on Bruno's 1939 map running SE from Driehoek. This particular loco had come from Crown Mines where it was No. 1 originally CSAR 148. 

16. In 1958/9 the SAR introduced diesel traction on a large scale and to this end, a major Diesel Depot was erected at Germiston to service and stable the locos. This is an aerial shot of the new Depot and adjoining Yard.  The Steam Depot is just out of the picture to the left.  SAR photo.

17.      Train 196 has just arrived from Volksrust with a 15F in charge.  The shunter has released the coupling and the F is leaving her train at the platform.  She would now go to the Loco for servicing before returning to her home shed at Volksrust.  An electric loco – usually a 5E – would work the train through to Johannesburg.  This procedure came into effect after steam was banned from the new Johannesburg station in 1959.

18.      Dave Parsons used an unusual but interesting angle to capture a 12AR and a 3E on film at Jupiter on the RML.

19.       Wandering around the mine dumps east of Germiston I found class 16CR No. 797 working a goods load to Angelo Yard in 1960.

20.      With the introduction in 1960 of the new red and grey livery, it became possible to photograph trains and EMUs in mixed colours during the transition period that lasted for quite some time. Here is a 5M EMU with all the trailer coaches in the new livery being worked by “Smoke  Grey” (light blue) motor coaches.  This shot was taken alongside the Loco Depot at Germiston.  The train was en route from Springs to Johannesburg and Randfontein.

21. In February 1961 a class 3E has arrived at Germiston from Pretoria with the “LM Mail” en route to Johannesburg. The 3Es could really get mobile on passenger trains.  They were geared for 65mph and I had many trips behind them where they more than lived up to their reputation.

22.      In this early 1960s shot, I caught a 3E with a goods alongside a 5M EMU waiting at the Germiston East Home Signals.  The 3E was still in the green striped livery that would eventually disappear.

23.      Riding on a 5M set from Pretoria, I captured this sunset scene from the leading motor coach.  The train is approaching the signal to the east of Germiston Station.

24.       A minute or two later, I had the opportunity to photograph the sunset again – this time on the final approach to Germiston.

25.      Germiston Station 1964.  Here is a new Union Carriage and Wagon (UCW)-built 5E1 No. 677 departing with a local passenger train for Vereeniging.  The days of unit-hauled Vereeniging locals was coming to an end.  EMUs would soon take over this service.  Note the predominance of brown liveried stock 4 years after the introduction of the new red and grey livery.

26. In November 1964, class 16CR No. 793 was regularly rostered as station pilot at Germiston.  She had a regular crew that kept her in supershine condition.  This duty involved attaching inbound main line saloons to Pretoria EMUs and outbound coaches to the main line trains.

27.       In April 1967 a famous “Kapenaar” found herself shunting as station pilot at Germiston.  It was none other than the unique class 5R 781!  She is seen here on duty and note the cowcatcher still attached to her tender – a reminder of her years on the Strand link when some tender-first running was required.

28. While stationed at Germiston, she was kept reasonably clean – at least her dignity was maintained which can’t be said for Capital Park Loco where she was based earlier for a while when she first came up from the Cape – at Capital Park she looked an absolute disgrace!

29.       Part of her Germiston station pilot duties involved making up the Bombela mine-worker’s trains.  Here she is doing just that.  I never had the opportunity to talk to her crew at Germiston so I doubt whether they would have known that they were working a locomotive that was famous in the Cape for more than 30 years on the Strand Express!

30.       Roger Perry was on hand at Driehoek in May 1971 to photograph this splendid 3E no.205 working a goods load from Germiston to Kazerne.

31.   Circa 1973 Roger captured two 5E1s working the eastbound Drakensberg Express near Geldenhuis en route to Durban.  Looking at the angry sky he is lucky that he got a sliver of sunlight on the train as it passed by (who says you can't get atmospheric photos of electrics and diesels?)!

32.       On the 28th of April 1990, history was made when Operating allowed 25NC 3476 to work the Blue Train from Johannesburg to Pretoria.  I was on hand to capture the action at Geldenhuis between Johannesburg and Germiston.

33.       On the 5th of May 1990  it happened again!  Engine 3476 worked the Blue for a second time to Pretoria.  These trips were preliminaries to 3476 working the Blue Train from Johannesburg all the way to Klerksdorp.  She did herself proud on all these trips!

34.       Towards the end of 1990, 15F 3040 looking absolutely marvellous, was photographed passing Cleveland with the Amatola for East London.  With Braamfontein Electric Shed being allowed to work the Trans Karoo from Johannesburg to Klerksdorp on Fridays – returning on Saturdays – using steam, the same concession was given to Germiston Loco to work the Amatola as far as Kroonstad - also once a week – with steam.  25NC 3472 and 15F 3040 shared these duties.

35.       In January 1987 Roger Perry photographed two 6E1s in Spoornet livery passing Driehoek with a goods train for Kazerne. The locos are both carrying the name “Bosvelder” - I’m surprised that they appeared around Germiston working freight seeing that they were intended for dedicated use on passenger service northwards to Pietersburg and Louis Trichardt.

With the next segment of the Western Transvaal System we will have a look around Germiston Steam and Diesel Depots and feature some of the locos that were to be seen in those depots in days gone by.