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System 7, Part 4: Johannesburg to Germiston by Les Pivnic ©

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Part 4 will take us along the quadruple main line from Johannesburg to Germiston.  From George Goch just beyond Jeppe the lines increase to five – the 5th road being provided from Driehoek to service several industrial sidings along the route. Included in the above, we will take in some action along the parallel Rand Mineral Line (RML) that was opened to traffic by the Imperial Military Railways in 1901. The RML, also quadruple, runs from India Junction in Germiston via Driehoek to Canada Junction south-west of Johannesburg.  Along the way it serves New Kazerne Goods Yard that had the first hump/retarder yard in South Africa. 
Part 4 is presented in broad chronological order rather than geographical order which results in the presentation moving up and down the section with the passage of time.  The early portion is dominated by official SAR images and especially those taken by Frank Garrison and Dave Parsons.  I again ask viewers to make allowance for the lesser quality of some of Dave’s work – he was an apprentice fitter in those far-off days and his wages would not allow for anything better than a box Brownie camera.  However, the images are historically important – hence their inclusion.
The two Locomotive Depots at Germiston will be covered in a later Part of this series.

1.  This signal gantry was situated at the north-western end of Germiston Station before the installation of miniature electric lever frames.  As evident from the electrified running lines - energised in 1937 - this SAR photo was made in the late 1930s.  The gantry allowed for shunting movements and admission to the main lines heading west.

2.    Old Jeppe Station photographed just before the new low level station and lines were brought into use in 1938.  This SAR photo actually shows that while the old high-level lines were electrified and in use a year earlier, the catenary has already been cut pending the change-over. Note the contractor’s signboard just above the workman on the right.

3.      Here we have another Garrison classic and what better way to describe the action than to quote Frank’s own words in describing the scene. “Engine 824 class 16C, driver Jock Campbell on 608-up from Pretoria in full cry approaching Cleveland Up home signal, early 1930s.”

4.      Frank again: “Engine 819, 16C with Driver Blackburn – Up train from Pretoria passing Cleveland, early 1930s – note two-colour diner.”

5.   My favourite Frank Garrison photo – Frank describes it as follows: “Engine 864 class 16D on 11-down day service to Bloemfontein leaving Germiston to run via India (before Elsburg Deviation) 1930s.”  The Elsburg deviation (see Bruno Martin’s map above), opened on 29th of July 1934, brought about major changes to long-distance train and locomotive working between Johannesburg and Germiston.  Before the deviation was opened, engines of trains for the OFS and Natal were worked tender-first from Johannesburg to Germiston at which point the loco would run around its train, thus facing the right way for the journey onwards.  Engines of trains in the opposite direction (i.e. bound for Johannesburg) would arrive from either the OFS or Natal chimney first then detach and run around the train for a tender-first working to Johannesburg.  When the Elsburg Deviation opened this clumsy but previously unavoidable shunting and tender-first working was eliminated. 

6.    Frank writes – “Engine class 16 no.? On Pretoria to Johannesburg train passing President circa 1935.”  The 4th vehicle behind the tender is the dining saloon that was, in those days, part and parcel of the Pretoria – Johannesburg express service.

7.    Another FG image described thus: “Class 16 No.801 on Pretoria - Johannesburg train approaching George Goch circa 1935”.  As many of these FG photos depict Hendrie’s various class 16s working this service, it should be explained that these engines were Pretoria-based, working from the old roundhouse alongside the western edge of Pretoria Station near the Mechanical Shops.  Braamfontein men and engines worked the Reef suburban services and the main lines to Bloemfontein, Volksrust, Kimberley, Breyten and Witbank.

8.   Frank writes: “Class 16 No.? On Pretoria to Johannesburg train passing Ellis Park Halt circa 1935.”  The coal-fired range in the kitchen section of the dining car (4th vehicle) was making almost as much smoke as the engine!  The vehicle immediately ahead of the diner is one of the CSAR Limited Express coaches that were originally finished in a chocolate and cream livery.  Here it was, over 30 years later, still part of a Pretoria – Johannesburg express!

9.    Frank Garrison’s rare photo of the “Motor Train” – a push-pull steam-worked set that provided driver controls in the driving trailer. Franks says: “Motor Train set at Germiston – driver’s compartment of push-and-pull – c 1935/36.”  These sets were used mainly on the RML between Germiston and Booysens to the south of Johannesburg.

10.  I need to provide the caption for this FG photo – for some reason long forgotten, I didn’t get Frank to give me the details.  It shows a class 4A with a semi-main line train that probably came from Witbank or Breyten.  The train is passing the Simmer & Jack Mine near Driehoek en route to Johannesburg.  The tender-first working referred to earlier didn’t apply to the service to either of those eastern towns.  The first vehicle behind the tender is one of the ex CSAR Limited Express coaches referred to earlier.   

In Part 2 of the Cape Western System we showed you a CSAR class 10B on a Wellington – Cape Town train and here is a CGR class 4A on a Reef passenger working.  I have always wondered at the curious situation where locos that began their lives in one province ended up working in a totally different environment.  Similarly, NGR Hendrie B – SAR class 1s were in later years no strangers to the Western Cape!

11. Suburban electrification got going on the Witwatersrand (Western Transvaal System) in 1937.  The electric service started with the Germiston – Alberton branch line.  A three-coach push-pull EMU using one 2M1 motor coach, a plain trailer and a driving trailer made up the set.  In this SAR photo a crowd has gathered at Germiston to witness the ceremonial first trip on the line.   The full Randfontein – Springs electric service was inaugurated in the same year with the Pretoria – Germiston line coming into service only one year later in 1938. 

12. In this SAR photo at Germiston platforms 2 & 3, we see SAR officials coming along the platform after having a ride to Alberton on the ceremonial trip.  The 2M1 motor coaches had to cope with all the electric services on the Reef and to Pretoria due to the outbreak of WW2 in Europe.  The SAR would have to wait until after the War before additional improved type 2M2 motor coaches could be ordered to bolster the EMU stock complement.

13. Dave Parsons lived in Germiston for most of his adult life.  In the 1930s he acquired a Box Brownie camera and started to photograph anything to do with railways.  Dave could probably claim to be the only enthusiast photographer who photographed railway scenes from trains to gradient posts!  His negative collection, sadly uncatalogued and undated, contains an incredible variety of railway subjects.  In his early years working as an apprentice loco fitter he was confined to the capability of his bicycle to get around and get around he did!  In later years Dave was able to invest in better cameras and the quality of his work improved accordingly.

On this occasion he found a class U Garratt-Union working a goods train passing Denver between Johannesburg and Germiston.  When introduced in 1927 the ten class Us were initially based at Glencoe for working the extremely difficult section of the Natal Main Line through Newcastle and the reverses at Ingogo over the continental divide at Laingsnek to Volksrust.  Upon completion of electrification to Volksrust in 1938 they were transferred to Germiston where, no longer required to drag freights for hours on end up 1-in-50 gradients, their mechanical stokers were removed.  Henceforth they were to be used mainly on cross-Reef trips and haulers.  The powerful (56,000 lb tractive effort) articulateds were nicknamed “U-boats” by footplatemen.


14.      Another U-boat working a string of coal hoppers near Germiston by the official SAR photographer. 

15. During the 1947 Royal Tour the Royal Train en route to Rhodesia was worked “empty stock” between Pretoria and Booysens on the RML by double-headed 15Fs Nos. 3050 and 3052, while the Royal Family flew to Salisbury.  They were not on board when Dave captured this historic photo of the train passing Rosherville, near Jupiter.  Unfortunately, image quality is poor but it is included for historical interest.

16. Until 1953 Bloemfontein-based wide-firebox 16DAs and 16Es worked through to Johannesburg with 4-up, returning the following morning on 11-down.  Braamfontein crews took over at Vereeniging because Bloemfontein men at that time were not familiar with colour-light signals.  Here Dave recorded a 16DA with 4-up near Denver.

17. Dave Parsons photographed this typical Springs – Randfontein EMU 8-coach set near Denver.  The leading motor coach is a type 2M2 placed in service in 1948/9 and capable of speeds up to 65mph.  I can vouch for the exceptional riding qualities of these motor coaches.  They gave a smooth ride and upon stopping at a station, had a curious gentle “bouncing” action on the torsion-bar suspension.  I sorely missed this experience when the new 5M sliding door sets came into service in 1958/9.

18. Another Dave Parsons’ photo taken on the RML at Jupiter in the 1950s shows the unusual sight of two 3Es double heading a heavy coal drag. Class 3Es invariably worked as single units even on goods trains so he was fortunate to capture this scene on film.

19. One of Dave’s better photographs shows an immaculate class 4AR working a goods train near Germiston.

20. In this 1950s photograph taken by Dave at Jupiter on the RML, 314 class 3E is seen working a load of ballast wagons.  The 3Es were versatile locomotives – equally at home on this type of work or hauling the Blue Train at 65mph.

21. A scene near Angelo yard by Dave showing a 12A working a goods train.  On a parallel road is a class H2 tank.  In the 1950s the Witwatersrand was a rail enthusiast’s paradise!  The variety of steam classes and trains was enormous.  Germiston, the busiest rail junction on SAR, handled more than 700 trains/day with heavy shunting going on continuously and passenger and goods train movements in an almost never-ending stream!

22. Class GM garratts were also used in so-called “caboose working” where two loco crews would keep the engine on the road for extended periods.  In Dave’s photo, a GM with caboose is ready to leave Angelo Yard for Zeerust. Note the driver making adjustments to the steam turret before departure.

23. I too spent years hoofing around Germiston with my camera.  Here is a 15AR ex Vereeniging rolling into Germiston Station. These workings were handled by Braamfontein engines and men until November 1959.  The 15ARs shared these duties with 16CRs and 15A No.1970 that was destined to become famous in later years as “Milly” at De Aar.  Occasionally, a 15F would work one of these trains but that was the exception to the rule.

24. Another 15AR shortly after arrival from Vereeniging with a local passenger for Johannesburg.  The final leg of these trips was often quite exciting because there was only one booked stop at Jeppe and the drivers were keen to book off!  I often sat in the leading coach with a 15AR or 16CR thrashing along the main line with an EMU racing us on the adjoining “slow” line.

25. A 15F in full flight with 196-up ex Natal near Driehoek, on the last lap of its journey to Johannesburg.  The new 5E on the left is on the link line to the RML and Kazerne with a goods train. Passenger trains like 196 and all the others to or from Natal were worked by Volksrust engines while Germiston covered the pick-up and local goods work on that section.

26. Germiston had several short push-pull EMU sets working local passenger services around the greater city area to places like Wattles and Alberton.  I was on hand to capture one of these sets leaving the staging yard to commence service. The shunter is seen making haste to grab a ride to the platform!

27. I also spent time at Jupiter on the RML in 1961 photographing various goods workings. Here is 198 class 3E  working a string of empties to Kazerne – the main goods depot for Johannesburg.

28. From early in 1955 as the new 5Es began to take over the Natal Main Line, several class 1Es were transferred to the Western Transvaal System for haulers and cross-Reef trips – transferring loads from yard to yard. In my photo, 178 cl 1E is working a load from one of the many Reef satellite yards to Kazerne.

29. Two class 5Es with No.304 leading on the RML near Jupiter in 1961.  Note the colour-light signals in place ready to take over from the semaphores.

30. The East London – Johannesburg express, 434-up, arriving at Germiston on 12th December 1959 – just 14 days after electric traction had taken over from Braamfontein Steam on the Kroonstad – Germiston section. Two class 5Es Nos. 567 and 562 are in charge.

31. On the same day (12/12/59) class 5E No. 550 rolls into Germiston with a local from Vereeniging.  At this early stage electric units simply took over working the steam sets on the Vereeniging service.  This didn’t last too long – EMUs replaced loco working within a couple of years.

32. Steam didn’t disappear altogether on passenger workings into Germiston in 1959.  In my photograph, class GMAM 4104 is seen arriving with its train from Breyten on the 12th of December 1959.  Lesser passenger trains from Natal would also remain steam-hauled for a few more years – only the expresses – forerunners of the Trans Natal – would be diesel-hauled until completion of the electrification of the Natal Main Line in 1964.

33. In 1958/9 new sliding-door steel-bodied suburban trains were introduced on the Western Transvaal System operating Springs – Randfontein and Pretoria – Johannesburg.  In the Germiston area with the previously mentioned use of push-pull EMU sets, we had a curious combination of new steel 5M stock working with older wooden-bodied driving trailers – the latter being repainted in the powder blue “Smoke Grey” livery as it was officially known.  In my photo taken in 1959, one of these combinations is seen leaving Germiston for Kempton Park where it terminated.

34. One of the new 5M EMU sets in its original “Smoke Grey” livery passing the steam loco depot at Germiston in 1960.  After only a year or two in service these 5M sets already looked tatty – the livery choice was not a wise one!  However, the problem would soon be resolved. In 1960 to celebrate 100 years of railways in South Africa, the SAR decided on a new livery of Gulf Red and Quaker Grey for all passenger stock except the Blue Train and Orange Express.  The 5Ms received the new livery as they passed through Shops for “Heavy Repairs” – SAR jargon for scheduled major overhauls.

35. A 5M set working as the Pretoria – Johannesburg Express “P1” rolls into Germiston from the Capital in 1960.  In this instance, the livery still looked reasonably clean and smart.  As time passed from 1960, photos of 5M sets in this original livery would become rarer. 



In the next chapter, Part 5, dealing with Germiston, we will continue our visit to the “Railway City” of the East Rand.