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System 7, Part 6, Germiston, the Steam and Diesel Running Sheds by Les Pivnic ©

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In this segment of System 7 – Western Transvaal, we visit the two major locomotive depots at Germiston.   The Steam Shed which is no more except for the portion kept alive by the Reefsteamers Preservation Group and the Diesel Depot situated to the north of where the steam facilities used to be.  However, before looking at them we will briefly call at Kazerne Loco which was a sub-shed to Germiston and one last look at Germiston Yard the home of the mighty S1s going about their business. 

1. In the late 1960s there were two 12ARs stationed at Kazerne to work the hump yard.  They were engines 2124 named “ELMA” and 1522 named “BOKKIE”.  With regular crews on each, competition for the cleanest engine was at fever pitch!  In this photo we see ELMA’s driver giving her some extra spit and polish.

2. Here is ELMA’s rival BOKKIE – engine 1522 – setting back pushing a load over the hump.

3. This was the sub-depot at Kazerne photographed on the 14th of December 1969.  Nothing like the hustle and bustle of its parent depot at Germiston but nevertheless providing an essential service facility for locos working at Kazerne.

4. Another scene at Kazerne Loco shows a 15F taking a break before working a load to Germiston.

5. In 1959/60 visits to a diesel depot were still a novelty and I found myself regularly popping into the new depot at Germiston en route to the steam shed.  On this occasion in 1960, I photographed three class 32s –008 in the foreground with 001 behind her and 006 on an adjoining road.  Although the class 32s were primarily intended for service in South West Africa, several of them spent a few years at Germiston working all sorts of traffic including the Trans Natal Express between Johannesburg and Volksrust.

6. The Henschel-built class 61 diesel-hydraulics were also stationed at Germiston.  Here is 61-001 shortly after being placed in service in 1959.  With the acknowledged success of diesel hydraulic traction in Germany it was rather disappointing that they did not succeed on SAR.  Possibly much higher ambient temperatures being one of the problems?  Initially they were tried on passenger trains.  However, a failure at Standerton due to over-heating whilst working the Trans Natal Express led to them being taken off further passenger work and used on goods trains.  Things got worse whereupon they were relegated to shunting duty.

7. In December 1959 three gents visited the diesel depot at Germiston – they were Frank Garrison, Eddie Mecl and yours truly who took the photograph.  I included this photo for the benefit of those people who have heard of Frank Garrison whose photos are so much a feature of SoAR,  but never had the opportunity of meeting him. He is on the left with Eddie – an Austrian-born enthusiast on the right.  Sadly, both Frank and Eddie have passed on.

8. During one of my regular visits to Germiston Loco in the 1950s, I found an unusual visitor – class 15CA 2844.  CAs were not frequently seen at Germiston in those days – in fact 2844 was a Witbank engine and they usually worked to Pretoria or Waterval Boven.  If you look closely at the Shedman in the cab, you might see that he was not happy with me taking a photograph, either of him or the engine!

9. I am one of those who like to attribute human characteristics to steam locomotives.  In a December 1959 visit to GMR Loco, I found this young S1 having a chat with grandma 6B! The photograph also serves to emphasize the incredible development of locomotive size over 55 years!

10. Here we have a S1 hauling another S1 around the balloon from the ashpits at Germiston Loco.  The engine they are passing is class 6J No.635 – a well-known oldtimer used on light pick-up goods work to Braamfontein - 1959.

11. In this general view of the eastern side of the Running Shed, also in 1959, there are 15Fs, GMAMs, a 12R and a 12A. The GMAMs were filling in on the Witbank coal trains until the electrification (in progress) between Witbank and Welgedag could be completed.

12. Class 12AR  2137 on the ashpit having her fire cleaned.  In the 1950s, SAR’s steam locomotives still had good-looking headlamps – this was before the adoption of ugly sealed-beam headlamps began in 1964.

13. The east side of the Running Shed in 1960 with class 8D No.1090 alongside 16CR No. 822.  A 15F on the right and an S2 behind the 8D complete the picture.  The 8th class and the 16CR still have their bell buffers, the switch to Buckeye automatic couplers was only completed during the 1960s.  Note the post with substantial pegs for storing coupling links on the right. 

14. Class 16CR No.822 with her drain-cocks open and a new fire laid on, leaves the Shed for main line duty.

15. Back at the coal stage, 6J 635 has just topped up her bunker and is ready to set back over the ashpits before taking the balloon around the 15M Shop to the Running Shed.  In 1960 this Depot was still very active providing motive power for several lines radiating from the Reef.

16. In December 1960 these two pooled 15Fs were taking coal before moving on to the ashpits.  15Fs were for many years the mainstay of main line steam at Germiston – working to Witbank, Volksrust and Kroonstad.  They were ably supported by 12As and 12ARs on the Witbank line and 15A/ARs as well as 16CRs on the Breyten, Kroonstad and Volksrust lines.

17. Another unusual visitor to Germiston was this class GM No.2295 without its feeder tank, probably to save space in the cramped shed.  The GMs were normally confined to Braamfontein shed – working west to Zeerust and Mafeking.  When I took the photograph I never thought of asking the Shed Foreman what she was doing there.  51 years later, I still don’t know!  One can only surmise that she was on loan to assist the GMAMs on the Witbank line.

18. In May 1961 these two Germiston stalwarts – classes 12A and S1 – were waiting to go on duty.  If you look closely you will notice that the 12A’s headlamp has no bulb.  This was standard practice with screw-in bulbs.  Firemen used to carry the bulbs in their kit because those left in situ invariably disappeared!  This was one of the reasons for the changeover to sealed-beam headlamps.

19. Three 15Fs, an S2 and a couple of other engines in the background on the northern side of the Running Shed in March 1967.  The 15F on the right was class leader No. 2902.

20. Class 15F No. 2938 is having her boiler washed out in April 1967.  She was one of the pre-War batch built to SAR design by the North British Locomotive Co in Glasgow.  These NBL 15Fs had smoke deflectors fitted when new – unlike their earlier German-built sisters that originally came out with smokebox handrails. 

21. This was a real stranger to Germiston – the famous Capetonian – class 5R No. 781.  I have already mentioned in Part 4 of System 7 that 781 ended her active days at Germiston as Station Pilot in 1967.  After leaving her beloved Cape, she spent a short spell on the Eastern Transvaal System in helper service between Naboomspruit and Nylstroom before relegation to the shunt at Capital Park loco.  During this time she looked an absolute disgrace – filthy and grimy!  Then she was transferred to Springs Loco where she briefly enjoyed passenger service again on the locals to Nigel.  At least at Springs and especially Germiston, this grand old lady was given due recognition for her glorious past and kept clean!

22. Talking of strangers to Germiston – in August 1968, I conducted David Shepherd – the renowned British artist and railway enthusiast – on a tour of Germiston Loco.  Here he is on the north side of the shed next to class 7 No.1019 that was in the process of being delivered to the Chrysler Motors assembly plant in Pretoria East to shunt their private siding.  When we walked up the steps from the subway under the main goods avoiding line and David caught first sight of all the locomotives lined up at the west end of the Running Shed, his first words cannot be repeated here – suffice to say that they expressed his amazement at seeing so much steam in one place!

23. On the same day (11.8.68) a class 6B No.498 was on coal-stage duty.  In my photo she is taking a breather before pushing the next lot of A-hoppers up onto the coalstage.

24. Class S1 No. 378, one of a batch of 12 manufactured at SAR’s Salt River Works in 1947, was on duty with a badly leaking regulator gland on the same day in August ’68 when David Shepherd was soaking up every minute of his visit to Germiston. At any given time there could be as many as six S1s at work simultaneously sorting goods trains – the stack-talk was music for an enthusiast’s ears!

25. In February 1961 the west side of the Running Shed looked tranquil in spite of a number of engines waiting to go on duty.

26. On the 13th of January 1962, the eastern side was another story – plenty of steam and atmosphere with a class 16CR and S1.

27. In January 1962, inside the Running Shed, looking out westwards with a couple of 15Fs waiting to go on duty.

28. In June 1960 I called in at the new Diesel Depot at Germiston and found this pair of class 1-DE diesels ticking over while waiting to go on duty.  These units later reclassified class 31, were originally supplied by General Electric, USA, in a rather garish livery that mimicked the colours of the South African flag.  In 1960/61 this colour scheme was replaced by a more sober Gulf Red with yellow stripes.

29. In those early days of diesel traction, Roger Perry also visited the Diesel Depot and caught these two 1-DEs going on duty.

30. As the two class 1-DE diesels passed by, Roger followed them with his camera and took this second shot.  I have purposely included it because if you look beyond and over the two locomotives, you will see just how busy the old SAR was in the 1960s.  The view is over the massive Germiston Yard looking towards the Steam Depot in the far background.

31. Here we have class 1-DE No. 709 standing just outside the maintenance building in the Depot.  These locos were initially going to be used on transfer and shunting duties but when they were placed in service they performed so well that they soon found themselves working passenger and goods trains on the main lines to Volksrust and Kroonstad.

32. The introduction of diesel traction on the SAR in 1958/60 included the class 61 diesel hydraulics.  The woes encountered with these units  have already been mentioned.  Here are two 61s with paintwork already looking rather shabby, standing outside the Depot admin building.

33. This photograph taken at the refuelling pumps shows from the left – classes 61, 1-DE (31) and 32.  The class 32s were delivered new in the red livery with yellow stripe.  These three classes saw several year’s service at Germiston – working main lines and in the case of the 61s, shunting in yards at Braamfontein after their withdrawal from main line duty.

34. Around 1960 Dave Parsons also visited the new Diesel Depot at Germiston.  Inside the shed there were three classes alongside each other – 1-DE, 61 and 32.

35. Dave also found the first successful diesel loco on the SAR – class 1-DE No.701 – standing on the inspection road in the shed. The two pre-War experimental diesels were not successful so what eventually became the class 31s, from General Electric, can justifiably claim that honour.

36. He also photographed class 32-007 inside the shed.  The “James Bond” of SAR diesels!  Several class 32s worked at Germiston and on the Eastern Transvaal System in those early years but the bulk went to South West Africa where they became very popular working all lines.

37. Dave also photographed No. 61.001 – the first SAR class 61 on the inspection road.  These GM-engined diesel-hydraulics made a very smooth exhaust sound when under power – it is a pity that they did not perform well under SAR conditions.

In Part 7 we will continue our visit to Germiston Loco especially the steam side and that will take us to the point where, in the following segment, we will set out on the main line south-east of Germiston – first running due south to Union (Junction) and veer off in a south easterly direction to Volksrust  - close to the Natal border.