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Part 1: Pretoria: including local services, workshops and running sheds, by Les Pivnic ©

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Perhaps a more appropriate name would have been "Northern Transvaal System" but the fact that SAR called it the "Eastern Transvaal System" emphasised the relative importance of the railway from Pretoria to Delagoa Bay.  The sprawling network extended from from Thabazimbi in the west to Komatipoort in the east, and from Beit bridge on the Limpopo to its southernmost outpost at Ermelo.  Since the early development of Transvaal railways were mainly centered around the Eastern Mainline to Lourenco Marques we shall leave Bruno Martin's description of those early beginnings intact in his introduction to the chapter dealing with that line (this will follow straight after the first two instalments dealing with Pretoria).

Continuing on from the Republican days, the Imperial Military Railways (IMR) assumed control of the railways in the Transvaal and Orange Free State from 1900 as a result of the British Forces occupying Pretoria at that time.  The IMR continued to use the NZASM and PPR equipment but also brought in locomotives from the Cape Government Railways to assist in moving traffic.  IMR control only lasted for two years – in 1902 they handed over control to the Central South African Railways (CSAR) – a civil Administration that would in technology, revolutionise railway development in the Transvaal and OFS. 

In my opinion the European suppliers of railway equipment to the old Transvaal Republic misjudged the requirements of a railway that would extend over 291 miles from Pretoria to Komatipoort, at the border with Mozambique, and rise 6,000 feet in the process.  Apart from various smaller tank locomotives, they supplied the NZASM with 46 ton 0-6-4 tank engines to work a main line! 

This is where the CSAR excelled.  Within two years they introduced 4-6-2 Pacifics with 5ft-2in drivers - weighing over 122 tons (class 10) and 2-8-2 goods engines (class 11) weighing over 128 tons in working order.  These designs by CSAR's Chief Locomotive Superintendant, P A Hyde, were cutting edge technology at the time. And they didn’t stop there: passenger coaches with Gould knuckle couplers, closed vestibules with concertina connections were introduced.  These were of two major types – corridor saloons, including dining and parlour cars (with panoramic windows) for the express service between Johannesburg and Pretoria as well as similar coaches for long-distance services to Cape Town. All this modern equipment actually placed the CSAR ahead of either the Cape Government or Natal Government Railways in terms of technical advancement. 

I will open this chapter with several historical photos including a few which illustrate the chocolate and cream-liveried coaches which were way ahead of their time. The CSAR provided the Transvaal and OFS with a world-class railway within only eight years of its existence which was quite remarkable!

However, the CSAR did have one notable failure – they tried to persist with the NZASM rack section between Waterval Boven and Waterval Onder, for which two purpose-built engines were ordered from the Vulcan Foundry and delivered in 1904. They were a dismal failure which then prompted the CSAR to deviate that section of line altogether and abandon the steep rack section.  It needs to be added that (according to Frank Holland *) the Vulcan Foundary did not adhere to P A Hyde’s specifications for the rack mechanism which was similar to the successful system employed on the NZASM rack engines.  The CSAR pair had their rack mechanisms removed and even then, only lasted until 1912.  There will be more about this machine in the chapter dealing with the Eastern Mainline.

Photographically, Part 1 then moves on to the 1940s at Pretoria Station before moving across the tracks to the adjoining Mechanical Workshops.  After that we go north of the City to Capital Park Loco which replaced the historical roundhouse which was next to the station on the western side of the platforms.

* "Steam Locomotives of the South African Railways" Vol I pp135/6

1. Pretoria Roundhouse in CSAR days.  Starting from the 5th stall from the left where the engine numbers are reasonably easy to read, are CSAR 6th-class L2 No 357 (SAR 557); 8th-class L3 No 493 (SAR 1184); 10-1 No 663 (SAR 745); 8th-class L3 No 498 (SAR 1189); 8th-class L2 No 462 (SAR 1153); 8th-class L3 No 496 (SAR 1187); ZASM B 46-Tonner; 11th-class No 729 (SAR 941).  This, the second roundhouse to be built on the site, was situated on the western side of the station and survived until the new running sheds were established at Capital Park in 1943.

2. In this well-known CSAR publicity photo intended to show how engine size had increased from the earliest ZASM times, we have a diminutive 14-tonner by Emil Kessler posed alongside a Beatty class 8 (CSAR class L1 No 438, SAR class 8B 1129) named after the Secretary of State for the Colonies and arch-imperialist, Joseph Chamberlain.  One of these little 14-Tonners would be mounted on a plinth on Pretoria Station as a National Monument and later removed to the S A Railway Museum in Johannesburg.  The move to Johannesburg was appropriate because, tiny as they were, they started the pioneer rail service on the Reef.

3. Apologies for the poor quality of this photo but it is historically valuable in that it shows the original Pretoria Station that was situated roughly where “Pretoria B” was provided in the 1960s for additional platforms to accommodate local EMU services. The train standing at the platform is headed by one of the CSAR 9th-class Pacifics and in the 6-carriage rake behind the tender no two coaches are the same! In this remarkable assortment, the second-last vehicle is an NGR balcony saloon!  Tucked away to the left is a NZASM 46-tonner making smoke! 

This photo has considerable additional interest: the building on the right-hand border is the old Victoria Hotel which many years later would serve as the headquarters for Rohan Vos’s  Rovos Rail before he moved his operation to Capital Park.  In front of the Hotel are several goods wagons and a crane standing in a goods yard situated roughly where the new station gardens were situated when Pretoria got its magnificent new station building designed by Sir Herbert Baker in 1911/12.  I imagine that credit for the new Herbert Baker building must go to the CSAR who obviously planned the improvements before Union in 1910.


4. Sometime before 1910 a 9th-class Pacific No 601 (SAR 728) was posed with a rake of side-door suburban coaches.  Note the steam turbo-generator mounted just ahead of the chimney for the electric headlamp.  CSAR also experimented with carbon-arc headlamps while some engines retained paraffin lamps – the latter on engines for secondary duties.  What on earth that "hinged half-moon" sort of canvas cover is on the headlight is unknown to us.  Also, it appears the turbo-generator may have been fitted with a silencer.  Both suggestions came from Peter Micenko and we'll stick with them until one of youse comes up with a better explanation (as usually happens).


5. In 1904 the CSAR took a massive leap forward in their engine and rolling stock development with the introduction of the 10th- and 11th-class locomotives and some remarkable coaches for local express and long-distance service.  Here is one of the chocolate and cream-liveried “Parlour Cars” for service on the Limited Express between Pretoria and Johannesburg.  Observe the closed vestibules with concertina connections and the appropriate use of panoramic windows!  Coaches of this calibre made the CSAR  a world-class railway.  

6. While the outside of the parlour car might be described as tastefully glamorous (except perhaps for the somewhat garish "1st") the interior was an epitome of Edwardian decor. There was no skimping of luxurious appointments: pressed-metal ceiling, Venetian-glass lampshades, mahogany-lined walls, Wilton double-shuttle carpets and stuffed horsehair armchairs that would not have looked out of place in the exclusive (no ladies!) Pretoria Club.  Even the parcel racks got the treatment.  These new CSAR vehicles were just as roomy as coaching stock running on 4ft 8 ½ in gauge in other parts of the world – in fact even more spacious than British coaches on the wider gauge.  As for comfort, one could not have asked for more! 

7. The Limited Express also had Buffet Cars in the consist.  Again, note the use of panoramic windows which would allow the passengers to observe the passing scene as they enjoyed a meal or a cup of tea.  It is sad to record that Mr D A Hendrie from Natal who became the first CME of the SAR in 1910, chose to ignore these refinements in passenger coach design and persisted with out-dated open balcony main-line saloons and dining cars with standard size windows!  It would remain so until A G Watson introduced his PROTEA dining saloon in 1933 which revived the use of panoramic windows and closed vestibules with concertina connections – which he applied to the new sleeping cars as well.

8. The Limited Express conveyed 1st- and 2nd-class passengers only – here an example of one of the 2nd-class coaches.  Note the Gould knuckle-coupler with split knuckle to accommodate coupling to the old Bell Buffer with a link and pin.  As an aside, while the CSAR introduced knuckle couplers in 1904 they were only introduced gradually after SAR took over and were not finally eliminated until the late 1950s.

9. The guard’s van to bring up the rear of the Limited Express.   These chocolate & cream trains must have made a fine sight at speed behind a 10th class Pacific.  Between Kaalfontein and Olifantsfontein near Oakmoor there was an extended passing loop which allowed the opposing Expresses to pass each other on the fly!  Sadly, the attractive chocolate & cream livery didn’t take kindly to the South African climate.  CSAR Reports indicate that the paint finish on these Limited coaches soon faded and a decision was made to alter the livery to varnished teak.

10. CSAR 10th-class No 663 seen in the Roundhouse (photo 1) is here at the head of the Limited Express at Pretoria Station ready to depart for Johannesburg.  Some 40 years ago Mrs Macey, head of the Africana section of the Kimberley Public Library rescued an album of family snapshots from a church bazaar, among which were priceless railway photos c 1905/6. Thanks to this lady we have an idea of what the elegant Limited Express looked like in service.

11. The CSAR also introduced their “K class” saloons for the “Train de Luxe” known as the “Imperial Mail” travelling between Pretoria/Johannesburg and Cape Town. Illustrated here is one of the 1st class Observation Cars.  These saloons had a distinctly American appearance with their flat sides and style of clerestory roof. The lounge was provided with panoramic windows but curiously, the dining cars retained standard –size windows.  They were also fitted with knuckle couplers and closed vestibules.  With this observation car bringing up the rear it didn’t need a concertina connection but note the large window fitted in the rear bulkhead – a feature which would not re-appear until Rovos Rail provided a similar arrangement on their first observation car in the 1990s and, still later, was adopted by Spoornet on at least one of the Blue Train sets. 

12.  Evidence that CSAR did not confine motive power employed on the Pretoria-Johannesburg service to its 9th and 10th classes: No 367 class 6-L2 (SAR class 6C No 556) heading a Limited Express c 1905.  Locomotive Superintendent Hyde greatly improved the CGR 6th classes that he had inherited from the Orange Free State Railways (OVGS) by fitting them with much larger Belpaire boilers and more commodious cabs.  They were more powerful than an unrebuilt 6th-class and would have handled this four-car set with ease.  For more details on these long-lived locomotives please refer to André Kritzinger's wonderful Wikipedia site containing most of what you'll ever want to know.  In addition you could consult "Steam Locomotives of the South African Railways" by D F Holland or "Locomotives of the South African Railways" by Paxton and Bourne.

13. CSAR class 10-1 Pacific No 660 (SAR class 10 No 742) at the head of a mixed rake of express coaches.  The beautiful chocolate & cream livery has already gone but otherwise intact.  Note again the turbo-generator in front of the chimney for the electric headlight.  CSAR retained bell buffers on their locomotives to keep them compatible with their own goods and older passenger rolling stock as well as that from other railways.

14. Judging by the finery of the ladies and profusion of Vierkleur flags of the old Transvaal Republic as well as that of the Orange Free State, this must have been the occasion of the official opening of the railway from Johannesburg in 1894.

15.  Here is the introductory photo of Sir Herbert Baker's building reproduced without the somewhat distracting chapter title.  It not only provided the entrance to the new station complex but it also housed the offices of the Chief Mechanical Engineer and the System Manager with their staff.  As you can see in this view, which I took in the early 1950s, beautiful gardens were laid out in front of the building with fish ponds and water fountains, and that is revered "Oom Paul" Kruger, President of the Transvaal Republic atop the pedestal.  According to the city's website, the statue was a gift to the City of Pretoria by the Jewish community in 1890 but was only moved to the station gardens in 1925. In the late 1950s the statue was removed to Church Square in the City.  As this is being written there is every possibility that Oom Paul’s statue will be removed altogether due to vandalism. 

16. Moving into the SAR era we have this typical formation of the 1920s from the camera of that great railway photographer, Frank Garrison.  The three-coach train of steam-suburban stock is hauled by an unrebuilt class 6C and is a local to Rissik, a suburb three miles out on the Eastern Mainline.  In the left background is the roundhouse seen in photo 1.

17. One of Frank Garrison's better-known photographs from Pretoria is this one of an 8th class - presumably ex CSAR - departing with a Rissik local.  Observe "Pietersberg", ex Pretoria-Pietersburg Railway, ex CSAR, vigorously shunting the SAR's workshops in left background.  Also the fine old signal cabin: the inscription below "Pretoria" reads: "Suid Seinjaalkajuit", archaic Afrikaans spelling for "South Signal Cabin".

18. The practice of attaching long-distance coaches to the Pretoria-Johannesburg locals went back a long way - in fact long before electrification in 1937/38.  Frank Garrison's magnificent photo of No 824 making the required energetic start out of Pretoria, shows a Hendrie main-line balcony saloon that was probably going to be attached to one of the southbound services at Germiston.  Note the cardboard booking strips flapping in the breeze.  Observe the route-indicating starter signals, second one from the top assuring the driver that the points are set for the Germiston road.  The one at the top applies to the Eastern Mainline.  Peter Micenko has pointed out that this signal post shows the importance attached to the Eastern Main line

In the left background what looks like a brand-new GF looks about to depart on a northbound goods.  Thanks to Leith Paxton for the loan of the print.

19. These signals controlled the entrance to Pretoria station.  The numbers showed to which platform incoming trains were being directed.  The track between the train and the brake 1st on the right is the Eastern Mainline.  Out of Pretoria the ruling gradient against Johannesburg trains was 1 in 66 compensated.  As you can see, it began virtually at the platform ends.  The southbound run was by far the more arduous facing locomotives hauling the Limited Expresses - starting cold, in the first 30 miles they would have to overcome a 1160ft difference in elevation, i.e. much more the rise from Carnforth to Shap on BR's West Coast Main Line.  

In another weepworthy image by Frank Garrison we see the 8-coach, 295-ton, 610-up, first stop Germiston, 13h05 SaO in charge of an unknown 16C blasting its way under the fabulous gantry on the hill to Fountains. 75 all-too-brief minutes later it would be in Johannesburg.  

20. We now move forward to 1947 and the Royal Tour of their Majesties King George VI, Queen Elizabeth, Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret.  Naturally the route of the Royal Train included a visit to the nation's administrative capital, Pretoria.  On Saturday 29 March, 15CA 2840 steamed into the station and came to rest at exactly 10am.  The train had staged for a few hours at Panpoort before setting off for Pretoria at 9.05am.  In the background a 14CR used on the passenger yard shunt simmers quietly. A bloke in the main-line saloon at the next platform gets a ring-side view of the Royal Train arriving! 

21. Having done her job, 15CA 2840 simmers quietly alongside the platform as Field Marshall J C Smuts, Prime Minister of the Union of South Africa, escorts the King along the red carpet while Pretoria’s Mayor & Mayoress escort the Queen and the Princesses to a formal reception.  Observe the SAR police in their smart white helmets lining the platform.

22.  After taking photo 15 above I strolled through the concourse in time to find this 15CA arriving with 1410-up, 09:15 SuO, all-stations Waterval Bo-Pretoria. On the left is the old signal cabin which features in Frank Garrisons photo 17 above and on the hillside to the right of the engine is the metals foundry part of the Pretoria Mechanical workshops complex which we will visit shortly.  

23. A long footbridge straddled the Mechanical Workshops complex as it provided access from the station gardens to the Salvokop housing estate.  This footbridge provided a perfect vantage point for photographing the workshop activity.  In this scene by Dave Parsons we see several locomotives undergoing various stages of repair.

24. A GM garratt with nasty damage to its cab is prominent in the foreground.  The Pretoria Mechanical workshops repaired and overhauled locomotives and coaches.  In fact shop 13, the Coach Shop, built carriages from scratch, including dining cars and main line day/sleeper saloons.  Although cramped it was a major complex with its own foundry as mentioned earlier.

25. In 1950 Pretoria Shops carried out a conversion on a steam locomotive that would result in SAR ordering 90 large condensing locomotives.  The sole class 20 No 2485 was chosen as the guinea pig to test a condensing tender supplied by Henschel & Sohn, Germany.  In this historic photo we see the engine being steam tested for the first time.  Note the chimney has not yet been extended.

26. The large workshop behind the 15F was the Locomotive Erecting Shop.  All engines coming in for a “Heavy Repair” (SAR’s parlance for a major overhaul) were literally stripped down to the last bolt.  The boiler would be exchanged for a newly repaired boiler to expedite the work-load and avoid delays in getting the engine back in traffic.

27. Another view of the Erecting Shop with classes S1, 19D and on the left just visible – a 15F. Note how relatively tidy the foreground is – the Shop Foreman was obviously houseproud!

28. This SAR photo takes us inside the Erecting Shop just as a GF Garratt is under steam test – note the Shop Foreman on the left keeping an eagle eye on his staff as they go through the final checks on the engine.

29. This is the Tender Shop which is self-explanatory.  The noise of rivet guns was quite severe in this vicinity – I can clearly remember thinking how the blokes working here must have suffered long-term damage to their ears.  I could be wrong but I don’t remember them wearing any ear protection

30. Nowadays the Health and Safety boys would have plenty to say about the scene depicted in the previous photo.  I wonder what they would have said about these labourers returning to the coach-shop sawmill with sharpened blades for the wood-cutting machines.

31.  One of the first three locomotives delivered to the Pretoria-Pietersburg railway in 1897 by Hawthorne-Leslie & Co, the Pietersburg was for many years the workshop shunter at the Pretoria Shops, eventually being mounted at Pietersburg station as a historical monument.  She can also be seen hard at work in photo 17.

32. Back at the station I photographed a 19D setting back onto its train, probably bound for Cullinan (see next photo).  This must have been a very early application of a sealed beam headlight (or rather, tail-light) to an SAR locomotive.  It obviously wouldn't have fitted into the casing of the traditional headlight on its left!
Drooping gutters and tattered awnings meant that by 1960 the old mechanical south cabin was near the end of its life. It would quite soon be replaced by a new all electric cabin that eventually would control most of the area covered by Bruno's map above.  Part of the remodelling of Pretoria station was the new platform on the extreme right, still under construction.

33. The date is 26 March 1960 and three trains are awaiting departure – left to right: 19D 3352 with MP1 tender on a local passenger; 15CA 2810 with the Witbank/Boven train and a 5M EMU set for Johannesburg.

34. Class 3E No 192 passes the station with a load of coal on 23 March 1960.  These units were real maids of all work – comfortably handling trains like this or in earlier times, the Blue Train.  Remodelling of the station track-work and platforms (evident on the right) began in 1960 and continued into 1961. 

35. On the same day this 14R was assigned to the main line passenger yard on shunting duty.  The white building on the right is a temporary signal cabin which was necessary because the old cabin seen in earlier photos was about to be demolished to make way for the remodelling of Pretoria Station. 

36. Also photographed on the 23 March 1960 was a 5M EMU set departing for Johannesburg with three main line saloons tacked onto the trailing motor coach.  This was standard practice for long-distance trains departing from Johannesburg.  In some cases the saloons would be dropped off at Germiston to be attached to the main line train en route to Natal or the OFS.  In other cases where the main line train departed westwards from Johannesburg, the coaches would be taken through to that point to join the train. 

37. 5M EMU set P4 is seen approaching the platforms at Pretoria from Johannesburg.  The discolouration of the “Smoke Grey” livery is clearly evident in this photo.  The new red and grey livery would soon appear and would eliminate the problem.


38. A 5M motor coach will take this Blue Train set of two coaches (type C-31-A/C-31-B) to Johannesburg to join the rest of the train to Cape Town.  I often wondered how Pretoria residents felt when travelling on these saloons with no access to restaurant or lounge facilities until they joined the main train at Johannesburg.  When the new Blue Trains entered service in 1972, that all changed because the new trains were housed complete in Pretoria in a purpose- built shed erected near the site of the old Foundry.  

39. The massive new workshop complex at Koedoespoort was opened by the Honourable Dr E G Jansen, Governor-General of the Union of South Africa on 14 October 1954.  The old shops at Pretoria (also large in their own right) slowly moved away to Koedoespoort, but the removal didn’t happen all at once.  This photo taken on 3 April 1961 shows two newly out-shopped lounge cars 796 & 797 which had been repaired at Bloemfontein, being shunted out of the Pretoria Workshops after the fitting of interior furnishings.   They were now ready for service on the named trains like the Trans Karoo or Trans Natal. The light-coloured saloon in the background is an H-24, 3rd-class coach in undercoat. 

On the hillside behind the workshops can be seen row-upon-row of standard (and uncomfortable) P-36 type departmental houses for SAR personnel - an indication of the railway's social responsibility that dates back right to the beginning.

40. As already mentioned, in 1960/1 Pretoria Station underwent major remodelling which included the provision of additional platforms and replacement of semaphore signals with colour-lights and route indicators.  All these new signals would be controlled from a new cabin situated near the old Pretoria ME’s office building.  This photo shows some of the work involved.

41.  The Cullinan train sets sail from Pretoria with 19D 2674 in charge in April 1961.  The partially ballasted track in the foreground was part of the remodelling at Pretoria in 1960/61.

42. A feature at Pretoria Station prior to the remodelling were two impressive hydraulic buffers and this ornate points indicator coupled to a two lever frame which controlled the turnouts to allow incoming engines to uncouple and leave the platforms without having to shunt the empty coaches away to the yard.   

43.  ZASM B-class 0-6-4 locomotive mounted along with President Kruger's private saloon in the concourse of Pretoria station in July 1975.

44. We will finish this tour of Pretoria station and its immediate surroundings with this nice frontal view taken 21 years after the Frontispiece photo.  The gardens are still looking cared for but Oom Paul has been moved to Church Square as well as the tram tracks, leaving passengers with a long walk into town.

That concludes the first part of our chapter dealing with railways around Pretoria.  In our next issue we will visit Capital Park locomotive sheds, Koedoespoort Workshops and present some views of local trains at work in and around Pretoria.