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Part 1: Pretoria: including local services, workshops and running sheds - 2 by Les Pivnic ©

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1. We now move out to Capital Park Loco – the new locomotive depot that was opened in 1943 – replacing the old roundhouse at Pretoria Station (photo 1 in Part 1-1).  In this SAR photo looking east we see the Depot nearing completion. 

2. One of the early residents at Capital Park was No 2551, the sole class 21, which had been transferred from Braamfontein Loco after the GM garratts had made her redundant on the Zeerust line.  By this time she was fitted with massive smoke deflectors.  During WW2 she was adopted as the mascot of a military unit based at Sonderwater Camp near Cullinan.  She was regularly used to work troop trains and sometimes Italian POWs to the Camp.

3. Another view of the class 21 emphasises the size of her deflector plates – I much preferred her original appearance without these ugly elephant ears!  The type FT tender had a special compartment for the fire-irons – it can be seen on the tender just below the stack of coal.  When the class 21 was scrapped in 1952 at Pretoria Shops her standard type 3B boiler was repaired and retained as a spare for use on 15Fs.  Her FT tender went to Kroonstad Loco as a spare also for use on 15Fs.

4. Capital Park Loco also stabled the sole class 20 for awhile – here she is in original condition as built in 1935.  She was sent to various branches in the Eastern Transvaal to undergo tests before further tests were conducted on the SWA System.

5. Engine 2485 back at Capital Park Loco after her conversion in Pretoria Shops to a condensing engine – as seen in photo 25 in Part 1-1.  Note that she was now fitted with German "Witte"-style smoke deflectors and a rather crude extension to her chimney.


6. This angle shows more detail of the Henschel condensing tender which was mounted on two American-made six-wheel Buckeye bogies as opposed to the DR/DB's arrangement of one six-wheeled and one four-wheeled bogie.

7. In this front-end view the widely-spaced deflector plates are particularly prominent.  Observe the small nameplate – “PRETORIA” mounted on the headlamp platform.

8. The fireman’s side showing more detail of the condensing equipment applied to the engine itself including the box on the running board that contained a centrifuge and filters to remove cylinder lubricant from the exhaust steam.

9. Another view of 2485's tender – note the three fans behind the coal bunker – on the class 25’s tender there would be five similar fans.

10.  Les's exquisite portrait of 15CA 2807 which he made on a visit to Capital Park shed in the mid-1950s emphasizes the scaled-down USRA profile of these engines.

11. Moving forward to the 1960s - in May 1963, 15CA 2822 is ready to leave the 15M Shop at Capital Park.

12. In the early 1960s there was a lot of electrification work being done on the Eastern Transvaal System and this 16CR No 816 was allocated to the electrification team.  Her regular driver kept her in pristine condition – it is a pity that economics dictated that most engines had to be pooled at a depot – as soon as a driver had a regular engine, it would soon be evident in the appearance of the locomotive.

13.  Without a doubt the worst disfigurement ever to befall our generally good-looking SAR engines was the sealed-beam headlight, introduced in 1964.  Here in Capital Park, a group of 15CAs discuss the hideous-looking little boxes on their faces!  If only the CME had arranged for the original headlamp casings to be used instead! 

14. On 17 May 1964, GMAM 4069 rests at Capital Park having worked in from Waterval Boven.

15. Class 15A 1824 was one of six engines of her class that were never reboilered – the remaining five were – 1791 (narrow cab); 1845; 1851; 1970 and 2084. Fitters are busy here replacing the left-side cylinder cover.

16.  Here is a direct comparison in headlamps – which do you prefer!  Another sister engine 2819 simmers quietly on the left.  Capital Park was definitely “CA territory” with 55 members of the class being stationed here.

17. An S2 shunting the coal stage at Capital Park in October 1964 when the depot was building up to its all-time peak activity prior to the arrival of diesels en-masse in the 1970s.

18. Inside the Running Shed a couple of 19Ds waiting for their next turns of duty – maybe they were also talking about those lousy headlights!

19. 14AR 1912 and two 15CAs have all lost their tenders!  After 15M repairs a 19D shunts them to another part of the Depot to be re-united with their tenders.

20. A general scene of the Running Shed with a 19D and a trio of 15CAs being prepared for the road.  When this photo was taken in October 1964 I would have scoffed at the idea that Capital Park would eventually be the home depot of an up-market rail touring company – Rovos Rail! 

21. 15A 1824 shows off her classic Hendrie lines at Capital Park.  For a few years in the 1960s, the white and red number plates were a trademark of Capital Park engines. 

22. In June 1965 Capital Park shed was still home to 55 class 15CAs – here is one of them steaming slowly tender-first into the Running Shed. 

23. During the same visit, the shedman with another 15CA is shunting a 15F and a 19D into the Running Shed.

24. In June 1965 class 7A 1006 was still ready to earn her keep after nearly 70 years in service!

25. Another oldtimer still in steam: class 6 No 432 in the 15M Shop - complete with ugly sealed-beam headlight.  This old girl would eventually be presented to Union Carriage & Wagon in Nigel and be mounted at the main gate on a plinth.  I wonder if she still survives there and if so, in what condition? 

26. Showing the contrasting influences of British and American locomotive practice, a 15CA and 16CR move off shed to work their respective trains.

27. Newly out-shopped S1 No 3802 taking a brief rest in Capital Park Loco before returning to her home depot in 1965.  This full broadside shows off the pugnacious profile of these heavy shunting engines.  I often sat in the SAR cafeteria on platform 3 & 4 at Germiston eating a pie & gravy while listening to the stack talk of several S1s shunting the adjoining goods yard.

Three Watson re-boilered class 16s waiting to go on duty at Capital Park in October 1965.  A quarter of a century later that watering appliance with spouts over each track would be gone and these tracks would be occupied by Rovos Rail's locomotives and coaches.

In May 1966 another visit to Capital Park was for me an interesting but sad experience.  The shedman was using class 5R 781 as shed pilot to move engines around the Depot and here she was shunting GM 2292 just released from Koedoespoort Shops after a Heavy Repair.  What a come-down for 781! 

30.  Another view of 781 shunting the GM – from a proud express passenger engine in the Cape to shunting in Capital Park – oh dear!  I’m glad that Sonny Best was not around to see his special “baby” reduced to such menial work!


31. On 23 September 1968 the first Ian Allan tour to South Africa visited Capital Park.  I was appointed SAR official guide to the group. I can only identify a few of the tour group – starting from the left, front row:  (2nd from right) Charles R Gordon-Stewart, Roger Perry, O.S.Nock; on the engine (15F 3150) are David Bosomworth (left of the smokebox dart wheel) and next to the RH smoke deflector is Dr P. Ransome-Wallis.  Just beneath the same smoke deflector is David Mitchell (with glasses) Trevor Bailey, the tour guide is tall at the back, outlined by the firebox and in front of him is E D Bruton. If anyone can identify the others I will gladly add their names. 

32. Left to right – 15F 3150, O.S. (Ossie) Nock, Trevor Bailey and Charles R Gordon Stewart with two out of his three Leicas.

33. In July 1969 a 15F and 15CA were preparing to go on duty – my camera drawing the attention of some of the shed staff.

34. Later that year the Railway Society of Southern Africa and the Historic Transport Association combined to organise a trip from Johannesburg to Rustenburg and return.  Class 1E units worked the special from Johannesburg to Pretoria from where the veteran 15A 1791 took it onwards to Rustenburg and back.  Here she is at Capital Park, nicely polished up for the event with the men that handled her on the special trip – P.S.du Rand and H.S.Engelbrecht.  They gave us a good run to Rustenburg and back! 

It is also worthy of mention that 1791 was the only 15A with Hendrie's original narrow cab to avoid reboilering with a Watson standard boiler. 

35. By the time of Robert's visit in 1970 classes 6, 7 and 8 had disappeared but Capital Park was still an extraordinarily busy all-steam shed with 167 locomotives in ten classes.  The ranks of 15Fs had been boosted to > 60 by the arrival of engines displaced by dieselisation of the Cape Midland Mainline, while 15CAs had been reduced to 40 as some of their number were transferred to the Natal North Coast.  Prominent in this view are some of the 13 class 14Rs allocated here.  These erstwhile 14As were Hendrie's most redoubtable mountain engine, doing the lion's share of the work on the toughest sections of the Eastern mainline to Lourenco Marques for almost four decades from 1915.

36.  As they are wont to do, by 1975 diesels had elbowed their way into Capital Park's sacred precincts.

37. But there was still a considerable amount of pride in keeping the traditional power polished, even though by 1975 the daily calls for duty were diminishing rapidly.

38. As I was saying.......

39. When the new Blue Train was stabled at Pretoria, Capital Park responded by painting S2 No 3793 blue for Pretoria Station carriage-shunt duties.  After the en-masse withdrawal of the S2s in 1979/80 these duties were taken over by a blue-painted 19D 2749 - see photos 57, 75 and 76.  

40. No 3993 three-quarter rear.

41. Late afternoon at the eastern end of the shed, July 1975.  Intruders on the left.

42. Lined up and ready to go off shed for their evening duties, three 15CAs and a 19D, July 1975.

43. Back to the sixties - that's a class 18 tender, type HT, on the nearest 15CA (a special note for you, André!).

44. Also in the sixties, a class GO and a GM ex works from Koedoespoort.  And, talking about Koedoespoort.........

45. Koedoespoort Mechanical Shops nearing completion in 1954.  It took several years to complete the move from the old workshops in Pretoria to this massive complex.  The new shops were opened on 14 October 1954 by Dr E.G.Jansen, Governor General of the Union of South Africa.  This aerial view gives one an idea why staff had to use scooters to get around!

46. In November 1966 a 2M2 EMU set pauses at Koedoespoort station en route to Pretoria.  Notice how clean the surrounding platforms are - or should I say - WERE! 

47. During October 1967, a visit to Koedoespoort Shops was arranged by the Reef Branch RSSA.  Here in the Coach Shop we see a type A-22 dining car undergoing a Heavy Repair - SAR parlance for a major overhaul.

48. This type A-18 diner no.156 named ZIMBABWE didn't make it - she was badly burnt and as a result of which she was scrapped. 


49. Type A-31 dining car No 245 KOMATI resplendent in her new livery and virtually ready to be returned to traffic. 


50.  19D 2757 was almost ready to be out-shopped and returned to her home depot. Just a little signal red paint on her buffer beam and a good oil & grease round and she'll be ready for her steam test before returning to traffic.

51. On the same day in the Erecting Shop we see a couple of 15CAs undergoing Intermediate Repairs.  Given the distinct lack of safety clothing and head-gear, latter-day Health and Safety bureaucrats would have had a field day here!

52. This 15CA was being moved to another part of the shop for further attention during re-assembly. Those overhead cranes could lift an entire engine without a problem.  Watching the engine being hoisted and moved across the workshop was particularly impressive.

From the days of Allan G Watson in the 1930s, SAR Shops were allocated particular classes of engine to repair - this resulted in a much more efficient spares/stores system where individual workshops did not have to carry spares for all classes of engine.

53. We've lingered around Pretoria station, visited the loco sheds and toured Koedoespoort workshops.  Carrying on from whence we started - Pretoria Station - let's look at some of the local services around the city.  Peter has kindly provided a caption for his 1977 photo of the S2 used to make up (and dismantle) local and long-distance trains.

"Winter 1977 finds an S2 light shunting locomotive busy on the carriage shunt at Pretoria station. The afternoon sun warms S2 number 3711 whilst the fireman slouches in his seat, no doubt in conversation with his driver and a shunter guides the next move from his vantage point on the front pilot. Now dominating the scenery to the south is the ever-expanding architectural marvel [hey Pete, are you serious??] of the University of South Africa (UNISA) jutting westwards from its hilltop vantage point."

54. We'll start with the Cullinan train, a favourite with enthusiasts right into the 1980s, here paused for passengers at Panpoort (which curiously didn't feature in the public timetables).  Next stop is Van der Merwe, the halt where an irate farmer famously nearly shot Dusty Durrant's head off, then the junction for Cullinan at Rayton.

55. Well glory be and hallelujah!  Will you just look at that CA blasting, rasping away from Rayton.  This was August 1981 but I can hear the noise as if it were yesterday.

56.  Arriving at Cullinan with the 13:05 SaO from Pretoria in October 1980. Jacaranda season was the best time to visit the line, as beautifully illustrated by Dick.  

57. We were wondering which of 57 or 58 to put in and then decided, what the hell, you'd want to see them both!  This was October 1979 when the Blue Train shunt loco at that time was often specially requested to work the Cullinan train during the Jacaranda season.

58. The 06:17 SuX departure from Cullinan in December 1979 with Capital Park's pet 15CA 2850 in charge.

59. The Cullinan branch continued beyond Cullinan to Zonderwater (originally a circular route) where it latterly terminated at Dav Steel (an iron ore processing plant), in its last years the sole remaining source of traffic on the line.  In June 2007 Dave operated a steam-hauled tour that included a visit to the plant.

60. The Saturday Cullinan trains were worked chimney-first in both directions, unlike the weekday trains which returned from Cullinan bunker first as there were no turning facilities at Eerste Fabrieke the weekday turnaround point for the steam service 

61. 2850 on the 06:17 passing the abbatoir on the climb out of Cullinan. The branch is short but attractive and offers several locations for good photographs but at this location the sun is only on the track for about four weeks in midsummer.    Why present tense?  See photo 63.

62. Eventually, the inevitable happened, let photographer Dick describe it for you: "The very last passenger working to Cullinan took place on Sunday September 5 1982.  The train is seen standing at Cullinan prior to working back to Pretoria empty stock, but in fact with a group of enthusiasts on board.  The crew put on such an amazing performance returning through the Pretoria suburbs with the sounds of the 15CA reverberating off the walls, they received a large tip on arrival at Pretoria". 

63. "Friends of the Rail" offer frequent and very popular excursions from Hermanstad to Cullinan, a journey which can combine fast running (in places) with heavy hill climbing.  Details of their trips with times and fares can be found here:

64. There has been a shortage of goods trains in this chapter so far, so here is a local working from Rosslyn just west of Pretoria North with an unlikely 16R in charge, coming through Wonderboompoort in June 1968.

65. A 19D waiting to depart from Hercules in August 1980.  This train was daily, starting from Pretoria MWFO (but only advertised from Hercules!) and Hercules on MWFX. 

66. Just around the corner from Hercules, passing close to the present "Friends of the Rail" (FoTR) site at Hermanstad, in July 1982.

67. The only waterstop between Pretoria and Magaliesburg was roughly half way, at Meerhof (appropriately on the banks of Hartebeespoort Dam), formerly named Schoemansville.

68.  There was once quite a substantial passenger service but patronage tailed off sharply in the 1960s.  By 1972 it was no longer advertised beyond Hekpoort, although Dick tells us that coaches went through to Magaliesburg at least until 1980.  From then the guard's van's accommodation would have come into use beyond there for those who could not afford a motor car. Combi-taxis were still unheard of then.  This undated photo taken at Meerhof by Roger Perry was clearly during the time when business had dwindled almost to nothing.

69. A few hundred yards beyond Meerhof the railway turns due West and over the Hartebeespoort Dam by means of these spindly trusses.  This was the daily goods from Pretoria with empty sand wagons for the pits at Hekpoort.

70. Skeerpoort in June 1981. In the last few years prior to this it was the turn around point for the daily "suburban" working from Pretoria. 

71.  The 13:25 eastbound freight from Magaliesburg which, Dick tells us, had a tendency to run ahead of time on a Saturday!  Goods traffic began to tail off during the 1970s, gaining sharp momentum after the Road Transportation Act 74 of 1977.  By the end of the decade (and the end of the SAR era) there was hardly anything left, as testified by these three wagons of high-rated refrigerated traffic - probably vegetables or fruit from the Marico.

72. On this day in August 1980 there was no freight beyond Hekpoort where the sand wagons had been dispatched, just the pathetic remains of the daily passenger continuing on to Magaliesburg.  Before long there would be no passenger coaches at all, just the guards van.  By 1990 there was nothing apart from the occasional excursion.   Paul Ash has sent us a revealing snippet about the declining years:

"Hercules-Magaliesburg was the line on which I first rode "real" steam trains, starting in April school holidays in 1980. Then the daily train was called the Pattat Express.
In response to Les's wonderings about the passenger services, we (my father, mother and I) rode the train from Magaliesburg one Sunday in July 1981 and there were three (pretty empty) passenger coaches attached.
A return visit in July 1982 showed the situation unchanged - three coaches, a handful of pax and a domeless 19D. At Swartspruit, the crew uncoupled the loco, ran around the train and departed at high-speed tender first in the direction of Meerhof. The red-faced guard admitted the tablet had been left behind at Meerhof, apparently. We spent a good hour or so lolling in the veld, waiting for the domeless one to reappear which she did in due course, coupled on and off we went.
That was the last time I saw a train on the line. I did travel in Dam Rail's Wickham trolley to Meerhof in 2001, but it just wasn't the same ..."

73. Barely a decade earlier Roger Perry was photographing the 15:55 Magaliesburg - Pretoria SuO leaving Hekpoort with what looks like a fair load of passengers.

74. Although it looks as if it is west of Hekpoort, the precise location of this photo has been lost with time and its venerable author has long since shuffled off this mortal coil.  However, it does show that through the sixties respectable length passenger trains traversed the entire line. 

75. We generally try to avoid special workings but all too frequently pictures come along that compel us to show you them.  This was Dick's take of 19D 2749, the Blue Train shunt loco at the time, heading the returning RSSA Eastern Flier on 24 April 1981 over the Hartebeespoort Dam bridge at Meerhof.

76.  The same train of nice C34 clerestory stock and blue Dolly 2749 a bit further on.  Swartspruit is about halfway between Meerhof and Pretoria.

77. Class 19D on the 04:30 Skeerpoort-Pretoria (really a commuter working) accelerating away from Hercules through the Apies River poort in August 1980.

78. By the nineties Pretoria-Magaliesburg had finally fallen into disuse despite efforts by private preservation groups in Pretoria to operate the line for tourists.  They were obdurately resisted by the intransigent Unions.  Occasionally the new operators, Transnet, would employ Rovos Rail to mow the grass (they even had the nerve to charge Rovos for the privilege).

79.  We'll conclude this chapter on the lines and services around Pretoria with this farewell view of the immaculate Rovos Dollies westbound across the R104 at Damsig.

For our next chapter, Bruno Martin and Harry Ostrofsky will be taking us along the historic Eastern Transvaal Mainline all the way down to Lourenco Marques.  And while we're on the subject, may I introduce you to Harry O who has kindly volunteered to conduct the remaining chapters covering Tranvaal, Orange Free State and Natal.