Cape Town Railway & Dock 0-4-0T

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Cape Town Railway & Dock 0-4-0T
to CGR 0-4-2T no. 9 "Blackie"
0-4-2 Hawthorne Leslie Blackie.jpg
"Blackie" plinthed at Cape Town station, 16 February 2007
Type and origin
Power type Steam
Designer R and W Hawthorn
Builder R and W Hawthorn
Serial number 162
Build date 1859
Total produced 1
Rebuilder Cape Government Railways
Rebuild date 1873
Configuration 0-4-0T as built, 0-4-2T when rebuilt
Gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) broad gauge
Driver diameter 54 in (1,370 mm)
Trailing wheel
36 in (914 mm)
Wheelbase 6 ft (1.829 m) coupled
11 ft 10 in (3.607 m) total
Length 23 ft 2 in (7.061 m) over couplers
Width 6 ft 3 in (1.905 m) engine
8 ft 5 in (2.565 m) cab roof
Height 11 ft 8 in (3.556 m)
Fuel type Coal
Boiler 3 ft 10.5 in (1.181 m) dia
5 ft 1 in (1.549 m) pitch
Cylinders Two
Operator(s) Messrs E. & J. Pickering
Cape Town Railway & Dock
Cape Government Railways
Kowie Harbour Improvement Co.
Number in class 1
Number(s) 9
Official name Frontier
Nicknames Blackie
Delivered 1859
First run 1859
Retired 1883
Preserved 1
Disposition Heritage object, plinthed

The Cape Town Railway & Dock 0-4-0T of 1859 is a South African steam locomotive from the pre-Union era in the Cape Colony.

In September 1859 Messrs. E. & J. Pickering, contractors to the Cape Town Railway and Dock Company for the construction of the Cape Town-Wellington railway line, imported a small 0-4-0 side-tank steam locomotive from England for use during the construction of the railway. This locomotive, later to become engine number 9 of the Cape Town Railway and Dock Company and then of the Cape Government Railways, was the first locomotive in South Africa. It has been declared a heritage object and was plinthed in the main concourse of Cape Town station.[1]

Early in 1874, by that time on the roster of the Cape Government Railways, the locomotive was rebuilt to a 0-4-2T configuration before it was shipped to Port Alfred, where it served as construction locomotive on the banks of the Kowie River. While serving at Port Alfred, it was nicknamed ”Blackie”.[2]


The first locomotive in South Africa was built in 1859 by R and W Hawthorn at their Leith Engine Works in Leith, Scotland, for Messrs. E. & J. Pickering, the contractors to the Cape Town Railway and Dock Company for the construction of the Cape Town-Wellington railway line. It was an 0-4-0 side-tank locomotive, works number 162, and built to run on 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) broad gauge.[1]


Messrs. E. & J. Pickering[edit]

Upon arrival in Cape Town on 8 September 1859, the locomotive had to be dismantled before it could be landed off the brig Charles by means of lighters. The locomotive was accompanied by its engineer-driver, a Scot named William Dabbs. It was partially re-assembled on the jetty and then moved to Alfred’s Square, now part of the Parade in Cape Town. There a galvanised iron shed was built over it and the re-assembly completed by Dabbs. As built, the engine had an open cab, but a cab roof was installed some years later.[1][3][4]

Cape Town Railway and Dock[edit]

Turning the first sod, in the rain

The first sod for the Cape Town-Wellington line had been turned on 31 March 1859 by the Governor of the Cape Colony, Sir George Grey, using a silver shovel specially made for the opening ceremony. However, the first section of track between Fort De Knokke and Salt River was only opened on 8 February 1861.[3]

Blackie as 0-4-0T running across the Salt River, c. September 1861

In anticipation of the completion of the line, the Cape Town Railway and Dock took delivery of eight locomotives from R and W Hawthorn. These were 0-4-2 tender locomotives that arrived in two shipments on 20 March and 28 April 1860. They were given names and were numbered from 1 to 8 and then placed on display for the public while awaiting the completion of the line.[1][3]

The slow construction rate of 1 12 miles (2.4 kilometres) of track in 23 months led to strained relations between the railway company and the contractors. The dispute ended in sabotage when the disgruntled contractors ran one of the new tender locomotives, no. 4 "Wellington", into a culvert, with the result that it had to be sent to the newly established workshops at Salt River to have some serious damage repaired. In October 1861 Cape Town Railway and Dock dismissed the contractors and took over all construction work as well as the Pickering locomotive, which was therefore given the number 9 in spite of having been the first locomotive in South Africa.[1][3][4]

Plaque on Blackie’s plinth

The 45 miles (72 kilometres) line from Cape Town to Wellington took nearly five years to complete. The line to Eersterivier was officially opened on 13 February 1862. Stellenbosch was reached on 1 May 1862 and the railhead at Wellington on 4 November 1863. Work was completed about a year later, and according to the plaque mounted on its plinth at Cape Town station, engine no. 9 had the honour in 1865 to haul the official inaugural train of the Cape Town-Wellington line to Wellington.[3][5]

Arrival of the inaugural train at Wellington Station, behind a tender locomotive

The inscription on the plaque may, however, be incorrect since an engraving depicting the arrival of the inaugural train at Wellington Station in 1865 shows the train behind one of the eight 0-4-2 tender locomotives.[3] Engine no. 9 may well have been at the head of the first construction train to reach the planned railhead at Wellington on 4 November 1863, but whether this was so is not known.

Cape Government Railways[edit]

In 1872 the Cape Government of Prime Minister John Molteno decided to take over the operation of all railways in the Colony and the Cape Town-Wellington and Salt River-Wynberg lines were amalgamated into the Cape Government Railways.[6]

Engine no. 9 remained on the Wellington line until late in 1873. In October 1873 the Chief Inspector of Public Works requested a locomotive for use at Kowie harbour in Port Alfred, and on 24 December authority was granted for alterations to be made to the locomotive and for it to be shipped to Port Alfred. It is surmised that these alterations included the addition of a trailing axle.[2][7]

This is borne out by observations by the late Dusty Durrant, who observed that the trailing wheels on the locomotive were cast and of a more modern design than the coupled wheels, which appear to be of wrought iron. He also surmised that, since there is no evidence of a well-tank under the bunker, the locomotive had been a side-tank locomotive throughout its working life and that the side-tanks were in all probability removed at some stage after it was abandoned as unserviceable at Port Alfred in 1883.[8]

Kowie Harbour Improvement[edit]

On 4 July 1874 the rebuilt engine no. 9 was shipped to the Kowie to assist with construction at the Kowie Harbour at Port Alfred that was being undertaken by the Kowie Harbour Improvement Company. It left Cape Town on board the ship Compage and arrived at Port Alfred on 11 July.[2] Here engine no. 9 was officially named “Frontier”, but since it was painted black at the time, it came to be affectionately known as ”Blackie”.[1][3]

Blackie was reassembled and put to work on the west bank of the Kowie River, but derailed upon reaching the first curve on the existing rails that had been laid for ox-drawn wagons and were not fishplated together. It was found that the curves were too sharp for the locomotive and, during the repairs, the flanges on the second pair of driving wheels were removed. Blackie was also restricted to a 2 miles per hour (3.2 kilometres per hour) speed limit.[1]

As pressure of work demanded, it became necessary to regularly ferry the locomotive from one bank of the Kowie to the other, until a second locomotive was obtained in 1877, an 0-4-0 saddle tank engine named “Aid”. Blackie worked on the Kowie project until 1883, by which time it was completely unserviceable and was abandoned on a siding.[1][3]


In December 1897 a big South African Exhibition took place at Grahamstown and Blackie was repaired, repainted and railed to that town to be placed on show, albeit without side-tanks. When the exhibition drew to a close at the end of January 1898, the locomotive was placed in storage in Grahamstown until the newly established South African Railways decided in 1913 that it should be placed on permanent exhibition on Cape Town Station. Blackie was repainted in the green Cape Government Railways livery, railed to Cape Town and plinthed on the old Cape Town station’s concourse at the ends of Platforms 3 and 4.[1][3]

"Blackie", 24 August 2003

While the Cape’s suburban lines were being electrified between 1927 and 1928, Blackie was found to be in the way of some masts that had to be erected for the overhead equipment, and it was trucked off to Salt River by the engineer in charge, with instructions that it be scrapped. Fortunately, the old locomotive’s historical value was recognised by Salt River’s mechanical engineer in charge, who had it plinthed just inside the entrance to the works. It remained there until it was eventually examined by the Historical Monuments Commission, which had it returned to Cape Town station. On 14 April 1936 it was proclaimed a national monument (now a heritage object) by Government Notice No. 529.[1][9]

When the new Cape Town station was completed in the 1960s, Blackie was plinthed in the main concourse, still without side-tanks.[1]

See also[edit]


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  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Holland, D.F. (1971). Steam Locomotives of the South African Railways, Volume 1: 1859-1910 (1st ed.). Newton Abbott, Devon: David & Charles. pp. 11–15, 18, 23. ISBN 978-0-7153-5382-0. 
  2. ^ a b c Blackie, Article by D. Littley, SA Rail September-October 1989, Published by RSSA, p. 133.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i The South African Railways - Historical Survey (Editor George Hart, Publisher Bill Hart, Sponsored by Dorbyl Ltd, Circa 1978, pp. 5, 8.)
  4. ^ a b South Africa’s Yesterdays, The Reader’s Digest Association South Africa (Pty.) Limited, 1981, (Editor Peter Joyce), p162, ISBN 0-620-05019-5
  5. ^ Plaque mounted on Blackie’s plinth
  6. ^ Burman, Jose (1984), Early Railways at the Cape, Cape Town: Human & Rousseau, ISBN 0-7981-1760-5
  7. ^ Dulez, Jean A. (2012). Railways of Southern Africa 150 Years (Commemorating One Hundred and Fifty Years of Railways on the Sub-Continent - Complete Motive Power Classifications and Famous Trains - 1860-2011) (1st ed.). Garden View, Johannesburg, South Africa: Vidrail Productions. p. 16. ISBN 9 780620 512282. 
  8. ^ Blackie – Some Cousins, Article by A.E. Durrant, SA Spoor Januarie-Februarie 1994, p. 14.
  9. ^ "Locomotive, Cape Town Station, Cape Town". Gazetted Heritage Sites database. South African Heritage Resources Agency. Retrieved 2 July 2011.