South African Class 15E 4-8-2

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South African Class 15E 4-8-2
SAR Class 15E 2878 (4-8-2).jpg
Henschel-built no. 2878 at Magaliesburg, Transvaal, 26 July 1992
Type and origin
Power type Steam
Designer South African Railways
Builder Robert Stephenson and Hawthorns
Henschel and Son
Berliner Maschinenbau
Serial number RSH 4090–4109[1]
Henschel 23000-23010, 23111-23115[2]
Berliner 10585-10592[1]
Model Class 15E
Build date 1935–1936
Total produced 44
Configuration 4-8-2 "Mountain"
Gauge 3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm) Cape gauge
Leading wheel
30 in (762 mm)
Driver diameter 60 in (1,520 mm)
Trailing wheel
34 in (864 mm)
Wheelbase Total: 65 ft 6.3125 in (19.972 m)
6 ft 10 in (2.083 m) bogie
15 ft 9 in (4.801 m) coupled
35 ft 8 in (10.871 m) total
6 ft 2 in (1.880 m) bogie
20 ft 5 in (6.223 m) total
Length 73 ft 5.9375 in (22.401 m)
Height 12 ft 11.5 in (3.950 m)
Axle load 18.6 long tons (18.9 t) on 2nd driver (2858-2877)
18.7 long tons (19.0 t) on 2nd driver (2878-2901)
Weight on drivers 73.4 long tons (74.6 t) (2858-2877)
72.15 long tons (73.3 t) (2878-2901)
Locomotive weight 109 long tons (110.7 t) (2858-2877)
108.25 long tons (110.0 t) (2878-2901)
Tender weight 66,416 lb (30.1 t) empty
69.4 long tons (70.5 t) w/o
Tender type JT – JT, JV permitted
* 2 axle bogies
* 34 in (864 mm) wheels
* Length 30 ft 9.0625 in (9.374 m)
Fuel type Coal
Fuel capacity 14 long tons (14.2 t)
Water capacity 6,000 imp gal (27,000 l)
Boiler 6 ft 2.25 in (1.886 m) inside diameter
22 ft 6 in (6.858 m) inside length
9 ft 2.5 in (2.807 m) pitch
Boiler pressure 210 psi (1,450 kPa)
Firegrate area 63 sq ft (5.853 m2)
Heating surface:
– Tubes
136 tubes 2.5 in (63.5 mm) diameter
36 tubes 5.5 in (140 mm) diameter
3,168 sq ft (294.317 m2)
– Flues 26 sq ft (2.415 m2)
– Firebox 206 sq ft (19.138 m2)
– Total 3,400 sq ft (315.870 m2)
Superheater area 676 sq ft (62.802 m2)
Cylinders Two
Cylinder size 24 in (610 mm) bore
28 in (711 mm) stroke
Valve gear RC Poppet
Performance figures
Tractive effort 42,340 lbf (188 kN) at 75% pressure
Operator(s) South African Railways
Rhodesia Railways
Caminhos de Ferro de Mocambique
Class Class 15E [3]
Number in class 44
Number(s) 2858-2901
Delivered 1935–1937
First run 1935

The South African Class 15E 4-8-2 of 1935 is a South African steam locomotive from the South African Railways era.

Between 1935 and 1937 the South African Railways placed forty-four Class 15E steam locomotives with a 4-8-2 Mountain type wheel arrangement in service.[4]

The Class 15D classification was never used.[3]


The Class 15E 4-8-2 Mountain type mixed traffic steam locomotive was a refinement of the Class 15C and Class 15CA. It was designed by A.G. Watson, Chief Mechanical Engineer (CME) of the South African Railways (SAR) from 1929 to 1936, and incorporated many of the improvements that had been developed by him, two of which were a vastly enlarged standardised boiler and a Watson cab.[1]

They were built by three manufacturers. In 1935 British locomotive builders Robert Stephenson and Hawthorns (RSH) delivered twenty locomotives, numbered in the range from 2858 to 2877. Henschel and Son of Germany built and delivered sixteen in two batches in 1936, numbered in the range from 2878 to 2893. In 1936 German locomotive builders Berliner Maschinenbau built another eight locomotives, which were delivered in 1937, numbered in the range from 2894 to 2901.[1][2][4]


Valve gear[edit]

Because of the free running that was achieved with the Class 19C and Class 16E that were equipped with Rotary Cam Poppet valve gear, Watson decided to concentrate on this type of valve gear for all his future designs. The Class 15E was therefore built with poppet valve gear. Like the other classes with poppet valve gear, the Class 15E was fast, but some trouble was initially experienced with the gear in the reverse position. This was corrected by modifying the reversing cams and these, as well as new forward cams, were manufactured at the Salt River shops in Cape Town.[1]

Watson Standard boilers[edit]

The Class 15E was delivered with a Watson Standard no. 3B boiler and a Watson cab. In the 1930s Watson designed a standard boiler type as part of his standardisation policy. Many serving locomotives were reboilered with these Watson Standard boilers and in the process they were also equipped with Watson cabs, with their distinctive slanted fronts compared to the conventional vertical fronts of their original cabs. New locomotives that were acquired in the Watson era and later, such as the Class 15E, were built with such boilers and cabs.[3][4]


South African Railways[edit]

The Class 15E was placed in service on the line between Cape Town and Beaufort West. Later, when the Class 15F and Class 23 were placed in service, the Class 15E locomotives were relocated further north to work between Beaufort West and De Aar. In the 1950s they were again relocated, this time to Bethlehem in the Orange Free State, from where they worked to Harrismith, Bloemfontein and Kroonstad. They were all withdrawn from regular service in 1973, except number 2878 which was retained in running order for excursion trains.[4]

Some of the locomotives that worked on sections with tunnels were equipped with smoke deflecting cowls around their chimneys.

Other operators[edit]

Eleven of the Class 15E locomotives were eventually sold to neighbouring countries or into industrial service. Six of them were sold to Rhodesia Railways (RR) in 1970, where they retained their 15E classification but were renumbered by omitting the first digit of their SAR numbers. The Rhodesian locomotives did not last long in RR service, however, and were scrapped in 1973.[5]

Three locomotives were sold to Caminhos de Ferro de Mocambique (CFM) in 1972, where they were renumbered 721, 722 and 723 respectively.[5]

Two locomotives were sold to Dunn's Locomotive Works to be employed at Durban Navigation Collieries (Durnacol) at Dannhauser in Natal.[5]

The table shows the Class 15E engine numbers, builders, year built, works numbers and post SAR owners.[5]

Modifications illustrated[edit]

The main picture shows preserved Henschel-built number 2878 with smoke deflectors at Magaliesburg, Transvaal, on 26 July 1992, while the following pictures illustrate some differences in appearance over the years.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Holland, D.F. (1972). Steam Locomotives of the South African Railways, Volume 2: 1910-1955 (1st ed.). Newton Abbott, Devon: David & Charles. pp. 72–73. ISBN 978-0-7153-5427-8. 
  2. ^ a b Henschel-Lieferliste (Henschel & Son works list), compiled by Dietmar Stresow
  3. ^ a b c South African Railways and Harbours Locomotive Diagram Book, 2’0” & 3’6” Gauge Steam Locomotives, 15 August 1941, as amended
  4. ^ a b c d Paxton, Leith; Bourne, David (1985). Locomotives of the South African Railways (1st ed.). Cape Town: Struik. pp. 10–11, 62–63. ISBN 0869772112. 
  5. ^ a b c d Durrant, A E (1989). Twilight of South African Steam (1st ed.). Newton Abbott, London: David & Charles. p. 89. ISBN 0715386387.