South African Class 34-000

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South African Class 34-000
SAR Class 34-000 34-044.JPG
No. 34-044 at Saldanha, Western Cape, 26 July 2009
Power type Diesel-electric
Designer General Electric
Builder General Electric
SA GE-DL Locomotive Group
Serial number 37810-37934 [1]
Model GE U26C
Build date 1971-1973
Total produced 125
AAR wheel arr. C+C as built, C-C as modified for Orex line
UIC classification Co'Co' (Co+Co interlinked bogies as built, Co-Co as modified for Orex line) [2]
Gauge 3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm)
Bogies 3.188 m (10 ft 5.5 in) wheelbase
Wheel diameter 915 mm (36.0 in)
Wheelbase 13.004 m (42 ft 8.0 in)
Length 17.982 m (59 ft 0 in)
Width 2.756 m (9 ft 0.5 in)
Height 3.962 m (13 ft 0 in)
Axle load 18,850 kg (18.6 long tons)
Locomotive weight 111,000 kg (109.2 long tons) average
113,100 kg (111.3 long tons) maximum
Fuel type Fuel oil
Fuel capacity 5,400 litres (1,400 US gal) as built
7,000 litres (1,800 US gal) modified
Prime mover GE 7FDL-12 4 stroke V12
Engine RPM range 450 rpm idle
535 rpm high idle
1,050 rpm maximum
Engine type Diesel
Aspiration Elliott H-581 turbocharger
Alternator AC 10 pole 3 phase GE 5GT-A11C1
Traction motors Six GE 5GE-761A13 DC 4 pole
* 665A 1 hour
* 655A continuous at 24 km/h (15 mph)
Transmission 92/19 gear ratio
Multiple working 6 maximum
Top speed 100 km/h (62 mph)
Power output 2,050 kW (2,750 hp) starting
1,940 kW (2,600 hp) continuous
Tractive effort 272 kN (61,000 lbf) starting
218 kN (49,000 lbf) continuous at 26 km/h (16 mph)
Factor of
25% starting
20% continuous
Locomotive brake 28-LAV-1 with vigilance control
Dynamic brake peak effort:
180 kN (40,000 lbf) at 29 km/h (18 mph)
60% ratio at 345 kPa (50.0 psi) brake cylinder pressure
Train brakes 825 litres (218 US gal) main reservoir
Compressor capacity:
0.039 m3/s (1.4 cu ft/s) at high idle
Exhauster capacity:
0.155 m3/s (5.5 cu ft/s) at high idle
Railroad(s) South African Railways
Transnet Freight Rail
Shosholoza Meyl
Class Class 34-000
Number in class 125
Number 34-001 to 34-125
Delivered 1971-1973
First run 1971 [3]

The South African Class 34-000 of 1971 is a South African diesel-electric locomotive from the South African Railways era.

Between July 1971 and March 1973 the South African Railways placed one hundred and twenty-five Class 34-000 General Electric type U26C diesel-electric locomotives in service.[3]


The Class 34-000 type GE U26C diesel-electric locomotive of the South African Railways (SAR) was designed by General Electric (GE). The first three locomotives were built by GE and imported, numbered in the range from 34-001 to 34-003, while the remainder were built by the South African General Electric-Dorman Long Locomotive Group (SA GE-DL, later Dorbyl) and numbered in the range from 34-004 to 34-125. The one hundred and twenty-five locomotives were delivered between July 1971 and March 1973.[1][3][4]

The same U26C locomotive type is also in use on other railways around the world, one being the New Zealand Railways where it is known as their DX class. Other users are Kenya Railways, who for some years also leased South African Class 34 U26C locomotives, and América Latina Logística (ALL) in Brazil.[1][3][4]

Class 34 series[edit]

GE and GM-EMD designs[edit]

The Class 34 consists of seven series, the GE Class 34-000, 34-400, 34-500 (also known as "34-400 ex Iscor") and 34-900, and the General Motors Electro-Motive Division (GM-EMD) Class 34-200, 34-600 and 34-800. Both these manufacturers also produced locomotives for the South African Classes 33, 35 and 36.[3]

Distinguishing features[edit]

As built, the GE Class 34-000, 34-400 and 34-900 locomotives were visually indistinguishable from each other. The Class 34-500 locomotives could be visually distinguished from the other series by the air conditioning units mounted on their cab roofs and initially, when it was still a unique feature to them, by their running board mounted handrails. At some stage during the mid-1980s all Class 34-000, 34-400 and 34-500 locomotives had saddle filters installed across the long hood, mounted just to the rear of the screens behind the cab on the sides. Since then Class 34-900 locomotives could be distinguished from the older models by the absence of the saddle filter.[5][6][7]


SAR Class 34-000 34-100 ID.JPG

GE Class 34-000s work on most mainlines and some branchlines in the central, western, southern and southeastern parts of the country. Some eventually joined the Class 34-500 on the 861 kilometres (535 miles) Sishen-Saldanha iron ore line to haul export ore from the open cast iron mines at Sishen near Kathu in the Northern Cape to the harbour at Saldanha in the Western Cape, until they gradually began to be replaced by new Class 43-000 locomotives in 2012.[4]


Fuel capacity[edit]

As built, the Class 34-000 has a 5,400 litres (1,400 US gallons; 1,200 imperial gallons) fuel tank and interlinked bogies, while the Class 34-500 was delivered new to Iscor with a 7,000 litres (1,800 US gallons; 1,500 imperial gallons) fuel tank in order to cope with the longer distance between refuelling points on the Sishen-Saldanha iron ore line. To facilitate the larger fuel tank, the inter-bogie linkage found on all other models had to be omitted on the Class 34-500.[8]

In order to be usable on the iron ore line, Class 34-000s that end up working there are modified to a similar capacity. The inter-bogie linkage is removed and the fuel tank is enlarged by changing it from saddle shaped to rectangular shaped. In the pictures below the weld lines on the end of the enlarged fuel tank are clearly visible.[2]

Standard 5,400 litre fuel tank
Enlarged 7,000 litre fuel tank

Running board mounted handrails[edit]

Class 34-000 locomotives that are allocated to the Sishen-Saldanha Orex line are often modified by having removable running board mounted handrails installed. All South African diesel-electric locomotives have their side handrails mounted along the upper edges of their long hoods. The ex Iscor Class 34-500s, however, came equipped with additional removable running board mounted handrails. Since these handrails are slide-fit into brackets welded onto the running board, they are easily removed.[3]

Since circa 2009 other mainline diesel-electric locomotive types also emerged from the Koedoespoort Transwerk shops with running board mounted handrails after major overhauls.[9]

Electronic control system[edit]

Beginning in 2010, some locomotives were equipped with electronic fuel injection and GE "Brite Star" control systems. On some of the first locomotives that were so modified, evidence of the modification is a raised middle portion of the long hood.

Mixed power working[edit]

On the Sishen–Saldanha Orex line GE Class 34 series diesel-electric locomotives run consisted to Class 9E or Class 15E electric locomotives to haul the 342 wagon iron ore trains. Each wagon has a 100 ton capacity and the trains are at least 3.72 kilometres (2.31 miles) in length, powered by mixed consists of Class 9E and Class 15E electric, GE U26C Class 34-000, 34-400, 34-500 and 34-900 and, from 2012, GE C30ACi Class 43-000 diesel-electric locomotives. In South Africa mixed electric and diesel-electric consists are unique to the iron ore line.[3][10][11]

Ore train about 100 kilometres (62 miles) north of Lamberts Bay
Ore train about 100 kilometres (62 miles) north of Lamberts Bay

A Class 9E or Class 15E electric locomotive serves as the master of each such mixed electric and diesel-electric consist, with a total of between nine and twelve locomotives per train, twelve being the maximum number allowed. Before the Class 15E was placed in service in 2010, motive power usually consisted of three sets of locomotives, each set made up of one or two Class 9E electrics and one or two Class 34 diesel-electrics, with each set’s leading electric locomotive controlling its respective set of diesels by means of a slimkabel (smart cable). In effect each ore train was made up of three separate 114 wagon trains consisted together, with the locomotives of all three trains controlled by means of a Locotrol radio distributed power control system by one crew in the leading electric locomotive. A typical train would therefore be made up of locomotive set A, 114 wagons, locomotive set B, 114 wagons, locomotive set C, and 114 wagons.[3][10][11][12]

Some problems were experienced using this configuration, and after a couple of major derailments the locomotive configuration was changed to four sets, with locomotive set D initially made up of two Class 34 diesel-electric locomotives at the rear end of the train, pushing at between 40% and 50% of tractive power at all times, depending on the grades being traversed. The total maximum number allowed was still between nine and twelve locomotives per train.[3][11]

As more Class 15Es were delivered and placed in service, Class 9E or Class 15E electric locomotives replaced the pair of Class 34 diesel-electrics in set D. At the same time the more powerful Class 15E also made it possible to use as few as seven locomotives per train, with locomotive sets A, B and C each made up of one Class 15E and one Class 34, and set D of a single Class 15E.[3][11]

Works numbers[edit]

The Class 34-000 builder’s works numbers are set out in the table.[1]

Liveries illustrated[edit]

In the SAR and Spoornet eras, when the official liveries were Gulf Red and whiskers for the SAR, and initially orange and later maroon for Spoornet, many selected electric locomotives and some diesel-electrics were painted blue for use with the Blue Train, but without altering the layout of the various paint schemes. Blue Train locomotives were therefore blue with yellow whiskers in the SAR era, blue with the Spoornet logo and "SPOORNET" in Spoornet’s orange era, and blue with the Spoornet logo but without "SPOORNET" in Spoornet’s maroon era. In Spoornet’s blue era there was no need for a separate Blue Train livery, while in the Transnet Freight Rail (TFR) era one Class 14E and the surviving Class 14E1 electric locomotives were eventually repainted in blue during 2012 for use with the Blue Train.[1]

Five Class 34-000 locomotives, numbers 34-055 to 34-059, were painted in the SAR Blue Train livery. They were all eventually repainted in Spoornet’s orange livery after they were replaced in Blue Train service by seven Class 34-900 locomotives, numbers 34-924 to 34-930.[1]

The main picture shows no. 34-044 in the Orex yard at Saldanha, in Spoornet orange livery and with running board mounted handrails. Other liveries that were applied to Class 34-400 locomotives are illustrated below.

See also[edit]


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  1. ^ a b c d e f Middleton, John N. (2002). Railways of Southern Africa Locomotive Guide - 2002 (as amended by Combined Amendment List 4, January 2009) (2nd, Dec 2002 ed.). Herts, England: Beyer-Garratt Publications. pp. 38, 40–41, 46. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j South African Railways Index and Diagrams Electric and Diesel Locomotives, 610mm and 1065mm Gauges, Ref LXD 14/1/100/20, 28 January 1975, as amended
  3. ^ a b c Paxton, Leith; Bourne, David (1985). Locomotives of the South African Railways (1st ed.). Cape Town: Struik. pp. 140–141. ISBN 0869772112. 
  4. ^ 34-057 with saddle filter, 14 October 2009
  5. ^ 34-058 & 34-059 without saddle filter, 1 September 1975
  6. ^ 34-060 with saddle filter, 25 August 2007
  7. ^ Information received from John Nicholas Middleton
  8. ^ Shosholoza Meyl’s 34-102 with running board handrails
  9. ^ a b Actom Divisions News, 22 July 2010
  10. ^ a b c d Information supplied by Orex train crew members
  11. ^ Locotrol Distributed Power

External links[edit]

External video
34-072 and 34-036, 14 October 2009 A pair of Class 34-000 locomotives leave the Bloemfontein yard with a mixed goods train, heading south. (3 minutes)