South African Class 5E1, Series 2

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South African Class 5E1, Series 2
SAR Class 5E1 Series 2 E615.JPG
No. E615 at Bellville Depot, Cape Town, 27 June 2009
Power type Electric
Designer Metropolitan-Vickers
Builder Union Carriage & Wagon
Model MV 5E1
Build date 1963
Total produced 130
UIC classification Bo-Bo
Gauge 3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm) Cape gauge
Bogies 3.430 m (11 ft 3 in) wheelbase
Wheel diameter 1,220 mm (48 in)
Wheelbase 11.279 m (37 ft 0.1 in)
Length 15.494 m (50 ft 10 in)
Width 2.896 m (9 ft 6 in)
Height 4.089 m (13 ft 5 in) pantographs down
Axle load 21,591 kg (21.3 long tons)
Locomotive weight 86,364 kg (85 long tons)
Current collection
Traction motors Four AEI 281 AZX
Transmission 18/67 gear ratio
Top speed 97 km/h (60 mph)
Power output Per motor:
485 kW (650 hp) 1 hour
364 kW (488 hp) continuous
1,940 kW (2,600 hp) 1 hour
1,456 kW (1,953 hp) continuous
Tractive effort 250 kN (56,000 lbf) starting
184 kN (41,000 lbf) 1 hour
122 kN (27,000 lbf) continuous
at 40 km/h (25 mph)
Locomotive brake Regenerative
Train brakes Air & Vacuum
Operator(s) South African Railways
Class Class 5E1
Power class 3 kV DC
Number in class 130
Number E591-E720 [1]
Delivered 1963-1964
First run 1963

The South African Class 5E1, Series 2 of 1963 is a South African electric locomotive from the South African Railways era.

In 1963 and 1964 the South African Railways placed one hundred and thirty Class 5E1, Series 2 electric locomotives with a Bo-Bo wheel arrangement in mainline service. These were the first electric locomotives to be built in South Africa in quantity.[1]


Series 2 of the Metropolitan-Vickers (Metrovick) designed 3 kV DC Class 5E1 electric locomotive was built for the South African Railways (SAR) by Union Carriage and Wagon (UCW) in Nigel, Transvaal, with the electrical equipment supplied by Associated Electrical Industries (AEI). [2][3]

Class 5E1 Series 2 BP.JPG

UCW, at the time Australian owned, opened its works at Nigel in 1959 and the building of the Class 5E1, Series 2 was its first large locomotive order.[4]

It did not allocate builder’s numbers to the locomotives it built for the SAR, but used the SAR running numbers for record keeping. The Series 2 locomotives were all built in 1963 and were numbered in the range from E591 to E720.[1]

Number E591, the first in the series, was handed over to the SAR in January 1963 as the first mainline electric locomotive constructed in South Africa.[5]


These dual cab locomotives have a roof access ladder on one side only, just to the right of the cab access door. The roof access ladder end is marked as the number 2 end. A passage along the centre of the locomotive connects the cabs.[1]

Class 5E1 series[edit]

The Class 5E1 was produced in five series, the Series 1 built by Metrovick and the Series 2 to 5 built by UCW. Between 1959 and 1969 altogether 690 of them were delivered, 135 Series 1, 130 Series 2, 100 Series 3, 100 Series 4 and 225 Series 5.[1][2]

With the exception of Series 2 and 3, the series distinction between Class 5E1 locomotives was based on the different model traction motors each was equipped with, MV 281 in Series 1, AEI 281 AZX in Series 2 and 3, AEI 281 AX in Series 4 and AEI 281 BX in Series 5. The distinction between the series 2 and 3 locomotives appears to have been based on the grounds of the design of their traction motor bearings.[1][6]

Traction motor bearings[edit]

The axle-hung traction motors of all earlier SAR electric locomotives were suspended on the axles by means of plain oil-lubricated bearings consisting of bronze shells with white metal linings. With the introduction of the more powerful Class 5E1, Series 1 considerable trouble was experienced due to flaking of the white metal linings as a result of the increased intensity of the pressure on these bearings. The use of roller bearings was investigated and one traction motor of a Class 1E was converted for trial purposes. Since satisfactory results were obtained, it was decided to equip the traction motors of these 130 UCW-built Series 2 locomotives with roller-type suspension bearings.[6]

SAR Class 5E1 Series 2 E615 ID.JPG

The arrangement consisted of a self-aligning spherical roller bearing at the pinion end and a parallel roller bearing at the commutator end of the traction motor. The roller bearings were grease-lubricated and were carried in a split cannon box to which the traction motor was attached by means of two clamps that engaged cylindrically-machined seatings on the outside of the housing. The roller-type suspension bearings required little attention other than the replenishment of the grease when the wheels were removed for tyre-turning.[6]

Orders for the subsequent Class 5E1, Series 3 and later models made provision for roller suspension bearings incorporating a lip-type cylindrical roller bearing to replace the self-aligning spherical roller bearing at the pinion end, and alternatively for tapered roller bearings at both ends. Since the external dimensions of the bearing-housings would remain the same, the traction motors would still be freely interchangeable.[6]


The Class 5E1 continued the prototype of what eventually became the most prolific locomotive type to ever run on South African rails. The type commenced with the Class 5E in 1955 and continued with the Class 6E and the Class 6E1 from 1969 to 1985, and still later with the rebuilding of Class 6E1s to Class 18Es, a project that started in 2000.[1][2]


The Class 5E1 served on all 3 kV DC electrified mainlines country-wide for almost forty years, but by the early 2000s the Series 2 locomotives were all retired. After withdrawal from SAR service, fifteen of the Series 2 locomotives were sold to the Middelburg, Transvaal, mines of the Ingwe Coal Corporation, where three were later scrapped and the rest renumbered in the range from 5401 to 5412. The Ingwe locomotives were numbers E607, E609, E617, E630, E649, E650, E655, E661, E669, E670, E673, E675, E678, E681 and E696.[3]

Liveries illustrated[edit]

The main picture shows number E615 in the SAR Gulf Red and whiskers livery that was introduced in 1960 and that the whole series was delivered in. Number E613, displayed below in the pre-1960 SAR green and whiskers livery, was repainted green in the early 1990s for use on Union Limited tour trains.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g 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
  2. ^ a b c Paxton, Leith; Bourne, David (1985). Locomotives of the South African Railways (1st ed.). Cape Town: Struik. p. 128. ISBN 0869772112. 
  3. ^ a b c 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. 50, 63. 
  4. ^ 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. 293. ISBN 9 780620 512282. 
  5. ^ "UCW - Electric locomotives". The UCW Partnership. Archived from the original on 12 October 2007. Retrieved 30 September 2010. 
  6. ^ a b c d SAR&H Annual Report 1963-64, Research - Mechanical engineering. p. 73.