South African Class 7E

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South African Class 7E
SAR Class 7E E7067.JPG
No. E7067 at Beaufort West, 2 August 2007
Type and origin
Power type Electric
Designer 50 c/s Group
Builder Union Carriage and Wagon
Model 50 c/s Group 7E
Build date 1978-1979
Total produced 100
UIC classification Co-Co
Gauge 3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm) Cape gauge
Bogies 4.400 m (14 ft 5.2 in) wheelbase
Wheel diameter 1,220 mm (48 in)
Wheelbase 13.800 m (45 ft 3.3 in)
Length 18.465 m (60 ft 7 in)
Width 2.896 m (9 ft 6 in)
Height 4.200 m (13 ft 9.4 in) pantographs down
Axle load 21,000 kg (20.7 long tons)
Locomotive weight 123,500 kg (121.5 long tons)
Current collection
Traction motors Six MG 680
Transmission 20/117 gear ratio
Performance figures
Maximum speed 100 km/h (62 mph)
Power output Per motor:
540 kW (720 hp) 1 hour
500 kW (670 hp) continuous
3,240 kW (4,340 hp) 1 hour
3,000 kW (4,000 hp) continuous
Tractive effort 450 kN (100,000 lbf) starting
319 kN (72,000 lbf) 1 hour
300 kN (67,000 lbf) continuous [1]
Locomotive brake Air & Rheostatic [2]
210 kN (47,000 lbf) [3]
Train brakes Air & Vacuum
Operator(s) South African Railways
Transnet Freight Rail
Class Class 7E
Power class 25 kV 50 Hz AC
Number in class 100
Number(s) E7001-E7100
Delivered 1978-1979 [1]
First run 1978

The South African Class 7E of 1978 is a South African electric locomotive from the South African Railways era.

In 1978 and 1979 the South African Railways placed one hundred Class 7E electric locomotives with a Co-Co wheel arrangement in mainline service. They were the first 25 kV AC locomotives to enter service in South Africa.[1]


The 25 kV AC Class 7E electric locomotive was designed for the South African Railways (SAR) by the 50 c/s Group, consisting of ACEC of Belgium, AEG-Telefunken and Siemens of Germany, Alsthom-Atlantique and Société MTE of France, and Brown Boveri of Switzerland. They were built by Union Carriage and Wagon (UCW) in Nigel, Transvaal, who was the sub-contractor for mechanical components and assembly.[2][4]

Builder’s plate on E7058

One hundred Class 7E locomotives were delivered in 1978 and 1979, numbered in the range from E7001 to E7100. Beginning with the Class 7E, the SAR numbering practice for electric locomotives was changed to make the class number a part of the locomotive’s number. From the Class 1E through to the last of the Class 6E1 series of locomotives, all electric locomotives were numbered sequentially in the number range from E1 to E2185, with twelve numbers in the range skipped.[1]

UCW did not allocate builder’s numbers to the locomotives it built for the SAR, but used the SAR unit numbers for their record keeping.[1]


Control of traction and rheostatic braking on the Class 7E is by stepless solid-state electronics. The electrical equipment was designed for high power factor operation, obtained by a sector control method. These were the first South African AC electric locomotives with thyristor technology from the 50 c/s Group.[2][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.[1] Judging from early photographs of Class 7E locomotives, the distinctive "eyebrow" rainwater beadings above the cab windscreens were added post-delivery.


The Class 7E was designed primarily for goods train service on South Africa’s 25 kV 50 Hz AC electrified lines. Until 1978 all electrified mainline routes in South Africa used 3 kV DC, but from that year all new mainline electrification projects bar one used 25 kV AC. The one exception is the 50 kV AC Sishen-Saldanha line. There are four isolated 25 kV AC routes.[1][2][6]

Class 7E E7058 IDL.JPG

When it was electrified, the well known double line "racetrack" between Kimberley and De Aar was single lined and the section was signalled for single-track centralised traffic control (CTC) with long crossing loops. Here the Class 7E finally replaced South Africa’s last big Class 25NC steam locomotives. The second set of tracks were left in place, but unelectrified and isolated from the electrified track. However, in anticipation of increased ore traffic to the Eastern Cape from Hotazel north-west of Kimberley, work on wiring the second track was to commence in July 2008.[2][6][7]

The Class 7E was initially placed in service on the coal line from Ermelo to Richards Bay. When later model 25 kV AC locomotives were acquired, a few Class 7E locomotives went to the Pyramid South and East London lines, but the majority were transferred to the Cape Midlands system to work goods and passenger traffic from Kimberley via De Aar to either Port Elizabeth or Beaufort West.[2]

Regional co-operation[edit]

A 30c postage stamp depicting a pair of Class 7E locomotives hauling an ore train was one of a set of four commemorative postage stamps that were issued by the South African Post Office on 15 February 1990. The theme illustrated interdependence and regional co-operation in Southern Africa and, on this stamp, the integrated railway systems that stretched from Cape Town in the south to as far north as Dar es Salaam in Tanzania. The artwork and stamp design was by the noted stamp designer and artist A.H. Barrett.[8]

The Blue Train[edit]

In the SAR and Spoornet eras, when the official liveries were Gulf Red and yellow 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 the name "SPOORNET" in Spoornet’s orange era, and blue with the Spoornet logo but without the name "SPOORNET" in Spoornet’s maroon era. Later, 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.[6][9][10]

When the section from Kimberley to Beaufort West was electrified, six Class 7E locomotives, numbers E7004 to E7009, were painted blue with yellow whiskers for use with the Blue Train on that section.[6]

Liveries illustrated[edit]

All the Class 7E locomotives were delivered new in the SAR Gulf Red and yellow whiskers livery. The main picture shows number E7067 in Spoornet orange livery. Illustrated below are some of the other liveries that Class 7 locomotives served in.

See also[edit]


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  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 d e f Paxton, Leith; Bourne, David (1985). Locomotives of the South African Railways (1st ed.). Cape Town: Struik. pp. 129–131. ISBN 0869772112. 
  3. ^ Class 7E – Principle (sic) Dimensions and Technical Data (TFR leaflet used in driver training, circa 2010)
  4. ^ "UCW - Electric locomotives" (PDF). The UCW Partnership. Archived from the original (PDF) on 12 October 2007. Retrieved 30 September 2010. 
  5. ^ Jane's World Railways 1980-81
  6. ^ a b c d 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, 60. 
  7. ^ Railways Africa, 5 Aug 2007: Kimberley-De Aar Electrification
  8. ^ Philatelic Bulletin 207, issued by Philatelic Services and INTERSAPA, 1990
  9. ^ E1973 in blue based on orange livery
  10. ^ E1951 in blue based on maroon livery