2 ft gauge railways in South Africa

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At the beginning of the 20th century, 2 ft (610 mm) narrow gauge railway lines started playing a significant role in transporting various agricultural and mineral produce from locations hardly accessible by road. It enabled many communities to become prosperous.

These lines featured the largest and most powerful locomotives ever in existence on two foot gauge railways worldwide.

All two foot railways were operated isolated from each other. However, this did not prevent standardization and interchangeability of rolling stock and locomotives.

The larger railway lines operated their own workshops performing minor to major maintenance and/or repairs. For the purpose of major overhauls and interchangeability, rolling stock could be transported piggyback on Cape gauge rolling stock by means of a special access ramp on the break of gauge at Cape gauge junctions available on most of the two foot lines.

Their decline started in the 1980s, the last commercial line ceased operations in the 1990s. Only a few tourist, agricultural and/or heritage railways survive. Many defunct locomotives are plinthed at various former railway station sites or performing their duties on the Welsh Highland Railway and other heritage railways in and outside South Africa.

Nomenclature[edit]

It is common for South Africans to consider anything less than 1,067 mm (3 ft 6 in, Cape gauge) as a narrow gauge railway and are accustomed referring to "standard gauge" when they actually mean "Cape gauge".

Overview [1]

  • Cape Province: 580 km government, 60 km private lines.
  • Natal: 393 km government plus approx. 500 km sugar lines.
  • Transvaal: 100 km, all gone.
  • Orange Free State: 26 km private.

Railway lines with rails (partially) intact, operationally closed[edit]

Avontuur Railway[edit]

Main article: Avontuur Railway

Port Elizabeth – Avontuur / Patensie

The Avontuur Railway was built from 1890 to 1905 and is 285 kilometres (177 mi) long.[2] Extension to Patensie completed in 1914.

The Apple Express, a tourist train, ceased operations in December 2010.

Locomotives used
CGR Type A 2-6-4T, CGR Type C 0-4-0T, CGR NG 0-6-0T, CGR NG 4-6-2T, NG3, NG6, NG8, NG9, NG10, NG G11, NG G12, NG G13, NG G14, NG15, NG G16, 91-000.

Port Shepstone – Harding[edit]

Main article: Alfred County Railway

The Port Shepstone – Harding line was operated from 1911 to 2006 and is 122 kilometres (76 mi) long. Closed by South African Railways in 1986 and then leased to the Alfred County Railway which went bankrupt in 2004. The banana express continued under Patons Country Narrow Gauge Railway operations having a temporary permit from Transnet and ceased operations in 2005. On 18 June 2008 a storm ruined the railway in the coastal area.

Locomotives used
NG4, NG G12, NG G13, NG G14, NG G16, NG G16A, 91-000.

Closed or converted railway lines[edit]

The following railways were closed or converted to Cape gauge.

Bezuidenhout Light Railway[edit]

During 1900 these two 0-4-0T locomotives were used by the 47th Field Company Royal Engineers during the construction of the Bezuidenhout Light Railway, a light narrow gauge railway line from Simmer and Jack’s siding near Germiston in the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek to a siege camp 3.5 kilometres (2.2 miles) away along the Bezuidenhout Valley.[3]

Locomotives used
NG1.

Kearsney – Stanger Light Railway[edit]

2 January 1901 – 1944, eight miles (12,8 km) from Kearsney to Stanger, built and put into service at a total cost of GB£18,500.[4][5] The track was laid with 30 lb rails and had a ruling gradient of 1 in 30. The line carried sugar and tea, passenger trains were operated until about 1930.[6]

Otavi Mining and Railway Company[edit]

1903–1961, 567 kilometres (352 mi) in German South-West Africa (today's Namibia). Built at the gauge of 600 mm, which did not prevent exchanging locomotives with the two foot (610 mm) lines in South Africa when it was taken over by South Africa (as part of the British Empire) in 1915. Regauged to cape gauge.

Before the gauge conversion many locomotives were interchanged with the South African two foot railway systems depending on various operational considerations. After the gauge conversion the remaining stock was transferred to the two foot lines.

The gauge difference is explained by the metric system used by the Germans who built the Otavi Line contrary to the South Africans who used imperial units.

Kalbaskraal – Hopefield – Saldanha[edit]

1903–1926, regauged to cape gauge. 46 miles long.[7] Originally built from Kalbaskraal to Hopefield, in 1913 the line was extended to Saldanha, with a branch to Vredenburg.

Locomotives used
NG6, NG7, NG8, NG9.
Stations
KalbaskraalDarlingHopefieldVredenburg (branch) – Saldanha (Hoetjies Bay).[8]

Pienaarsrivier – Pankop[edit]

1906–1923, 15 kilometres (9.3 miles), later extended. It was built by a farmer [9] who bought the locomotives and rolling stock from army surplus stock of the Bezuidenhout Light Railway. The line was used to haul firewood.[10] Converted to cape gauge.[11]

Locomotives used
NG1, NG6.
Stations
Pienaarsrivier - Bourke - Pankop

South Western Railway[edit]

Also known as Knysna forest railway. 1907–1949, 22 miles, now closed. Operated between Knysna and Diepwalle in the Southern Cape by The South Western Railway Co. Ltd.[12]

Stations
Knysna - Bracken Hill - Parkes - Diepwalle [13]

Estcourt – Weenen[edit]

Between 1907 and 1983 a narrow gauge railway connected Weenen with Estcourt, 47 kilometres to the west, and provided an outlet for its agricultural produce and was thus called the "Cabbage Express".[14] This line was the Natal Government Railway's first venture into narrow gauge operation.[15] Its rails were lifted. The NG G11 number 55 remained plinthed at Weenen[16] and was later refurbished and used on the Paton's County Railway.[17]

Locomotives used
NGR Class N 4-6-2T 1906, NG3, NG G11, NG G13.
Stations
Estcourt – Scheepersfontein – Peniston – Haviland – Wondergeluk – Stanley – Mielietuin – Mona – New Furrow – Weenen.[18]

Umzinto – Donnybrook[edit]

The Umzinto – Donnybrook narrow gauge railway was in existence from 1908 to 1987 and was 93 miles long. It is now closed and its tracks were lifted.

Locomotives used
NG3, NG G11, NG G16.
Stations
Umzinto – Esperanza – Nkwifa – Inverugie – Braemar – Glenrosa – Sawoti – Mbulula – Dumisa – Kenterton – Njane – Jolivet – Hlutankungu – Knockagh – Kunatha – Highflats – Rydal – Glen Beulah – Etterby – La Trappe – Ixopo with Branch to Madonela – Vause – Loch Buidhe – Crystal Manor – Lufafa Road – Mabedlana – Maxwell – Eastwolds – Carthill – Donnybrook
Stations Madonela Branch
Ixopo – Allwoodburn – Stainton – Carisbrooke – Ncalu – Madonela (Umzinkulu) [18]

Umlaas Road – Mid Illovo[edit]

Umlaas Road to Mid Illovo, 27 miles[19] opened in 1911 and was closed 1985 and its rails were lifted. Ruling gradient 1-in-30 compensated for 45,7 m (150 ft) minimum radius curves.[20]

Locomotives used
NG6, NG G13.
Stations
Umlaas Road – Killamy Road – Edinglassie – Tala – Eston – Ripley – Ntimbankulu – Milford – Mid Illovo.[18]

Elandshoek – Mount Carmel[edit]

1925–1931, 12 miles, closed.

Locomotives used
NG1.
Stations
Elandshoek - Two Falls - Solarvale East - Solarvale - Indiemiddel - Mount Carmel [21]

Upington – Kakamas[edit]

1926–1949, 55 miles,[22] regauged to cape gauge.

Locomotives used
NG9, NG G12, NG G14.
Stations
UpingtonKeimoesKakamas

Fort Beaufort – Balfour – Seymour[edit]

1926–1940, 35 miles. First, a 25 mile stretch of narrow-gauge line was authorised at a cost of R130,000 between Fort Beaufort and Seymour. This line was later extended from Balfour 12 miles to Seymour.[23][24] The line was regauged to cape gauge during 1939 and 1940.

Locomotives used
NG6, NG G12, NG G14.
Stations
Fort BeaufortBalfourSeymour

Heritage Railways[edit]

Sandstone heritage trust[edit]

At Sandstone Estates a 26 km line runs from Grootdraai in the south, northwards to the main farm, loco depot and marshalling and storage sidings at Hoekfontein, onwards via Mooihoek to a large loop at Vailima sidings/Ficksburg. and the village at Vailima. It first opened in 1998.[25]

Its collection consists of narrow gauge stock collected from other closed 2 ft narrow gauge lines in Kwazulu Natal.

Patons Country Narrow Gauge Railway[edit]

The Patons Country Narrow Gauge Railway runs from Ixopo to Umzinkulu. It was opened in 2000 on a branch of the former Umzinto - Donnybrook narrow gauge railway line.

Locomotives used
NG G11, two Avonside sugar cane loco's and Two 4 Cylinder Diesel Hunslet shunter,.[17][26]

Agricultural Railways[edit]

Zebediela Sugar Estates[edit]

At Zebediela. Closed 1959.[27]

Locomotives used
NG2, NG6.

Sezela, Sugar railway system[edit]

At Sezela. A 125 mile cane sugar rail network.[28] Built in 1914 and closed in the 1970s.[29]

Umtwalumi Valley Estate[edit]

A sugar plantation in Natal.[30]

Locomotives used
Hunslet 0-4-2 tank locomotive.[31]

Renishaw Estates[edit]

Locomotives used
Hunslet 0-4-2 tank locomotive.[30]

Chaka's Kraal Estate[edit]

A sugar plantation.[30]

Tongaat Sugar Estates, Natal.[edit]

Locomotives used
Bagnall 4-4-0T

Darnall and Felixton sugar estates[edit]

Locomotives used
Various Bagnall.[32]

Industrial[edit]

Belville quarry[edit]

SAR’s Bellville quarry in the Tygerberg hill, employing Zwillinge locomotives.

Eastern Province Cement Company (EPCC)[edit]

Ran a private Branch from Chelsea junction at the Avontuur Railway to its cement factory at New Brighton in Port Elizabeth.[33] Locomotives included a 33-ton 4-6-2 built by Baldwin Locomotive Works with a separate 23-ton tender carrying 5 tons of coal and 2,040 US gal (7,700 l) of water. This locomotive, numbered 2, had a 43-inch (1.1 m) diameter boiler producing 160 psi (1,100 kPa) steam to 13.5-inch (34.4 cm) diameter cylinders through an 18-inch (46 cm) stroke powering 36-inch (92 cm) diameter drivers.[34] In 1973, it was wrecked after a runaway accident,[35][36] and after years of idleness it was shipped to the Brecon Mountain Railway in Wales. The rebuild started in 1990 and the locomotive went back to service in 1997.[37]

The EPCC also operated a South African Class NG8 4-6-0 and two 300 HP funkey diesel-mechanical B-B locomotives[36] which were also shipped to Wales to be used on the Welsh Highland Railway (unaltered) and the Ffestiniog Railway, the latter implying the construction of a new body to be able to negotiate the strict loading gauge of that railway. A third diesel, a three axle hunslet, survived in South Africa [38]

Rustenburg Platinum Mines[edit]

???? – 1981. Approximately 10 miles. Platinum ore railway. Converted to Cape gauge.[39]

Vogelspruit Gold Mining Areas Ltd[edit]

Converted to Cape gauge.[40]

West Rand Consolidated Mines[edit]

In Krugersdorp, using a CGR Type C 0-4-0T.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Book: Durrant, A.E., A.A. Jorgensen, C.P. Lewis. Steam in Africa, London, 1981, Hamlyn
  2. ^ Sellick, W.S.J. (1904). Uitenhage, past and present : souvenir of the Centenary, 1804-1904. p. 194. 
  3. ^ Paxton, Leith; Bourne, David (1985). Locomotives of the South African Railways (1st ed.). Cape Town: Struik. pp. 99–100, 110. ISBN 0869772112. 
  4. ^ Old steam locomotives in South Africa: Kearsney-Stanger Light Railway 1901-c.1944
  5. ^ Charles William Francis Harrison, Joseph Forsyth Ingram (1903). "IV – The Tea District". Natal; an illustrated official railway guide and handbook of general information. London: P. Jennings. p. 166. 
  6. ^ Kerr Stuarts for South Africa
  7. ^ Book: Twenty-four inches apart by Sydney Melsom Moir, page 139
  8. ^ See map
  9. ^ Correspondence 60
  10. ^ Paxton, Leith; Bourne, David (1985); Locomotives of the South African Railways (1st ed.). Cape Town: Struik. pp. 99–100, 110. ISBN 0-86977-211-2.
  11. ^ [1][dead link]
  12. ^ 2ft Narrow Gauge Forest Railroad in Knysna - South Western Railway Co
  13. ^ The Knysna “Coffee Pot”
  14. ^ Weenen
  15. ^ South Western Railway Co. - Locomotives
  16. ^ Geoffs Trains - The South African NGG11 Garratt steam locomotive
  17. ^ a b [2][dead link]
  18. ^ a b c Stations are still displayed on Google maps
  19. ^ photo 20
  20. ^ Map Durban to Pietermaritzburg - Covering the railway alignments between Durban-Pietermaritzburg and lots of other interesting information - Bruno Martin
  21. ^ South Africa (Transvaal) Railways – SL 213 - Passenger stations and stops
  22. ^ Book: Twenty-four inches apart by Sydney Melsom Moir, page 166
  23. ^ Syd gets all steamed up about trains - Adam Brand - 8th August 1964
  24. ^ Book: Twenty-four inches apart by Sydney Melsom Moir, page 160
  25. ^ The Sandstone Steam Railroad – The first ten years
  26. ^ [3][dead link]
  27. ^ Sandstone Steam Railroad
  28. ^ Old steam locomotives in South Africa: SEZELA Sugar Mill: Sezela No 1 - Avonside 1719/1915
  29. ^ Developments in sugar manufacture in South Africa from 1959 to 1984: The Sezela factory
  30. ^ a b c Old steam locomotives in South Africa: Umzinto, Indian Quran Study School, Hunslet 3385/1946
  31. ^ [4][dead link]
  32. ^ Bagnall Articulated Locomotives
  33. ^ The PE-Avontuur Narrow Gauge Line– A brief history
  34. ^ Moody, Linwood W. (1959) The Maine Two-Footers p.210
  35. ^ Baldwin De-railed - Evening Post Monday August 20, 1973
  36. ^ a b Narrow gauge World Magazine - No. 49 jan-feb 2007 Limestone to Port Elizabeth - by David Payling - Page 12, second column
  37. ^ http://www.breconmountainrailway.co.uk/locomotives.html
  38. ^ Bottom page
  39. ^ Reference – Durrant, A.E., A.A. Jorgensen, C.P. Lewis. Steam in Africa, London, 1981, Hamlyn
  40. ^ Ex West Rand Consolidated Mines 0-4-0WT Orenstein & Koppel 4102/1910

External links[edit]