South African Class 16E 4-6-2

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South African Class 16E 4-6-2
No. 858 Betty at Vetrivier, 5 November 1979
Type and origin
Power typeSteam
DesignerSouth African Railways
(A.G. Watson)
BuilderHenschel and Son
Serial number22583-22588
ModelClass 16E
Build date1935
Total produced6
 • Whyte4-6-2 (Pacific)
 • UIC2'C1'h2
Driver2nd coupled axle
Gauge3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm) Cape gauge
Leading dia.34 in (864 mm)
Coupled dia.72 in (1,829 mm)
Trailing dia.34 in (864 mm)
Tender wheels34 in (864 mm)
Wheelbase63 ft 5 316 in (19,334 mm)
 • Engine33 ft 7 in (10,236 mm)
 • Leading7 ft 2 in (2,184 mm)
 • Coupled12 ft 3 12 in (3,746 mm)
 • Tender20 ft 5 in (6,223 mm)
 • Tender bogie6 ft 2 in (1,880 mm)
 • Over couplers71 ft 8 316 in (21,849 mm)
Height13 ft (3,962 mm)
Frame typeBar
Axle load20 LT 19 cwt (21,290 kg)
 • Leading19 LT 14 cwt (20,020 kg)
 • 1st coupled19 LT 8 cwt (19,710 kg)
 • 2nd coupled20 LT 19 cwt (21,290 kg)
 • 3rd coupled19 LT 7 cwt (19,660 kg)
 • Trailing18 LT 7 cwt (18,640 kg)
 • Tender bogieBogie 1: 33 LT 18 cwt (34,440 kg)
Bogie 2: 35 LT 10 cwt (36,070 kg)
 • Tender axle17 LT 15 cwt (18,030 kg)
Adhesive weight59 LT 14 cwt (60,660 kg)
Loco weight97 LT 15 cwt (99,320 kg)
Tender weight69 LT 8 cwt (70,510 kg)
Total weight167 LT 3 cwt (169,800 kg)
Tender typeJT (2-axle bogies)
JT, JV permitted
Fuel typeCoal
Fuel capacity14 LT (14.2 t)
Water cap6,000 imp gal (27,300 l)
Firebox typeRound-top
 • Firegrate area63 sq ft (5.9 m2)
 • ModelWatson Standard no. 3A
 • TypeDomeless
 • Pitch9 ft 3 in (2,819 mm)
 • Diameter6 ft 2 14 in (1,886 mm)
 • Tube plates19 ft 12 in (5,804 mm)
 • Small tubes136: 2 12 in (64 mm)
 • Large tubes36: 5 12 in (140 mm)
Boiler pressure210 psi (1,448 kPa)
Safety valvePop
Heating surface2,914 sq ft (270.7 m2)
 • Tubes2,682 sq ft (249.2 m2)
 • Arch tubes26 sq ft (2.4 m2)
 • Firebox206 sq ft (19.1 m2)
 • Heating area592 sq ft (55.0 m2)
Cylinder size24 in (610 mm) bore
28 in (711 mm) stroke
Valve gearRotary cam
Valve typePoppet
CouplersAAR knuckle
Performance figures
Tractive effort35,280 lbf (156.9 kN) @ 75%
OperatorsSouth African Railways
ClassClass 16E
Number in class6
First run1935
The 2nd coupled axle had flangeless wheels

The South African Railways Class 16E 4-6-2 of 1935 was a steam locomotive.

In 1935, the South African Railways placed six Class 16E steam locomotives with a 4-6-2 Pacific type wheel arrangement in express passenger train service.[1][2][3]


Following the Great Depression in South Africa of 1930-1933, the South African Railways (SAR) set out to improve its Cape Town-Johannesburg express passenger service. To attain higher average speeds for its more important express trains, the Class 16E 4-6-2 Pacific type locomotive was designed by A.G. Watson, Chief Mechanical Engineer of the SAR from 1929 to 1936, specifically for use with the Union Express and the Union Limited trains. Six locomotives were built by Henschel and Son in Kassel, Germany and delivered in 1935, numbered in the range from 854 to 859.[1][2][3][4]


With its 72 inches (1,830 millimetres) diameter coupled wheels, the Class 16E was considered the most remarkable Cape gauge express passenger locomotive ever built. It had the largest fire grate on any Pacific outside North America. The coupled wheels were the largest ever used on any less than 4 feet 8 12 inches (1,435 millimetres) standard gauge locomotive and it had an all-up weight and tractive effort equal to or exceeding that of most Pacifics outside North America.[1][2][5]

A.G. Watson

Watson experienced considerable difficulty to keep the axle loads within the permissible limits specified by the Chief Civil Engineer, with the result that the ashpan, cab, side running boards and several other parts were made of thinner material than usual. Even the original number plates were cast in aluminium. Still, the axle load of 20 long tons 19 hundredweight (21,290 kilograms) was the heaviest of any engine or vehicle on the SAR at the time.[2]

Along with the Class 15E Mountain type of 1935, the locomotive introduced the Type JT tender with a coal capacity of 14 long tons (14.2 tonnes), a water capacity of 6,000 imperial gallons (27,300 litres) and an axle load of 17 long tons 15 hundredweight (18,030 kilograms).[1][2]

The main bar frames were machined from rolled steel slabs and each frame was in one piece from the front to the hind buffer beam. The wheels were fitted with hollow crank pins, while the leading bogie was fitted with an oil bath centre pivot. The connecting and coupling rods were fitted with floating bronze bushes and were made of special chrome-nickel alloy steel of fluted section. The centre driving set of coupled wheels were flangeless and had wider treads than the other two sets to prevent them from slipping off the rails in sharp curves.[2]

To obtain increased tractive effort with the large coupled wheels, larger cylinders of 24 inches (610 millimetres) bore by 28 inches (711 millimetres) stroke were used. These, at a boiler pressure of 210 pounds per square inch (1,448 kilopascals), gave the locomotive a tractive effort of 35,280 pounds-force (156.9 kilonewtons) at 75% of boiler pressure. Each cylinder was cast integral with half of the smokebox saddle, which made the castings interchangeable.[2]

The drive shafts that turn the poppet valve camshafts are no different from those found under most rear wheel drive cars and trucks

Given the successful operation of rotary cam poppet valve gear on the Class 19C, it was also used on the Class 16E. The valves were driven by outside rotary propshafts from turning mechanisms mounted on the driving coupled wheels. The valves were double-seated and housed at each end of the cylinders, an arrangement that resulted in short and straight ports between the valves and the cylinder barrels. The admission valves were 8 inches (203 millimetres) in diameter and the exhaust valves 9 inches (229 millimetres). Most of the detail parts of the rotary cam gear, particularly the main drive and reversing gear, were interchangeable with similar parts on the Class 19C. The poppet valve gear gave the engine extremely free-running characteristics.[1][2][5]

The Class 16E was delivered with a Watson Standard no. 3A boiler, one of the range of standard boiler types designed by Watson as part of his standardisation policy. The boiler was designed for a maximum working pressure of 225 pounds per square inch (1,551 kilopascals) and the boiler barrel plates and firebox outer shell were of nickel steel. The boiler and the firebox were entirely clothed with Alfol insulation.[2][6]

At 9 feet 3 inches (2,819 millimetres) above rail level, the Class 16E boiler centre-line was the highest-pitched on the SAR at the time. Because of this and the limitations of the loading gauge, the boiler was domeless with an inspection manhole on top of the boiler barrel where the dome would have been. Steam was collected through numerous small feeder pipes fixed into two collector pipes which were arranged as high as possible above the water surface. The collector pipes then joined together to form a main steam pipe, 7 inches (178 millimetres) in diameter, which led to the superheater header and multiple valve regulator located in the smokebox. The steam pipes from the header to each cylinder were 6 inches (152 millimetres) in diameter. The boiler was fitted with two large Pop safety valves mounted ahead of the firebox, one on either side of the boiler and angled about 80 degrees apart.[1][2][7]

A.G. Watson with his Class 16E, c. 1935

The firebox had a power-operated Ajax fire-door and the grate was of the sectional pin-hole type, fitted with power-operated shaking gear. To assist in keeping within the axle load limits, the ashpan was constructed of relatively thin anti-corrosive steel plates of a special heat-resisting quality. The brick arch was supported by five 3 inches (76 millimetres) diameter arch tubes. The firebox was fitted with SAR standard type flexible stays and to allow easier access to the stays, the engine was equipped with a Watson cab with its slanted front which, like the Watson Standard boiler, was to become the standard on later SAR steam locomotive classes. The cab was of special light steel and was welded throughout.[2][6]


The Class 16E Pacifics were placed in service at Kimberley and regularly worked trains like the Union Express and Union Limited southward to Beaufort West and northward to Johannesburg respectively. The Union train was to become the Blue Train after the Second World War. Although the locomotives were never stationed at Braamfontein Loco in Johannesburg, they were serviced there in the process of working between Kimberley and Johannesburg.[7]

They proved to be very successful, efficient and economical in service when handling loads within their capacity. When the original wooden-bodied coaches of the Union trains were replaced with heavier steel-bodied air-conditioned coaches in 1939, however, the load increased to 600 long tons (610 tonnes) or more and the Class 16E was considered to be inadequate to the task and relocated to Bloemfontein in the Orange Free State.[1][2][3]

From here, they hauled regular passenger trains, including the Orange Express, working north to Johannesburg and south to De Aar as well as across to Kimberley. When air-conditioned lounge cars were added to trains like the Orange Express and Trans-Karoo, they were again considered not powerful enough for the additional load and were eventually withdrawn from service in 1972.[3]



When Watson retired in 1936, no. 858 was officially named after him. It carried the name Allan G Watson above its number plates on the cab sides. By the time the Class 16E was withdrawn from service, this engine bore the name Betty below the headlight.[7]

Two locomotives survive and were still relatively intact by 2015. No. 858 Betty was stored in the open at Beaconsfield in Kimberley while no. 857 Ann Smith • Bloemfontein Queen was in storage at Bloemfontein, parked under cover at the locomotive depot.[8]

Number Works nmr THF / Private Leaselend / Owner Current Location Outside SOUTH AFRICA ?
857 Hensc 22586 THF Transnet Heritage Foundation (Museum) Bloemfontein Locomotive Depot


A 20c postage stamp depicting a Class 16E locomotive was one of a set of four commemorative postage stamps issued by the South African Post Office on 27 April 1983 to commemorate the steam locomotives of South Africa that were rapidly being withdrawn from service at the time. The artwork and stamp design was by the noted stamp designer and artist Hein Botha. The locomotive depicted was Class 16E no. 858. The outline of a traditional SAR locomotive number plate was used as a commemorative cancellation for De Aar on the date of issue.[9]


Class 16E locomotives were equipped with smoke deflectors in later years.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Holland, D. F. (1972). Steam Locomotives of the South African Railways. 2: 1910-1955 (1st ed.). Newton Abbott, Devon: David & Charles. pp. 71–72. ISBN 978-0-7153-5427-8.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Espitalier, T.J.; Day, W.A.J. (1946). The Locomotive in South Africa - A Brief History of Railway Development. Chapter VII - South African Railways (Continued). South African Railways and Harbours Magazine, August 1946. pp. 631-632.
  3. ^ a b c d Paxton, Leith; Bourne, David (1985). Locomotives of the South African Railways (1st ed.). Cape Town: Struik. pp. 67–68. ISBN 0869772112.
  4. ^ Henschel-Lieferliste (Henschel & Son works list), compiled by Dietmar Stresow
  5. ^ a b Durrant, A. E. (1989). Twilight of South African Steam (1st ed.). Newton Abbott, London: David & Charles. p. 96. ISBN 0715386387.
  6. ^ a b South African Railways & Harbours/Suid Afrikaanse Spoorweë en Hawens (15 Aug 1941). Locomotive Diagram Book/Lokomotiefdiagramboek, 2'0" & 3'6" Gauge/Spoorwydte, Steam Locomotives/Stoomlokomotiewe. SAR/SAS Mechanical Department/Werktuigkundige Dept. Drawing Office/Tekenkantoor, Pretoria. pp. VIII, 6a-7a, 25, 45.
  7. ^ a b c Soul of A Railway, System 7, Western Transvaal, based in Johannesburg, Part 2. Johannesburg between the Home Signals, Part 2. Captions 14, 18, 22. (Accessed on 21 March 2017)
  8. ^ 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. p. 17.
  9. ^ Philatelic Bulletin 176, issued by Philatelic Services and INTERSAPA, 1983