South African Class 32-000

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South African Class 32-000
Numbers 32-029 and 32-042 at Oudtshoorn,
22 September 2007
Type and origin
Power type Diesel-electric
Designer General Electric
Builder General Electric
Serial number 33722-33836
Model GE U18C1
Build date 1959-1961
Total produced 115
UIC classification 1Co+Co1 interlinked bogies
Gauge 3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm) Cape gauge
Leading wheel
762 mm (30.00 in)
Wheel diameter 915 mm (36.02 in)
Wheelbase 4,927 mm (16 ft 1.98 in) per bogie
13,246 mm (43 ft 5.50 in) overall
Length 16,866 mm (55 ft 4.02 in)
Width 2,756 mm (9 ft 0.50 in)
Height 3,924 mm (12 ft 10.49 in)
Frame 8,128 mm (26 ft 8.00 in) between bogie pivot centres
Axle load Pony 10.180 t (10.019 long tons; 11.222 short tons)
Traction 12.700 t (12.499 long tons; 13.999 short tons)
Locomotive weight 93.000 t (91.531 long tons; 102.515 short tons) average
96.520 t (94.996 long tons; 106.395 short tons) permissible
Fuel type Fuel oil
Fuel capacity 4,300 L (950 imp gal; 1,100 US gal)
Prime mover Cooper Bessemer FVBL-12
Engine RPM range 400 rpm idle
535 rpm high idle
1,000 rpm maximum
Engine type 4 stroke diesel engine
Aspiration Cooper-Bessemer ET13 turbocharger
Generator DC 10 pole GE 5GT-581C5
Traction motors Six GE 5GE-761A3 DC 4 pole
* 600A rating 1 hour
* 590A rating continuous
at 17 km/h (11 mph)
Cylinders V12
Transmission diesel electric
Multiple working 3 maximum
Performance figures
Maximum speed 100 km/h (62 mph)
Power output 1,475 kW (1,978 hp) starting
1,340 kW (1,800 hp) continuous
Tractive effort 183 kN (41,000 lbf) starting
146 kN (33,000 lbf) continuous
at 27 km/h (17 mph)
Factor of
25% starting, 20% continuous
Locomotive brake Air brake, 6-SLAV-1 with vigilance control
Not equipped with dynamic brakes
60% ratio at 345 kPa (50 psi) brake cylinder pressure
Train brakes 700 L (150 imp gal; 180 US gal) main reservoir
Compressor capacity at high idle: 0.039 m3/s (1.4 cu ft/s)
Exhauster capacity at high idle: 0.155 m3/s (5.5 cu ft/s)
Operator(s) South African Railways
SNCZ, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Consortium ARZ
Class Class 32-000
Number in class 115
Number(s) 32-001 to 32-115
Delivered November 1959 to November 1961
First run 1959

The South African Railways Class 32-000 of 1959 is a diesel-electric locomotive from the South African Railways era.

Between November 1959 and November 1961 the South African Railways placed one hundred and fifteen Class 32-000 General Electric type U18C1 diesel-electric locomotives in service in South West Africa.[1]


The South African Class 32-000 type GE U18C1 diesel-electric locomotive was designed and built to South African Railways (SAR) requirements by General Electric (GE) and imported. They were numbered in the range from 32-001 to 32-115.[1]

Class 32 series[edit]

The Class 32 consists of two series, the high short hood Class 32-000 and the low short hood Class 32-200, both GE products. On the Class 32-000 the short hood end is the front. It has single station controls.[1]

The pony truck affair[edit]

In the United States of America the South African Class 32-000 is credited with being a major factor in the demise of the American Locomotive Company (ALCO) and the rise of GE in the locomotive building business.[2]

In the late 1950s South Africa, at the time one of the last bastions of steam traction, planned to embark on a massive dieselisation program. An SAR technical team was sent to Europe and to the United States to prepare an assessment of design alternatives, finalise specifications and compile a list of qualified bidders.[2]

In the United States only ALCO, General Motors Electro-Motive Division (EMD) and GE were considered to be qualified bidders. The SAR was not very enthusiastic about two-stroke cycle engines and had a strong preference for ALCO's Model 251 engine and GE's transmission systems. As a prior supplier of steam locomotives for the SAR, ALCO appeared to be virtually assured of receiving the order.[2]

The SAR's tender for bid was issued in 1957, with two options:[2]

  • One hundred and fifteen units of a 1,800 horsepower (1,300 kilowatts) locomotive with a 1Co+Co1 wheel arrangement; or
  • Two hundred and thirty units of a 1,000 horsepower (750 kilowatts) locomotive with a Co+Co wheel arrangement
1Co bogie on no. 32-047

These units were intended for operation in South West Africa (SWA), now Namibia, under very light rail conditions which necessitated lighter axle loadings that could not be achieved with conventional Co bogies under a heavy locomotive. General Steel Castings had a design on paper for a 1Co bogie (a Co bogie with a pony truck) which could be utilised by either ALCO or GE and which would enable the SAR's specification to be met for the heavier 1,800 horsepower (1,300 kilowatts) units.[2]

The SAR made it clear that, despite the two options afforded by the tender, its strong preference was for a 1Co+Co1 locomotive. However, the use of a pony truck was not universally accepted by ALCO's engineering management. The result was that ALCO bid on only the Co+Co option and lost out to GE, who had bid on both options.[2]

In South Africa, this virtually opened the floodgates for GE since more than half of the SAR’s vast diesel-electric locomotive fleet that was acquired between 1959 and 1981 were GE products.[2]


South African Railways[edit]

Class 32-000 32-042 IDR.JPG

The Class 32-000 was designed specifically for service in SWA and most of them spent their entire SAR lives there. Between 1964 and 1976 several were also allocated to the Eastern Transvaal for service around Waterval-Boven.[3][4]

Of the original one hundred and fifteen locomotives, only five survived into the Spoornet era in the 1990s. In SWA they were replaced by the Class 33-400 during the 1980s. After being withdrawn from Spoornet service, a few were allocated to the National Collection, later the Transnet Heritage Foundation (THF), and some of these still saw occasional service as Outeniqua Choo-Tjoe excursion locomotives, based at George, Western Cape.[3]

Post SAR service[edit]

No. 32-013 at Nkana Mine, 30 September 1993

After withdrawal from SAR service, a large number of the Class 32-000 locomotives were sold to Zaire’s Congo Railway (SNCZ), which became the SNCC after the country's name change to the Democratic Republic of the Congo.[3]

Three went to Consortium ARZ (CARZ), an Italian per-way contractor working in Zaire and later also in Zambia. Two went to Nchanga and three to Nkana, two of the copper mines in Zambia.[3]

The three locomotives at the Nkana Mine retained their SAR numbers whilst working at Nkana. No. 32-013 is depicted alongside on the Nkana-Chibuluma miner's train at Nkana Mine Sidings in Zambia. The coaches behind it are second-hand Tata bus bodies mounted on freight wagon frames and bogies. These were initially made for the Mulungushi Commuter train service in Lusaka that was later taken over by Zambia Railways and renamed Njanji Commuter.

LEGE in Durban, who operates an active hire and overhaul business, owns two locomotives, numbers 32-070 and 32-084. Of these, no. 32-070 has been observed shunting in the Merewent Oil Refinery as late as 2014.[5]

Works numbers[edit]

The Class 32-000 builder’s works numbers and disposition are set out in the table.

Ends illustrated[edit]

The main picture and the following photographs offer views of all sides of the Class 32-000 locomotive.


  1. ^ a b c 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 g The American Locomotive Company - A Centennial Remembrance by Richard Steinbrenner
  3. ^ 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, 47, 67. 
  4. ^ Paxton, Leith; Bourne, David (1985). Locomotives of the South African Railways (1st ed.). Cape Town: Struik. pp. 138–139. ISBN 0869772112. 
  5. ^ SAR-L Yahoogroup message no. 47981 of 17 October 2014
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