South African Class 32-000
No. 32-029 and 32-042 at Oudtshoorn,
22 September 2007
The South African Railways Class 32-000 of 1959 was a diesel-electric locomotive.
Between November 1959 and November 1961, the South African Railways placed 115 Class 32-000 General Electric type U18C1 diesel-electric locomotives with a 1Co+Co1 wheel arrangement in service in South West Africa.
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.
Class 32 series
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 and both with a 1Co+Co1 wheel arrangement. On the Class 32-000, the short hood end is the front. It has single station controls.
The pony truck affair
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.
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.
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.
The SAR's tender for bid was issued in 1957, with two options:
- 115 1,800 horsepower (1,300 kilowatts) locomotives with a 1Co+Co1 wheel arrangement; or
- 230 1,000 horsepower (750 kilowatts) locomotives with a Co+Co wheel arrangement
These units were intended for operation in South West Africa (SWA), now Namibia, under very light rail conditions which necessitated lighter axle loadings, which 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 an integral 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.
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.
South African Railways
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.
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.
Post SAR service
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.
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, which 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.
The Class 32-000 builder's works numbers and disposition are listed in the table.
The main picture and the following photographs offer views of all sides of the Class 32-000 locomotive.
- 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
- The American Locomotive Company - A Centennial Remembrance by Richard Steinbrenner
- 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.
- Paxton, Leith; Bourne, David (1985). Locomotives of the South African Railways (1st ed.). Cape Town: Struik. pp. 138–139. ISBN 0869772112.
- SAR-L Yahoogroup message no. 47981 of 17 October 2014
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