South African Class 34-400

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South African Class 34-400
SAR Class 34-400 34-401.JPG
No. 34-401 at Kaalfontein, Gauteng, 7 October 2009
Type and origin
Power typeDiesel-electric
DesignerGeneral Electric
BuilderSA GE-DL Locomotive Group
Serial number38623-38722
ModelGE U26C
Build date1973-1974
Total produced100
 • UICCo'Co'
 • CommonwealthCo+Co
Gauge3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm) Cape gauge
Wheel diameter915 mm (36.0 in)
Wheelbase13,004 mm (42 ft 8.0 in)
 • Bogie3,188 mm (10 ft 5.5 in)
Pivot centres10,058 mm (33 ft 0 in)
 • Over couplers17,982 mm (59 ft 0 in)
Width2,756 mm (9 ft 0.5 in)
Height3,962 mm (13 ft 0 in)
Axle load18,850 kg (41,560 lb)
Adhesive weight113,100 kg (249,300 lb)
Loco weight113,100 kg (249,300 lb) max
Fuel typeDiesel
Fuel capacity5,400 litres (1,200 imp gal) new
7,000 litres (1,500 imp gal) mod.
Prime moverGE 7FDL-12
RPM range450-1,050
 • RPM low idle450
 • RPM idle535
 • Maximum RPM1,050
Engine type4-stroke diesel
AspirationElliott H-581 turbocharger
Alternator10 pole 3 phase GE 5GT-A11C1
Traction motorsSix GE 5GE-761A13 DC 4 pole
 • Rating 1 hour665A
 • Continuous655A @ 24 km/h (15 mph)
Gear ratio92:19
MU working6 maximum
Loco brake28-LAV-1 with vigilance control
Train brakesWestinghouse 6CDX4UC compressor/exhauster
Air tank cap.825 litres (181 imp gal)
Compressor0.039 m3/s (1.4 cu ft/s)
Exhauster0.155 m3/s (5.5 cu ft/s)
CouplersAAR knuckle type E
Performance figures
Maximum speed100 km/h (62 mph)
Power output:
 • Starting2,050 kW (2,750 hp)
 • Continuous1,940 kW (2,600 hp)
Tractive effort:
 • Starting272 kN (61,000 lbf) @ 25% adhesion
 • Continuous218 kN (49,000 lbf) @ 26 km/h (16 mph)
Factor of adh.:
 • Starting25%
 • Continuous20%
Brakeforce60% ratio @ 345 kPa (50.0 psi)
Dynamic brake peak effort180 kN (40,000 lbf) @ 29 km/h (18 mph)
OperatorsSouth African Railways
Kenya Railways
Blue Circle
Transnet Freight Rail
ClassClass 34-400
Number in class100
Numbers34-401 to 34-500
First run1973

The South African Railways Class 34-400 of 1973 is a diesel-electric locomotive.

Between April 1973 and November 1974, the South African Railways placed one hundred Class 34-400 General Electric type U26C diesel-electric locomotives in service.[1]


The Class 34-400 type GE U26C diesel-electric locomotive was designed by General Electric (GE) and built for the South African Railways (SAR) by the South African General Electric-Dorman Long Locomotive Group (SA GE-DL, later Dorbyl). One hundred locomotives were delivered between April 1973 and November 1974, numbered in the range from 34-401 to 34-500.[1][2][3]

Distinguishing features[edit]

As built, the GE Classes 34-000, 34-400 and 34-900 locomotives were visually indistinguishable from each other. The Class 34-500 locomotives could be distinguished from the other series by the air conditioning units mounted on their cab roofs and initially, when it was still a feature unique to them, by their running board mounted handrails. At some stage during the mid-1980s, all Class 34-000, 34-400 and 34-500 locomotives had saddle filters installed across the long hood, mounted just to the rear of the screens behind the cab on the sides. Since then, Class 34-900 locomotives could be distinguished from the older models by the absence of the saddle filter.[4][5][6]


Fuel capacity[edit]

As built, the Class 34-400 had a 5,400 litres (1,200 imperial gallons) fuel tank and interlinked bogies, while the Class 34-500 was delivered new to Iscor with a 7,000 litres (1,500 imperial gallons) fuel tank to cope with the lack of en route refuelling points on the Sishen-Saldanha iron ore line. To facilitate the larger fuel tank, the inter-bogie linkage found on all other models had to be omitted on the Class 34-500.[7]

Standard 5,400 litre fuel tank
Enlarged 7,000 litre fuel tank

To be usable on the iron ore line, Class 34-400 units which ended up working there were modified to a similar fuel capacity. The inter-bogie linkage was removed and the fuel tank was enlarged by changing it from saddle-shaped to rectangular box-shaped. To maintain its lateral balance, a slab of metal was attached to each bogie in place of the removed linkage. In the second picture, the weld lines on the end of the enlarged fuel tank as well as the metal slab at the end of the bogie are visible.

Electronic control system[edit]

Beginning in 2010, some units were equipped with electronic fuel injection and GE "Brite Star" control systems. On some of the first locomotives to be so modified, externally visible evidence of the modification is a raised middle portion of the long hood.


South African Railways[edit]

GE Class 34-400s work on most mainlines and some branch lines in the central, western, southern and southeastern parts of the country. On the busy line from Krugersdorp via Zeerust to Mafeking, the Class 34-400 became the standard motive power.[8][9]

Some eventually joined the Class 34-500 on the 861-kilometre long (535-mile) Sishen-Saldanha iron ore line, to haul export ore from the open cast iron mines at Sishen near Kathu in the Northern Cape to the harbour at Saldanha in the Western Cape. Here they ran consisted to electric locomotives to haul the 342 wagon iron ore trains. Each wagon has a 100-ton capacity and the trains are at least 3.72 kilometres (2.31 miles) in length. In South Africa, mixed electric and diesel-electric consists are unique to the iron ore line.[1][3][10][11]

Ore train about 100 kilometres (62 miles) north of Lamberts Bay
Ore train about 100 kilometres (62 miles) north of Lamberts Bay

Leased and sold[edit]

Eleven Class 34-400s were leased to the Kenya Railways for some years, regauged to 1,000 mm (3 ft 3 38 in) and renumbered in the range from 9501 to 9511. They were returned to Spoornet in April 2002.[2]

Several Class 34-400s were sold into industry. No. 34-429 went to the Douglas Colliery near Witbank as no. D10. Five went to Sasol at Trichardt near Secunda and two to Blue Circle Cement at Lichtenburg.[2]

No. 34-426, with the bodywork removed, is used for apprentice training at the Germiston diesel depot.[2]

Works numbers[edit]

The Class 34-400 builder’s works numbers and known deployment are listed in the table.[2]


The Class 34-400 were all delivered in the SAR Gulf Red livery with signal red buffer beams, yellow side stripes on the long hood sides and a yellow V on each end. In the 1990s many of the Class 34-400 units began to be repainted in the Spoornet orange livery with a yellow and blue chevron pattern on the buffer beams. At least one later received the Spoornet maroon livery. In the late 1990s many were repainted in the Spoornet blue livery with outline numbers on the long hood sides. After 2008 in the Transnet Freight Rail (TFR) era, many were repainted in the TFR red, green and yellow livery.[2][12]



  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 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, 40–41, 45–46.
  3. ^ a b Paxton, Leith; Bourne, David (1985). Locomotives of the South African Railways (1st ed.). Cape Town: Struik. pp. 140–141. ISBN 0869772112.
  4. ^ No. 34-434 with saddle filter, 23 September 2009 (Accessed on 7 June 2017)
  5. ^ No. 34-435 without saddle filter, 1 March 1982 (Accessed on 7 June 2017)
  6. ^ No. 34-441 with saddle filter, 19 August 2010 (Accessed on 7 June 2017)
  7. ^ Information received from John Nicholas Middleton
  8. ^ Soul of A Railway, System 7, Western Transvaal, based in Johannesburg, Part 24: Krugersdorp-Zeerust-Mafeking (Home Signal), Part 1 by Les Pivnic. Introduction: Engine Power. (Accessed on 5 May 2017)
  9. ^ Soul of A Railway, System 7, Western Transvaal, based in Johannesburg, Part 25: Krugersdorp-Zeerust-Mafeking (Home Signal), Part 2 by Les Pivnic. Caption 56. (Accessed on 6 May 2017)
  10. ^ Actom Divisions News, 22 July 2010 Archived 5 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ Information supplied by Orex train crew members
  12. ^ Soul of A Railway, System 7, Western Transvaal, based in Johannesburg, Part 9. South-Eastwards as far as Volksrust (2nd part) by Les Pivnic. Caption 4. (Accessed on 11 April 2017)