South African Class 34-800
No. 34-849 at Rust de Winter, Limpopo, 6 October 2009
The South African Railways Class 34-800 of 1978 is a diesel-electric locomotive.
Between August 1978 and December 1979, the South African Railways placed fifty Class 34-800 General Motors Electro-Motive Division type GT26MC diesel-electric locomotives in service. In 1979, one more of the same type was placed in service by Iscor in Newcastle, and between April and July 1980, a further eight of these locomotives were delivered to the South African Railways.
The Class 34-800 type GT26MC diesel-electric locomotive was designed by General Motors Electro-Motive Division and built for the South African Railways (SAR) and Iscor by General Motors South Africa (GMSA) in Port Elizabeth. The first fifty were delivered between August 1978 and December 1979, numbered in the range from 34-801 to 34-850. In 1979, one more of the same type was placed in service by Iscor and numbered 666-0090. Between April and July 1980, a further eight of these locomotives were delivered to the South African Railways, numbered in the range from 34-851 to 34-858.
Class 34 series
The Class 34 locomotive family consists of seven sub-classes, the General Electric (GE) Classes 34-000, 34-400, 34-500 (also known as 34-400 ex Iscor) and 34-900, and the EMD Classes 34-200, 34-600 and 34-800. Both manufacturers also produced locomotives for the South African Classes 33, 35 and 36.
On the GM-EMD Class 34 series locomotives, Class 34-200 and 34-600 locomotives are visually indistinguishable from one another, but they can be distinguished from the Class 34-800 by the thicker fishbelly shaped sills on their left sides, compared to the straight sill on the left side of the Class 34-800.
Rebuilding and modification
South African Class 39-000 type GT26CU-3 diesel-electric locomotives were to be rebuilt from Class 34-600, 34-800 and 37-000 locomotives. The project commenced in 2005, using suitable frames from wrecked locomotives.
Rebuilding was done at the Transwerk shops in Bloemfontein between 2006 and 2008. It was intended to produce one hundred Class 39-000s, but in spite of the technical success of the project, rebuilding was halted after completing the first five locomotives, due to higher than anticipated cost. Two of these five were rebuilt from Class 34-800 locomotives. It was decided, instead of rebuilding old locomotives, to rather build fifty new Class 39-200 locomotives from imported and locally produced components.
Traction motor upgrade
In 2010, a project commenced at the Koedoespoort Transnet Rail Engineering shops to upgrade Class 34-800 locomotives by, amongst other modifications, replacing the GM-EMD D29B with GM-EMD D31 traction motors, thereby improving their performance to the standard of the Class 37-000. The upgraded locomotives could initially be distinguished by the running board mounted handrails which were installed during the upgrade, on the right side only.
South African Railways
In SAR, Spoornet and Transnet Freight Rail (TFR) service, the Class 34-800s worked on most mainlines and some unelectrified branchlines in the central, eastern, northern and northeastern parts of the country.
National Railways of Zimbabwe
From at least 1988 until at least 1992, the National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) hired type GT26MC Class 34-600 locomotives from the SAR and later Spoornet. At least one Class 34-800 locomotive, no. 34-820, also served on lease in Zimbabwe and was observed there in September 1992.
NLPI Limited, abbreviated from New Limpopo Projects Investments, a Mauritius-registered company, specialises in private sector investments, using the build-operate-transfer (BOT) concept. It had three connected railway operations in Zimbabwe and Zambia, which formed a rail link between South Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
- The Beitbridge Bulawayo Railway (BBR), commissioned on 1 September 1999, operates the Beit Bridge to Bulawayo line in Zimbabwe.
- Since February 2004 NLPI Logistics (NLL or LOG) operates between Bulawayo and Victoria Falls on the Zimbabwe-Zambia border.
- Since February 2003 the Railway Systems of Zambia (RSZ) operated on the former Zambian Railways (ZR), from Victoria Falls to Sakania in the Congo.
In Zambia, the RSZ locomotive fleet included former ZR locomotives, but the rest of the locomotive fleet of all three operations consisted of South African GM-EMD Classes 34-200, 34-600 and 34-800 and GE Classes 35-000 and 35-400 locomotives from Spoornet and later TFR. These locomotives were sometimes marked or branded as either BBR or LOG or both, but their status, whether leased or loaned, was unclear, since they were still on the TFR roster and still often worked in South Africa as well. Class 34-800 locomotives which served with NLPI, include the locomotives annotated "NLPI" in the "disposition" column in the table below.
Zambia Railways, the state-owned holding company, resumed control of the Zambian national rail network on 11 September 2012. This followed the government’s decision to revoke the operating concession awarded to RSZ, after Finance Minister Alexander Chikwanda claimed that RSZ had "blatantly disregarded the provisions of the agreement" and had been "acting in a manner prejudicial to the interests of Zambians”.
The works numbers of the Class 34-800, as well as their known disposal and deployment, are displayed in the table.
|34-815||112-15||D31 tr. motors|
|34-819||112-19||NLPI/D31 tr. motors|
|34-821||112-21||D31 tr. motors|
|34-834||112-34||NLPI/D31 tr. motors|
|34-839||112-39||D31 tr. motors|
|34-849||112-49||D31 tr. motors|
|34-855||113-5||D31 tr. motors|
|34-858||113-8||D31 tr. motors|
The main picture shows no. 34-849, in Spoornet blue livery with outline numbers. Other liveries which were applied to Class 34-800 locomotives, are illustrated below.
- 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
- 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. 38–39, 41, 46.
- Paxton, Leith; Bourne, David (1985). Locomotives of the South African Railways (1st ed.). Cape Town: Struik. p. 141. ISBN 0869772112.
- Class 34-600 sill
- Class 34-800 sill
- Information supplied by staff at Transnet Rail Engineering, Bloemfontein and Koedoespoort[better source needed]
- The Class 39 Diesels
- Spoornet Diesels Leased to ZR 1978-1993. P.F. Bagshawe.
- ZRL in charge as RSZ concession revoked. Railway Gazette International, 13 September 2012
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