South African Class 34-800

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South African Class 34-800
SAR Class 34-800 34-849.JPG
No. 34-849 at Rust de Winter, Limpopo, 6 October 2009
Type and origin
♠ - Original locomotive, as built
- Locomotive with upggraded traction motors
Power type Diesel-electric
Designer General Motors Electro-Motive Division
Builder General Motors South Africa
Serial number 112-1 to 112-50, 113-1 to 113-8, 114-1
Build date 1978-1980
Total produced 59
Rebuilder Transnet Rail Engineering
Rebuild date 2006-2008
Number rebuilt 2 to Class 39-000
AAR wheel arr. C+C
UIC class Co'Co'
Gauge 3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm) Cape gauge
Wheel diameter 1,016 mm (40.0 in)
Wheelbase 14,732 mm (48 ft 4.0 in)
 • Bogie 3,632 mm (11 ft 11.0 in)
Pivot centres 11,278 mm (37 ft 0 in)
 • Over couplers 19,202 mm (63 ft 0 in)
Width 2,819 mm (9 ft 3.0 in)
Height 3,924 mm (12 ft 10.5 in)
Axle load 18,850 kg (41,560 lb)
Adhesive weight 113,100 kg (249,300 lb)
Loco weight 113,100 kg (249,300 lb) max
Fuel type Diesel
Fuel capacity 6,100 litres (1,300 imp gal)
Prime mover GM-EMD 16-645E3
RPM range 250-900
 • RPM low idle 250
 • RPM idle 315
 • Maximum RPM 900
Engine type 2-stroke diesel
Aspiration GM-EMD E16 turbocharger
Displacement 10.57 litres (645.0 cu in)
Alternator 10 pole 3 phase GM-EMD AR10F-D14
Traction motors ♠ Six GM-EMD D29B DC 4 pole
Six GM-EMD D31 DC 4 pole
 • Rating 1 hour ♠ 485A
 • Continuous ♠ 450A @ 21 km/h (13 mph)
520A @ 21 km/h (13 mph)
Cylinders V16
Gear ratio 63:14
MU working 6 maximum
Loco brake 28-LAV-1 with vigilance control
Train brakes Gardner-Denver ADJV-8401 compressor/exhauster
Air reservoir cap 850 litres (190 imp gal)
Compressor cap 0.021 m3/s (0.74 cu ft/s)
Exhauster cap 0.095 m3/s (3.4 cu ft/s)
Couplers AAR knuckle
Performance figures
Maximum speed 100 km/h (62 mph)
Power output:
 • Starting ♠ 2,145 kW (2,876 hp)
2,342 kW (3,141 hp)
 • Continuous ♠ 1,940 kW (2,600 hp)
2,171 kW (2,911 hp)
Tractive effort:
 • Starting ♠ 272 kN (61,000 lbf)
306 kN (69,000 lbf)
 • Continuous ♠ 218 kN (49,000 lbf) @ 26 km/h (16 mph)
245 kN (55,000 lbf) @ 26 km/h (16 mph)
Factor of adh.:
 • Starting
 • Continuous 20%
Loco brakeforce 60% ratio @ 340 kPa (49 psi)
Dynamic brake peak effort 188 kN (42,000 lbf) @ 28 km/h (17 mph)
Operators South African Railways
Transnet Freight Rail
Class Class 34-800
Number in class 59
Numbers SAR 34-801 to 34-858
Iscor 666-0090
Delivered 1978-1980
First run 1978

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.[1][2]


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.[1][2][3]

Class 34 series[edit]

GMSA works plate on no. 34-849

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.[1]

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.[4][5]

Rebuilding and modification[edit]

Class 39-000[edit]

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.[2][6]

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.[7]

Traction motor upgrade[edit]

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.[6]


South African Railways[edit]

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.[3]

National Railways of Zimbabwe[edit]

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.[8]

NLPI Limited[edit]

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.[2]

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.[2] 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”.[9]


In 1979, one Class 34-800 locomotive was delivered new to Iscor’s Newcastle steel works in Natal, numbered 666-0090.[2]

Works numbers[edit]

The works numbers of the Class 34-800, as well as their known disposal and deployment, are displayed in the table.[2]


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.


  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 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. 
  3. ^ a b Paxton, Leith; Bourne, David (1985). Locomotives of the South African Railways (1st ed.). Cape Town: Struik. p. 141. ISBN 0869772112. 
  4. ^ Class 34-600 sill
  5. ^ Class 34-800 sill
  6. ^ a b Information supplied by staff at Transnet Rail Engineering, Bloemfontein and Koedoespoort[better source needed]
  7. ^ The Class 39 Diesels
  8. ^ Spoornet Diesels Leased to ZR 1978-1993. P.F. Bagshawe.
  9. ^ ZRL in charge as RSZ concession revoked. Railway Gazette International, 13 September 2012