South African Class 38-000

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South African Class 38-000
SAR Class 38-000 38-012.JPG
No. 38-012 at Capital Park, 28 September 2006
Type and origin
Power type Electro-diesel
Designer Consortium, led by Siemens
Builder Union Carriage & Wagon
Serial number 38-001 to 38-050
Model Consortium Class 38
Build date 1992-1993
Total produced 50
 • AAR B-B
 • UIC Bo'Bo'
 • Commonwealth Bo-Bo
Gauge 3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm) Cape gauge
Wheel diameter 1,054 mm (41.5 in)
Wheelbase 11,700 mm (38 ft 4.6 in)
 • Bogie 2,600 mm (8 ft 6.4 in)
Pivot centres 9,100 mm (29 ft 10.3 in)
 • Over couplers 16,314 mm (53 ft 6.3 in)
Width 2,780 mm (9 ft 1.4 in)
 • Pantograph 4,130 mm (13 ft 6.6 in)
Axle load 18,685 kg (41,193 lb)
Adhesive weight 74,740 kg (164,770 lb)
Loco weight 74,740 kg (164,770 lb) max
Fuel type Diesel
Fuel capacity 2,000 litres (440 imp gal)
Electric system/s 3 kV DC
Current pickup(s) Pantograph from catenary
Prime mover Caterpillar DITA 3508
RPM range 600-1,800
 • RPM idle 600
 • Maximum RPM 1,800
Engine type 4-stroke diesel
Alternator 6 pole ABB/WB450C6
Traction motors Four AC 6 pole ABB/6FRA5252
 • Continuous 378 kW (507 hp)
MU working 4 maximum
Loco brake Knorr-Bremse air brake
Spring applied, air release parking
Train brakes Knorr-Bremse W450/150-3 compressor
LPS 94 DE-MAG Wittig exhauster
Couplers AAR knuckle type E
Performance figures
Maximum speed 100 km/h (62 mph)
Power output:
 • Starting 780 kW (1,050 hp) diesel
 • Continuous 1,500 kW (2,000 hp) electric
600 kW (800 hp) diesel
Tractive effort:
 • Starting 260 kN (58,000 lbf) @ 35% adh.
 • Continuous 180 kN (40,000 lbf)
@ 30 km/h (19 mph) electric
@ 10 km/h (6.2 mph) diesel
Factor of adh.:
 • Starting 35%
 • Continuous 25%
Brakeforce 1,500 kW (2,000 hp) regenerative
1,000 kW (1,300 hp) dynamic
Operators Spoornet
Transnet Freight Rail
Class Class 38-000
Number in class 50
Numbers 38-001 to 38-050
Delivered 1992-1994
First run 1992

The Spoornet Class 38-000 of 1992 is a South African electro-diesel locomotive.

Between 1992 and 1994, Spoornet placed fifty Class 38-000 dual mode locomotives in service. They are still the only dual powered electro-diesel locomotives in use by Transnet Freight Rail, capable of running either on 3 kV DC electricity off the catenary or on diesel fuel alone.[1]


The 3 kV DC Class 38-000 electro-diesel locomotive was designed for Spoornet by Consortium under the leadership of Siemens and was built by Union Carriage & Wagon (UCW) in Nigel, Transvaal.[1][2]

Fifty locomotives entered service between 1992 and 1994, numbered in the range from 38-001 to 38-050. UCW did not allocate builder’s or works numbers to the locomotives it built for Spoornet, but used the Spoornet unit numbers for their record keeping.[1]


The locomotive has two-station controls. For operation in the diesel-only mode it was powered by a 780 kilowatts (1,050 horsepower) Caterpillar type DITA 3508 prime mover. Its diesel-only ability allows it to pick up and shunt wagons from unelectrified industrial sidings.[1][3]


The Class 38-000 was designed as a multi-purpose locomotive to replace steam on pickup work on the Witwatersrand, but it was also capable of long distance mainline work. Most of the locomotives were initially allocated to Gauteng depots at Germiston, Pyramid South and Krugersdorp with a lone locomotive serving at Bloemfontein in the Free State. Given that they were originally designed for shunting and hauler work, these locomotives have performed extremely well in multiple roles.[1][4]

Builders’ plates on no. 38-040

Shortly after entering service they were used to haul the "Witblitz" shipping container express train all the way between Johannesburg and Cape Town. This saved time by avoiding the need to change locomotives at Beaufort West and Kimberley to negotiate the 25 kV AC section between these two centres, since it could be traversed in diesel-only mode even though the units are less powerful in that mode.[5][4]

Although the Class 38-000 is usually limited to a top speed of 100 kilometres per hour (62 miles per hour), the "Witblitz" regularly attained speeds of 120 kilometres per hour (75 miles per hour) on some sections. The "Witblitz" express trains have long been discontinued, but some of the 120 km/h speed limit boards were still in existence between Potchefstroom and Worcester as late as 2005.[5]

For a number of years, the Class 38-000 also became the prime motive power on trains 5558 and 5559, the PX speed-freight overnight container trains between Durban Goods and Johannesburg's City Deep. It was found that the Class 10E electric locomotives previously used on this duty could not achieve the 140 kilometres per hour (87 miles per hour) speeds at which these fifty-wagon trains were booked. These trains were the Natal Corridor (NATCOR) equivalent of the "Witblits" trains.[6]

In 1998, forty of these locomotives, numbers 38-011 to 38-050, and a number of electric locomotives were sold to Maquarie-GETX (General Electric Finance) and leased back to Spoornet for a ten-year period which expired in 2008.[3]

By 2012, Class 38-000 locomotives still often ran with full loads on the mainlines between Broodsnyersplaas and Welgedacht and to the Sentrarand classification yards in Gauteng.[5]

Dates in service[edit]

The Class 38-000's years of construction as shown on their builder's plates and dates in service where known are listed in the table.[3]

Class E38 locomotives[edit]

During the production of the Class 38-000 for Spoornet, UCW also built three Class E38 electric locomotives for Amcoal Mines for use at the Landau Colliery near Witbank, Mpumalanga. The Class E38 electric locomotive is identical in appearance and dimensions to the Class 38-000, but was designed for 3 kV DC electric operation only.[3]


The Class 38-000 was delivered in the Spoornet orange livery with a yellow and blue chevron pattern on the cowcatchers. In the late 1990s at least one, no. 38-041, was repainted in the Spoornet blue livery with outline numbers on the long hood sides. After 2008 in the Transnet Freight Rail (TFR) era, several received the TFR red, green and yellow livery.



  1. ^ a b c d e 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. ^ "UCW - Electric locomotives" (PDF). The UCW Partnership. Archived from the original (PDF) on 12 October 2007. Retrieved 30 September 2010. 
  3. ^ a b c d e 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. 35, 63. 
  4. ^ a b Soul of A Railway, System 7, Western Transvaal, based in Johannesburg, Part 21: Witbank Line by Les Pivnic, Eugene Armer, Peter Stow and Peter Micenko. Captions 26, 28. (Accessed on 4 May 2017)
  5. ^ a b c Railways Africa, 24 Jan 2012: Class 38 Electro-diesel in Operation
  6. ^ Message no. 48235 Re: sar-L 1992: Class 38-000

External links[edit]

Media related to South African Class 38-000 at Wikimedia Commons