South African Class 3E

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South African Class 3E
Class 3E no. E201 e.jpg
No. E201 at Bellville Loco, Cape Town, 29 April 2004
Type and origin
Power type Electric
Designer Metropolitan-Vickers
Builder Robert Stephenson and Hawthorns
Serial number RSH 7215-7242
Model Metrovick 3E
Build date 1947
Total produced 28
AAR wheel arr. C-C
UIC class Co'Co'
Gauge 3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm) Cape gauge
Wheel diameter 1,219 mm (48.0 in)
Wheelbase 12,801 mm (42 ft 0 in)
 • Bogie 4,267 mm (14 ft 0 in)
Pivot centres 9,144 mm (30 ft 0 in)
Panto shoes 10,973 mm (36 ft 0 in)
Wheel spacing
1-2: 2,286 mm (7 ft 6.0 in)
2-3: 1,981 mm (6 ft 6.0 in)
 • Over couplers 17,199 mm (56 ft 5.1 in)
 • Pantograph 4,089 mm (13 ft 5.0 in)
 • Body height 3,658 mm (12 ft 0 in)
Axle load Axles 1 & 3: 18,796.75 kg (41,439.7 lb)
Axle 2: 19,305 kg (42,560 lb)
Adhesive weight 113,797 kg (250,879 lb)
Loco weight 113,797 kg (250,879 lb)
Power supply Catenary
Current collection Pantographs
Traction motors Six MV 187
 • Rating 1 hour 336 kW (451 hp)
 • Continuous 284 kW (381 hp)
Gear ratio 23:71
Train brakes Air & Vacuum
Couplers AAR knuckle
Performance figures
Maximum speed 105 km/h (65 mph)
Power output:
 • 1 hour 2,016 kW (2,704 hp)
 • Continuous 1,704 kW (2,285 hp)
Tractive effort:
 • Starting 204 kN (46,000 lbf)
 • 1 hour 151 kN (34,000 lbf)
 • Continuous 119 kN (27,000 lbf)
Operators South African Railways
Class Class 3E
Power class 3 kV DC
Number in class 28
Numbers E191-E218
Delivered 1947-1948
First run 1947

The South African Railways Class 3E of 1947 is an electric locomotive.

In 1947 and 1948, the South African Railways placed twenty-eight Class 3E electric locomotives with a Co+Co wheel arrangement in mainline service.[1]


The South African Railways (SAR) placed orders for the design and construction of the 3 kV DC Class 3E electric locomotive with Metropolitan-Vickers (Metrovick) in 1944. Although the locomotive was designed by Metrovick, who also supplied the electrical equipment, its construction was subcontracted to Robert Stephenson and Hawthorns (RSH). Twenty-eight locomotives were delivered and placed in service in 1947 and 1948, numbered in the range from E191 to E218.[2][1]


These dual cab locomotives have three windows between the side doors on one side and four on the opposite side. When the locomotive is observed from the side with three windows, its no. 1 end will be to the viewer’s left.[3]

Class 3E E215 ID.JPG

Like the Classes 1E, 2E and 4E, the Class 3E has bogie mounted draft gear, therefore no train forces are transmitted to the locomotive body. It has a Co+Co wheel arrangement with an articulated inter-bogie linkage.[3]

For the passenger role, provision was made for both electric and steam heating of passenger coaches, although the electric heating feature was never used on mainline passenger trains. The Class 3E had an integral steam boiler for train heating, unlike subsequent electric locomotive models like the Class 4E, Class 5E and Class 6E, which used separate steam wagons on passenger service.[1]

Class 3E on the Pretoria-Johannesburg express commuter

Unlike Cape Town's and Durban's suburban trainsets, those working around Johannesburg had jumper connections on the roof above the end connecting doors. The Class 3Es were also equipped with these connections, immediately to the right of each headlight. During a shortage of suburban motor coaches c. 1948-1949, Class 3Es were used to haul suburban sets on the Witwatersrand and it is likely that the electric heating system was used during those winters. The picture alongside, a rare shot showing snow on the ground along the Johannesburg-Pretoria line on the Transvaal Highveld, the roof jumper connections between the suburban coaches and next to the unit's headlight are visible.


The Class 3E was the first six-axle electric locomotive in SAR service and, with a maximum safe speed of 105 kilometres per hour (65 miles per hour), was designed for use where higher speeds were possible on track with less severe curvature than on the lower Natal mainline. It first entered service in Natal, but eventually served mainly on the Witwatersrand, in both freight and passenger working.[1]


No. E201, one of two known survivors of the Class, was staged under a shelter at the Bellville locomotive depot in Cape Town, along with a few other early SAR electric and diesel-electric locomotives which were earmarked for preservation.[2] During 2015, most of these locomotives were relocated to Bloemfontein Loco.

Works numbers[edit]

The RSH works numbers of the Class 3E are shown in the table.[2]


The main picture and those following, offer views of all sides of the Class 3E locomotive.


  1. ^ a b c d Paxton, Leith; Bourne, David (1985). Locomotives of the South African Railways (1st ed.). Cape Town: Struik. p. 126. ISBN 0869772112. 
  2. ^ a b c 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. 50, 62. 
  3. ^ a b 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