South African Class 5E, Series 3

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South African Class 5E, Series 3
Class 5E nos. E590 & E563.jpg
Numbers E590 and E563 at Salt River MetroRail Depot, Cape Town, 6 November 2014
Type and origin
Power type Electric
Designer English Electric
Builder Vulcan Foundry
Serial number EE 2544-2598, VF E209-E263
Model EE 5E
Build date 1958
Total produced 55
AAR wheel arr. B-B
UIC class Bo'Bo'
Gauge 3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm) Cape gauge
Wheel diameter 1,219 mm (48.0 in)
Wheelbase 11,279 mm (37 ft 0.1 in)
 • Bogie 3,430 mm (11 ft 3.0 in)
Pivot centres 7,849 mm (25 ft 9.0 in)
Panto shoes 6,972 mm (22 ft 10.5 in)
 • Over couplers 15,494 mm (50 ft 10.0 in)
 • Body 14,631 mm (48 ft 0 in)
Width 2,896 mm (9 ft 6.0 in)
 • Pantograph 4,089 mm (13 ft 5.0 in)
 • Body height 3,937 mm (12 ft 11.0 in)
Axle load 21,591 kg (47,600 lb)
Adhesive weight 86,364 kg (190,400 lb)
Loco weight 86,364 kg (190,400 lb)
Power supply Catenary
Current collection Pantographs
Traction motors Four EE 529
 • Rating 1 hour 377 kW (506 hp)
 • Continuous 325 kW (436 hp)
Gear ratio 18:67
Loco brake Air & Regenerative
Train brakes Vacuum
Couplers AAR knuckle
Performance figures
Maximum speed 97 km/h (60 mph)
Power output:
 • 1 hour 1,508 kW (2,022 hp)
 • Continuous 1,300 kW (1,700 hp)
Tractive effort:
 • Starting 200 kN (45,000 lbf)
 • 1 hour 128 kN (29,000 lbf)
 • Continuous 104 kN (23,000 lbf)
Operators South African Railways
Class Class 5E
Power class 3 kV DC
Number in class 55
Numbers E536-E590
Nicknames Balstamper
Delivered 1958-1959
First run 1958

The South African Railways Class 5E, Series 3 of 1958 was an electric locomotive.

In 1958 and 1959, the South African Railways placed fifty-five Class 5E, Series 3 electric locomotives with a Bo-Bo wheel arrangement in mainline service.[1]


Like the Series 2, the complete batch of Class 5E, Series 3 locomotives was built for the South African Railways (SAR) by Vulcan Foundry (VF), subcontracted by English Electric (EE), who had desiged the locomotive and supplied the electric components. They were built in 1958 and entered service in 1958 and 1959, numbered in the range from E536 to E590.[1]

The number range of the Series 3 locomotives do not follow directly on that of the Series 2, since the Class 5E1, Series 1 and the Class ES locomotives were allocated most of the numbers in between. Twelve numbers, E499, E513, E514 and those in the range from E527 to E535 were never allocated.[1][2]


These dual cab locomotives have a roof access ladder on one side only, just to the right of the cab access door. The roof access ladder end is marked as the no. 2 end. A corridor along the centre of the locomotive connects the cabs, which are identical except that Cab 2 is where the handbrake is located.[1]


While the locomotive itself used air brakes, it was only equipped to operate trains with vacuum brakes. While hauling a train, the locomotive's air brake system would be made subordinate to the train's vacuum brake system and would come into operation as the vacuum brakes were being applied, gradually building up to its maximum of 350 kilopascals (51 pounds per square inch). While working a train downgrade, the locomotive's regenerative braking system would also work in conjunction with the train's vacuum brakes.

The locomotive's air brakes would usually only be used along with the train brakes during emergencies. Under normal circumstances, the train would be controlled using the train brakes alone to slow down and stop.

While the locomotive was stopped, the air brakes on each bogie could be applied independently. The handbrake or parking brake, located in Cab 2, only operated on the unit's last axle, or no. 7 and 8 wheels.

Class 5E series[edit]

The Class 5E was produced in three series, the EE and VF-built Series 1 and the VF built Series 2 and 3. The VF-built locomotives all have a works number for EE as well as for VF, since the SAR placed the order with EE, who subcontracted the construction of the locomotives to VF. Between 1955 and 1959, altogether 160 Class 5E locomotives were delivered to the SAR, 60 Series 1, 45 Series 2 and 55 Series 3.[1][2]

Crews found the Class 5E to give a rough ride, which soon earned it the nickname Balstamper. The successor Class 5E1 gave a smoother ride, with its new design bogies.

Post SAR service[edit]

When they were retired from SAR service, only one Series 3 locomotive, no. E576, was sold into industrial service. It went to the Driefontein gold mine near Carletonville where, for an unknown reason, it was given the number plates from Series 2 no. E343, which had also been acquired by Driefontein.[3]

Numbers E563 and E590 were transferred to MetroRail, for use as shunting locomotives at the MetroRail Depot in Salt River, Cape Town.[3]

The Blue Train[edit]

The locomotives were delivered in a bottle green and yellow whiskers livery. Beginning c. 1960, a Gulf Red and yellow whiskers livery gradually replaced the green and yellow.[2]

In the SAR and Spoornet eras, when the official liveries were Gulf Red and whiskers for the SAR, and initially orange and later maroon for Spoornet, some selected electric and diesel-electric locomotives were painted blue for use with the Blue Train, but without altering the layout of the various paint schemes. During the late 1970s, eight Class 5E, Series 3 locomotives, numbers E562 to E569, were painted blue with whiskers for use with the Blue Train between Cape Town and Beaufort West in the Cape Western region.[3]

After their retirement from mainline service, at least one locomotive, MetroRail's shunting locomotive no. E590, was painted in MetroRail's grey and yellow livery.[3]

Works numbers[edit]

The EE and VF works numbers of the Class 5E, Series 3 and their disposal are shown in the table.[3]


The main picture shows no. E590 in MetroRail livery, while the rest of the pictures serve to illustrate some of the other liveries which Series 3 locomotives served in.


  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. ^ a b c Paxton, Leith; Bourne, David (1985). Locomotives of the South African Railways (1st ed.). Cape Town: Struik. pp. 127–128. ISBN 0869772112. 
  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. 50, 52, 63.