South African Class 5E1, Series 5

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South African Class 5E1, Series 5
SAR Class 5E1 Series 5 E941.JPG
No. E941, with rounded corners, at Ladysmith, KwaZulu-Natal, 5 August 2007
Type and origin
Power typeElectric
BuilderUnion Carriage & Wagon
ModelMV 5E1
Build date1966-1968
Total produced225
 • UICBo'Bo'
 • CommonwealthBo-Bo
Gauge3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm) Cape gauge
Wheel diameter1,220 mm (48.0 in)
Wheelbase11,279 mm (37 ft 0.1 in)
 • Bogie3,430 mm (11 ft 3.0 in)
Pivot centres7,849 mm (25 ft 9.0 in)
Panto shoes6,972 mm (22 ft 10.5 in)
 • Over couplers15,494 mm (50 ft 10.0 in)
 • Body14,631 mm (48 ft 0 in)
Width2,896 mm (9 ft 6.0 in)
 • Pantograph4,089 mm (13 ft 5.0 in)
 • Body height3,937 mm (12 ft 11.0 in)
Axle load21,591 kg (47,600 lb)
Adhesive weight86,364 kg (190,400 lb)
Loco weight86,364 kg (190,400 lb)
Electric system/s3 kV DC
Current pickup(s)Pantographs from catenary
Traction motorsFour AEI-281BX
 • Rating 1 hour485 kW (650 hp)
 • Continuous364 kW (488 hp)
Gear ratio18:67
Loco brakeAir & Regenerative
Train brakesVacuum
CouplersAAR knuckle
Performance figures
Maximum speed97 km/h (60 mph)
Power output:
 • 1 hour1,940 kW (2,600 hp)
 • Continuous1,456 kW (1,953 hp)
Tractive effort:
 • Starting250 kN (56,000 lbf)
 • 1 hour184 kN (41,000 lbf)
 • Continuous122 kN (27,000 lbf) @ 40 km/h (25 mph)
OperatorsSouth African Railways
Rovos Rail
ClassClass 5E1
Number in class225
First run1966

The South African Railways Class 5E1, Series 5 of 1966 was an electric locomotive.

Between 1966 and 1969, the South African Railways placed 225 Class 5E1, Series 5 electric locomotives with a Bo-Bo wheel arrangement in mainline service.[1][2]


Series 5 of the Metropolitan-Vickers-designed 3 kV DC Class 5E1 electric locomotive was built for the South African Railways (SAR) by Union Carriage and Wagon (UCW) in Nigel, Transvaal, with the electrical equipment being supplied by Associated Electrical Industries (AEI) and English Electric (EE).[3][4]

The 225 Series 5 locomotives were delivered between 1966 and 1969, numbered in the range from E921 to E1145. The Series 5 were equipped with four AEI 281 BX axle-hung traction motors fitted with roller bearings. UCW did not allocate builder’s numbers to the locomotives it built for the SAR and used the SAR unit numbers for their record keeping.[2][5]

Body shape alteration[edit]

From the introduction of the Class 5E, Series 1 in 1955, the body shape of the locomotive remained virtually unchanged apart from the roofline on the roof access ladder side, where the Class 5E had a single cut-out in line with the vertical row of three grilles on the body side while the Class 5E1 had an additional cut-out in line with the small window to the right of the two grilles aft of the roof access ladder. All these units had round headlamps and rounded corners on their cab ends.[6]

This body shape was changed to smaller round headlamps and squared body corners part-way through the construction of the Series 5. The first 25 Series 5 units in the number range from E921 to E945 were built with the same large round headlamps and rounded body corners as before, but from no. E946 the next 200 were delivered with smaller headlights and the new body shape which gave them the appearance of being wider. The change was possibly motivated by cost considerations since the squared corners would simplify construction and since the rounded corners served no purpose other than cosmetic.[6][7][8][9][10]

No. E1134

Other identifying features remained the same, such as the three small square access panels on the lower sides above the battery box instead of the two larger rectangular panels in the same position on the Series 1 and 2 units. Exceptions appear to be some Series 5 units in the number range higher than no. E1127. An example is depicted alongside showing a damaged no. E1134 with two rectangular access panels above the battery box instead of three small square ones, but still with one small square and one larger rectangular access panels on the lower sides above the second axle from the left. The picture also illustrates the new front with squared corners and a smaller round headlight.[7]


In the 1970s most serving SAR steam and electric locomotives had their original large round headlamps replaced by less attractive but more efficient double sealed-beam automobile headlamps. On Series 3, 4 and early series 5 units, the original round headlamp housing was retained and the glass was replaced by a metal disk containing the sealed beam headlamps. On Series 5 units with squared corners, the smaller round headlamp was replaced by sealed-beam automobile headlamps on the original or a similar rectangular backing plate above the end door.[7]


SAR Class 5E1 Series 5 E994 ID.JPG

The Class 5E1 family served in goods and passenger working on all 3 kV DC electrified mainlines country-wide for about forty years. They worked the vacuum-braked goods and mainline passenger trains over the lines radiating south, west and north of Durban almost exclusively until the mid-1970s and the Class 6E1 only became regular motive power in Natal when air-braked car trains began running between Durban and the Reef. By the mid-2000s, most of the Series 5 locomotives had been withdrawn.[11]


The whole series was delivered in the Gulf Red livery with signal red cowcatchers, yellow whiskers, full body-length side-stripes and with the number plates on the sides enclosed in three-stripe wings. In the 1970s the side-stripes were curtailed to just beyond the cab-sides, but with the number plates on the sides still enclosed in three-stripe wings. In the 1990s many of the Series 5 units were repainted in the Spoornet orange livery.[12]


By 2007 two Series 5 locomotives, numbers E1101 and E1102, had been modified extensively. It involved a complete strip-down overhaul to rebuild them as prototypes with the object to determine if large-scale Class 5E1 rebuilding would be economically viable.[4]

Some visible external differences from the originals were side window screens, higher side doors with a curved rainwater gutter above it (not done on E1101) and reinforcing under the side doors and side windows. On the roof access ladder side the cut-outs on the roof edge were filled in and the units were repainted in the then current Spoornet blue livery with outline numbers, the only Class 5E1s to receive this livery. They were also equipped with driver’s consoles similar to those which were later fitted to the Class 18Es.[4]

No further such rebuilds were done. By 2010, these two units were shedded at Danskraal in Ladysmith and used to push road trainers, modified cabooses with Class 5E1 controls installed in one end, that are used to familiarise drivers with routes.[13][14]

Rovos Rail[edit]

Class 5E1 E1030 IDR.JPG

Several Series 5 locomotives were sold at auction during 2010. Most were bought by scrap dealers and cut up, but some survived to start a second career. Nine Class 5E1, Series 5 units were purchased by Rovos Rail, a private operator of luxury rail tours which is based at Capital Park in Pretoria. Rovos Rail is reviving the tradition of brass number plates on the sides of their locomotives.[4][15]

Years of construction and disposal[edit]

The known years of construction based on the observation of the UCW works plates on the end doors of units, and the post-withdrawal disposition of the Class 5E1, Series 5 are listed in the table.[4]


The main picture shows no. E941 with rounded corners, while the first picture below shows no. E948 with squared corners, both in the modified SAR Gulf Red and whiskers livery. The rest of the pictures illustrate some of the liveries which were applied to Series 5 locomotives.


  1. ^ "New Electric Stock for South Africa". Proceedings of the American Railway Engineering Association. 68: 238. 1967. Retrieved 15 September 2010.
  2. ^ 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
  3. ^ "UCW - Electric locomotives" (PDF). The UCW Partnership. Archived from the original (PDF) on 12 October 2007. Retrieved 30 September 2010.
  4. ^ 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. 50–51, 53.
  5. ^ Paxton, Leith; Bourne, David (1985). Locomotives of the South African Railways (1st ed.). Cape Town: Struik. p. 128. ISBN 0869772112.
  6. ^ a b sar-l at - Re: Class 5E1 body shape change: Comment by Peter Stow. (Accessed on 24 May 2017)
  7. ^ a b c Soul of A Railway, System 6, Part 1: Durban Old Station. Caption 81. (Accessed on 8 March 2017)
  8. ^ Soul of A Railway, System 7, Western Transvaal, based in Johannesburg, Part 20: Natalspruit to Vereeniging, Part 3. Caption 30. (Accessed on 29 April 2017)
  9. ^ E941 with rounded corners
  10. ^ E948 with squared corners
  11. ^ Soul of A Railway, System 6, Part 3: Durban Harbour, Wests, the Bluff & Cato Creek to Congella; featuring SAR & H Harbour Craft. Captions 97, 98. (Accessed on 11 March 2017)
  12. ^ Soul of A Railway, System 7, Western Transvaal, based in Johannesburg, Part 9. South-Eastwards as far as Volksrust (2nd part) by Les Pivnic. Caption 4. (Accessed on 11 April 2017)
  13. ^ Modified E1101 in Spoornet blue livery
  14. ^ Modified E1102 in Spoornet blue livery
  15. ^ Rovos Rail's no. E1114