South African Class 61-000

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South African Classes 1-DH & 61-000
Rhodesia Railways Class DH1
SAR Class 61-000 61-006 (D750) 2.JPG
No. D750, later no. 61-006, Kassel, Germany, c. 1958
Type and origin
Power typeDiesel-hydraulic
DesignerHenschel & Son
BuilderHenschel & Son
Serial number29745-29751
Build date1958
Total produced7
 • UICB′B′
 • CommonwealthB-B
Gauge3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm) Cape gauge
Wheel diameter1,054 mm (41.5 in)
Wheelbase11,608 mm (38 ft 1.0 in)
 • Bogie2,184 mm (7 ft 2.0 in)
Pivot centres9,423 mm (30 ft 11.0 in)
 • Over couplers16,551 mm (54 ft 3.6 in)
 • Over beams15,507 mm (50 ft 10.5 in)
Width3,004 mm (9 ft 10.3 in)
Height3,948 mm (12 ft 11.4 in)
Axle load18,900 kg (41,700 lb)
Adhesive weight75,600 kg (166,700 lb)
Loco weight75,600 kg (166,700 lb)
Fuel typeDiesel
Fuel capacity2,730 litres (600 imp gal)
Lubricant cap.546 litres (120 imp gal)
Sandbox cap.Eight 0.13 m3 (4.6 cu ft) boxes
Electric system/sType 4 WHHP 315 batteries
* 64 V, 32 Cells, 280 amp/hr
* 2 Delco & Bendix starters
Prime moverGM-EMD type 6/567C
RPM range835 maximum
Engine type2-stroke diesel
Generator10 kW (13 hp) 80 V
800 to 2,400 rpm (Auxiliary)
Cylinders2 x V6
Cylinder size215.9 mm (8.5 in) bore
254 mm (10.0 in) stroke
TransmissionVoith Type L306r, 3 torque converters, using Cardan shafts
MU working3 maximum
Loco brakeWestinghouse
Train brakesAir & vacuum
CouplersAAR knuckle
Performance figures
Maximum speed88.5 km/h (55.0 mph)
Power output2 x 491 kW (658 hp)
Tractive effort:
 • Starting197.2 kN (44,300 lbf) @ 9.6 km/h (6.0 mph)
 • 1 hour148 kN (33,000 lbf) @ 16 km/h (9.9 mph)
 • Continuous99.1 kN (22,300 lbf) @ 24 km/h (15 mph)
Brakeforce77% @ 393 kPa (57.0 psi)
OperatorsSouth African Railways
Rhodesia Railways
National Railways of Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe Iron and Steel Company
ClassSAR Class 1-DH, Class 61-000
RR & NRZ Class DH1
Number in class7
NumbersSAR 61-001 to 61-007 (ex D745 to D751)
RR & NRZ 3101-3106
First run1959
Disposition6 sold to Rhodesia Railways

The South African Railways Class 61-000 of 1959 was a diesel-hydraulic locomotive.

Between May and July 1959, the South African Railways placed seven Class 1-DH Henschel type DH-1420 diesel-hydraulic locomotives in service to also gain experience with other forms of diesel motive power than diesel-electric. The locomotives were later reclassified to Class 61-000. In 1971, six of them were sold to Rhodesia Railways.[1]


The Class 61-000 type DH-1420 diesel-hydraulic locomotive was designed and built for the South African Railways (SAR) by Henschel and Son in Kassel, Germany. Upon delivery, the locomotives were designated Class 1-DH and numbered in the range from D745 to D751 in the non-steam locomotive number range which had hitherto been used almost exclusively for electric locomotives, the exceptions being the Class DS, Class DS1 and Class 1-DE diesel-electric locomotives. After the SAR adopted a new classification and numbering system for diesel-powered locomotives upon the arrival of the Class 32-000 later in 1959, they were reclassified to Class 61-000 and renumbered in the range from 61-001 to 61-007.[1][2][3]

The Class 1-DH was acquired a year after the SAR had acquired its first diesel-electric locomotives to be built in quantity, the Class 1-DE which had entered service in 1958 and which was later reclassified to Class 31-000. At the time, the SAR was still making extensive use of steam traction and increasing use of electric traction. Its first mainline diesel traction acquisitions were therefore the diesel-electric Class 1-DE and diesel-hydraulic Class 1-DH to gain experience with both forms of diesel motive power.[1]

Diesel-hydraulic transmission[edit]

The more commonly used diesel-electric locomotive makes use of a diesel engine prime mover to propel either a generator (DC) or an alternator (AC) to generate electric power, which is then used to propel axle-hung electric traction motors, one per powered axle, to drive the locomotive wheels. It therefore works on the same general principle as a regular electric locomotive, the main difference being that it generates its own electric power instead of collecting it from an external supply such as overhead catenary or a third rail.[1][4]

Diesel-hydraulic locomotives, on the other hand, use hydrokinetic transmission, also known as hydrodynamic transmission, in the form of torque converters to transmit power from prime mover to wheels.


The Class 61-000 was a centre-cab locomotive which was powered by two General Motors Electro-Motive Division (GM-EMD) type 6/567C V6 prime movers, each with a Voith type L306r triple-torque converter transmission and each driving the wheels of one bogie. Power was transferred to the axles through drive shafts. Unlike diesel-electric locomotives where each axle is driven by its own traction motor, individual wheel-slip was not possible on the Class 61-000 since each bogie's two axles were interconnected through the drive shafts.[2]

The cab had two control stands and since it was possible to start the six prime movers of three multiple-unit consisted locomotives from one engine cab, each control stand had six engine start buttons and six engine stop buttons. The electrical system was very complicated and unreliable, which eventually led to the locomotives being completely rewired in 1963.[1]

The diesel-hydraulics were acquired to enable a direct comparison with the Class 31-000 General Electric-built diesel-electrics, but these Henschel machines did not perform as well. Even though they had a higher nominal starting tractive effort of 197.2 kilonewtons (44,300 pounds-force) than the 181 kilonewtons (41,000 pounds-force) of the diesel-electrics, they were plagued with overheating and other problems. This was disappointing given the acknowledged success of diesel-hydraulic traction in Germany. Although it has been surmised that the much higher ambient temperatures in South Africa might have been a factor, an improved cooling system could probably have solved that if it had been the main problem.[5][6]


South African Railways[edit]

From its establishment in late 1958, the new diesel depot in Germiston provided most of the power on goods trains and some passenger trains going south from the Reef to Volksrust and Kroonstad. Upon delivery, the Class 61-000 joined the Class 31-000 there. They were initially tried on passenger trains, but after a failure at Standerton due to overheating while working the Trans-Natal Express, they were taken off further passenger work and used on goods trains only. They were not successful in mainline goods working either and in the early 1960s the new diesel-hydraulics were mostly confined to shunting work in yards around Braamfontein.[5][6][7][8]

The Class 61-000s spent their entire SAR working lives stationed at the Germiston diesel depot. One of them, no. 61-006, was involved in a head-on collision at Kaserne on 8 October 1966 and was eventually scrapped at the Koedoespoort workshops in Pretoria in September 1968. Problems with cracked axles eventually resulted in the rest of the fleet being staged for repairs in 1967.[1][9]

Rhodesia Railways[edit]

In 1971, the remaining six locomotives were sold to Rhodesia Railways (RR), later renamed the National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ), where they became the RR Class DH1 and were renumbered in the range from 3101 to 3106.[1][2]


They were eventually resold to the Zimbabwe Iron and Steel Company (ZISCO) steel works at KweKwe in Zimbabwe. Most, if not all, were scrapped by 2001.[9]


Like the Class 31-000 diesel-electrics, the locomotives were delivered in a livery that displayed the colours of the South African flag, white on the upper half and blue on the lower half, separated by an orange stripe on the sides and orange whiskers on the ends. They had black running boards, red buffer beams and black cowcatchers. From 1960 this livery gradually began to be replaced by Gulf Red with yellow side-stripes on the hoods and a yellow V on each end.[5][6][10]

Works numbers[edit]

The Class 61-000 builder's works numbers, renumbering upon reclassification and sale are listed in the table.[3][5][9]



  1. ^ a b c d e f g Paxton, Leith; Bourne, David (1985). Locomotives of the South African Railways (1st ed.). Cape Town: Struik. pp. 143–144. ISBN 0869772112.
  2. ^ a b c RR Class DH1 dimensional drawing
  3. ^ a b Henschel-Lieferliste (Henschel & Son works list), compiled by Dietmar Stresow
  4. ^ 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
  5. ^ a b c d Soul of A Railway, System 7, Western Transvaal, based in Johannesburg, Part 6. Germiston, the Steam and Diesel Running Sheds by Les Pivnic. Captions 6, 33, 37. (Accessed on 7 April 2017)
  6. ^ a b c Soul of A Railway, System 7, Western Transvaal, based in Johannesburg, Part 13. Eastwards from Germiston, Part 1: Germiston East to Brakpan by Les Pivnic and Peter Micenko. Captions 10, 11. (Accessed on 25 April 2017)
  7. ^ Soul of A Railway, System 5, Part 2: O.F.S. Main Line, Makouvlei to Bosrand. Caption 3. (Accessed on 3 March 2017)
  8. ^ Soul of A Railway, System 7, Western Transvaal, based in Johannesburg, Part 8. South eastwards as far as Volksrust by Les Pivnic. Caption 10. (Accessed on 7 April 2017)
  9. ^ 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. p. 78.
  10. ^ Soul of A Railway, System 7, Western Transvaal, based in Johannesburg, Part 17: Northwards to just short of the home signal at Pretoria by Les Pivnic. Caption 24. (Accessed on 27 April 2017)