South African Class 6E1, Series 6

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South African Class 6E1, Series 6
SAR Class 6E1 Series 6 E1708.JPG
E1708 at Kaalfontein, Gauteng in October 2009
Type and origin
Power typeElectric
DesignerUnion Carriage & Wagon
BuilderUnion Carriage & Wagon
ModelUCW 6E1
Build date1976-1977
Total produced100
RebuilderTransnet Rail Engineering
Rebuild date2003-2014
Number rebuilt90 to Class 18E, Series 1 & 2
 • UICBo′Bo′
 • CommonwealthBo-Bo
Gauge3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm) Cape gauge
Wheel diameter1,220 mm (48.03 in)
Wheelbase11,279 mm (37 ft 0 in)
 • Bogie3,430 mm (11 ft 3 in)
Pivot centres7,849 mm (25 ft 9 in)
Panto shoes6,972 mm (22 ft 10 12 in)
 • Over couplers15,494 mm (50 ft 10 in)
 • Body14,631 mm (48 ft 0 in)
Width2,896 mm (9 ft 6 in)
 • Pantograph4,089 mm (13 ft 5 in)
 • Body height3,937 mm (12 ft 11 in)
Axle load22,226 kg (49,000 lb)
Adhesive weight88,904 kg (196,000 lb)
Loco weight88,904 kg (196,000 lb)
Electric system/s3 kV DC catenary
Current pickup(s)Pantographs
Traction motorsFour AEI-283AY
 • Rating 1 hour623 kW (835 hp)
 • Continuous563 kW (755 hp)
Gear ratio18:67
Loco brakeAir & Regenerative
Train brakesAir & Vacuum
CouplersAAR knuckle
Performance figures
Maximum speed113 km/h (70 mph)
Power output:
 • 1 hour2,492 kW (3,342 hp)
 • Continuous2,252 kW (3,020 hp)
Tractive effort:
 • Starting311 kN (70,000 lbf)
 • 1 hour221 kN (50,000 lbf)
 • Continuous193 kN (43,000 lbf) @ 40 km/h (25 mph)
OperatorsSouth African Railways
Transnet Freight Rail
Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa
ClassClass 6E1
Number in class100
First run1976

The South African Railways Class 6E1, Series 6 of 1976 was an electric locomotive.

In 1976 and 1977, the South African Railways placed one hundred Class 6E1, Series 6 electric locomotives with a Bo-Bo wheel arrangement in mainline service.[1]


The 3 kV DC Class 6E1, Series 6 electric locomotive was designed and built for the South African Railways (SAR) by Union Carriage & Wagon (UCW) in Nigel, Transvaal. The electrical equipment was supplied by the General Electric Company (GEC).[2]

One hundred units were delivered in 1976 and 1977, numbered in the range from E1646 to E1745. Unlike Series 1 to 5 units which were all equipped with four AEI-283AZ axle-hung traction motors, the Series 6 units were equipped with AEI-283AY traction motors. 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.[1]



These dual cab locomotives had a roof access ladder on one side only, just to the right of the cab access door. The roof access ladder end was marked as the no. 2 end. A corridor along the centre of the locomotive connected the cabs, which were identical apart from the fact that the handbrake was located in cab 2. A pantograph hook stick was stowed in a tube mounted below the lower edge of the locomotive body on the roof access ladder side. The locomotives had one square and two rectangular access panels along the lower half of the body on the roof access ladder side, and only one square access panel on the opposite side.[1]

Series identifying features[edit]

Grilles without beading on Series 5
Grilles with beading on Series 6

The Class 6E1 was produced in eleven series over a period of nearly sixteen years. While some Class 6E1 series are visually indistinguishable from their predecessors or successors, some externally visible changes did occur over the years.[1]

The Series 6 and Series 7 locomotives are visually indistinguishable from each other, but can be distinguished from all the older series models by the rainwater beading that had been added above the small grilles on the sides aft of the side doors.[1][3]


The Class 6E1 family saw service all over both 3 kV DC mainline and branch line networks, the smaller Cape Western mainline between Cape Town and Beaufort West and the larger network which covers portions of the Northern Cape, the Free State, Natal, Gauteng, North West and Mpumalanga.[4]

Reclassification and rebuilding[edit]

Reclassification to Class 16E[edit]

No. E1709 as Class 16E no. 16-422B, Germiston, 6 December 1991

During 1990 and 1991, Spoornet semi-permanently coupled several pairs of otherwise largely unmodified Class 6E1 units, reclassified them to Class 16E and allocated a single locomotive number to each pair, with the individual units in the pairs inscribed "A" or "B". The aim was to accomplish savings on cab maintenance by coupling the units at their no. 1 ends, abandoning the no. 1 end cabs in terms of maintenance and using only the no. 2 end cabs. Most pairs were later either disbanded with the units reverting to Class 6E1 and regaining their original numbers or rebuilt to Class 18E.[4]

Eleven known Series 6 locomotives were part of such Class 16E pairs.[4]

  • E1653 became 16-420A.
  • E1699 and E1700 became 16-425 A and B.
  • E1669 and E1709 became 16-422 A and B.
  • E1684 and E1701 became 16-427 A and B.
  • E1718 and E1720 became 16-428 A and B.
  • E1679 and E1714 became 16-429 A and B.

Rebuilding to Class 18E[edit]

Cab 1 of Class 18E no. 18-611, ex Class 6E1 no. E1677, Warrenton, Northern Cape, 21 May 2013

Beginning in 2000, Spoornet began a project to rebuild Series 2 to 11 Class 6E1 locomotives to Class 18E, Series 1 and Series 2 at the Transnet Rail Engineering workshops at Koedoespoort. In the process the cab at the no. 1 end was stripped of all controls and the driver's front and side windows were blanked off to have a toilet installed, thereby forfeiting the locomotive's bi-directional ability.[4][5]

Since the driving cab's noise level had to be below 85 decibels, cab 2 was selected as the Class 18E driving cab primarily based on its lower noise level compared to cab 1, which is closer and more exposed to the compressor's noise and vibration. Another factor was the closer proximity of cab 2 to the low voltage switch panel. The fact that the handbrake was located in cab 2 was not a deciding factor, but was considered an additional benefit.[5]

The known Class 6E1, Series 6 units which were used in this project were rebuilt to Class 18E, Series 1 as well as Series 2 locomotives. Their numbers and renumbering details are listed in the table. This list is virtually complete with only one unknown remaining, the status of no. E1744 to 18-832 which is shown as “uncompleted” and of which the existence still need to be confirmed by sighting or photographic evidence. The Class 18E rebuilding program was terminated abruptly in late 2014 with about half a dozen units in various stages of completion on the rebuilding line. Some reports indicated that the incomplete units would be forwarded to Danskraal or Durban for completion, but it could not be confirmed that this actually took place.[4][5]


The whole series was delivered in the SAR Gulf Red livery with signal red cowcatchers, yellow whiskers and with the number plates on the sides mounted on three-stripe yellow wings. In the 1990s many of the Series 6 units began to be repainted in the Spoornet orange livery with a yellow and blue chevron pattern on the cowcatchers. Several later received the Spoornet maroon livery. In the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) era after 2008, at least three were repainted in the Shosholoza Meyl purple livery and one in the PRASA light blue livery.[6]



  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. ^ Paxton, Leith; Bourne, David (1985). Locomotives of the South African Railways (1st ed.). Cape Town: Struik. pp. 128–129. ISBN 0869772112.
  4. ^ a b c d e Railways of Southern Africa Locomotive Guide, 2002 Edition, (Compiled by John N. Middleton), p57, as amended by Combined Amendment List 4, January 2009
  5. ^ a b c Information gathered from the rebuild files of individual locomotives at Transnet Rail Engineering’s Koedoespoort shops, or obtained from John Middleton as well as several Transnet employees
  6. ^ 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)

External links[edit]

External video
E1653, E1265 and E1682 enter the Capital Park yard on their way to the loco depot, 1 October 2009 (46 seconds)