South African Class GEA 4-8-2+2-8-4

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South African Class GEA & GEAM 4-8-2+2-8-4
Class GEA 4010 (4-8-2+2-8-4).jpg
No. 4010 and sister at Steenbras, 13 August 1973
Type and origin
♠ Locomotive as built
Locomotive with modified front water tank
Power type Steam
Designer South African Railways
(Dr. M.M. Loubser)
Builder Beyer, Peacock and Company
Serial number 7168-7217
Model Class GEA
Build date 1945-1947
Total produced 50
Configuration 4-8-2+2-8-4 (Double Mountain)
Driver 3rd & 6th coupled axles
Gauge 3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm) Cape gauge
Leading dia. 28 12 in (724 mm)
Coupled dia. 48 in (1,219 mm)
Trailing dia. 34 in (864 mm)
Minimum curve 275 ft (84 m)
Wheelbase 80 ft 10 in (24,638 mm)
 • Engine 28 ft 4 in (8,636 mm) each
 • Leading 6 ft 4 in (1,930 mm) each
 • Coupled 13 ft 4 12 in (4,077 mm) each
Pivot centres 37 ft 9 in (11,506 mm)
 • Over couplers 88 ft 5 in (26,949 mm)
Height 13 ft (3,962 mm)
Frame type Bar
Axle load ♠ 15 LT (15,240 kg)
15 LT (15,240 kg)
 • Leading ♠ 22 LT 7 cwt (22,710 kg) front
22 LT 7 cwt (22,710 kg) rear
22 LT 7 cwt (22,710 kg) front
20 LT 10 cwt (20,830 kg) rear
 • 1st coupled ♠ 14 LT (14,220 kg)
13 LT 6 cwt (13,510 kg)
 • 2nd coupled ♠ 15 LT (15,240 kg)
14 LT 7 cwt (14,580 kg)
 • 3rd coupled ♠ 15 LT (15,240 kg)
15 LT (15,240 kg)
 • 4th coupled ♠ 14 LT (14,220 kg)
13 LT 7 cwt (13,560 kg)
 • 5th coupled ♠ 14 LT (14,220 kg)
13 LT 6 cwt (13,510 kg)
 • 6th coupled ♠ 15 LT (15,240 kg)
14 LT 19 cwt (15,190 kg)
 • 7th coupled ♠ 15 LT (15,240 kg)
14 LT 16 cwt (15,040 kg)
 • 8th coupled ♠ 14 LT (14,220 kg)
13 LT 15 cwt (13,970 kg)
 • Trailing ♠ 13 LT 3 cwt (13,360 kg) front
18 LT 8 cwt (18,700 kg) rear
13 LT 3 cwt (13,360 kg) front
13 LT 2 cwt (13,310 kg) rear
Adhesive weight ♠ 116 LT (117,900 kg)
112 LT 16 cwt (114,600 kg)
Loco weight ♠ 187 LT (190,000 kg)
183 LT 18 cwt (186,900 kg)
Fuel type Coal
Fuel capacity 10 LT (10.2 t)
Water cap 3,800 imp gal (17,300 l) front
1,800 imp gal (8,180 l) rear
Firebox type Round-top
 • Firegrate area 51.3 sq ft (4.77 m2)
 • Pitch 8 ft 6 in (2,591 mm)
 • Diameter 6 ft 9 in (2,057 mm)
 • Tube plates 11 ft 8 58 in (3,572 mm)
 • Small tubes 282: 2 in (51 mm)
 • Large tubes 36: 5 12 in (140 mm)
Boiler pressure 200 psi (1,379 kPa)
Safety valve Pop
Heating surface 2,540 sq ft (236 m2)
 • Tubes 2,328 sq ft (216.3 m2)
 • Arch tubes 27 sq ft (2.5 m2)
 • Firebox 185 sq ft (17.2 m2)
 • Heating area 470 sq ft (44 m2)
Cylinders Four
Cylinder size 18 12 in (470 mm) bore
26 in (660 mm) stroke
Valve gear Walschaerts
Valve type Piston
Valve travel 6 12 in (165 mm)
Couplers AAR knuckle
Performance figures
Tractive effort 55,620 lbf (247.4 kN) @ 75%
Operators South African Railways
Class Class GEA
Number in class 50
Numbers 4001-4050
Delivered 1946-1947
First run 1946
Withdrawn 1976

The South African Railways Class GEA 4-8-2+2-8-4 of 1946 was an articulated steam locomotive.

During 1946 and 1947, the South African Railways placed fifty Class GEA Garratt articulated steam locomotives with a 4-8-2+2-8-4 Double Mountain type wheel arrangement in service.[1][2][3]


The Class GEA 4-8-2+2-8-4 Double Mountain type Garratt locomotive was the first new post-Second World War locomotive class to be introduced on the South African Railways (SAR). It was designed by Dr. M.M. Loubser, Chief Mechanical Engineer (CME) of the SAR from 1939 to 1949, and although it was a development of the Class GE 2-8-2+2-8-2 locomotive, it bore little resemblance to the older locomotive.[1][2][3]

Dr. M.M. Loubser

It had a boiler which was designed to be inter­change­able with that of the earlier Garratt model regarding external dimensions, but it had a bar frame and a round-topped firebox instead of the plate frame and Belpaire firebox of the earlier locomotive. The Class GEA was the first South African Garratt to have streamlined water tanks and coal bunkers, and its engine units were radically different from those of the Class GE, with an expanded wheel arrangement in the form of a leading four-wheeled bogie instead of a two-wheeled Bissel truck.[1][2][3][4]

An order for fifty locomotives was placed with Beyer, Peacock and Company in 1945, the largest single Garratt order ever placed with them. When they were delivered during 1946 and 1947, they were erected at the Uitenhage shops and numbered in the range from 4001 to 4050.[1][2][3][4][5]


The locomotives were superheated and had Walschaerts valve gear. They were the only post-war Garratts on the SAR to be without mechanical stokers and also one of the largest designs of Garratt to be manually stoked.[2][3][4]

Its round-topped firebox was fitted with eight flexible cross-stays at the front end. The inner firebox was of steel instead of copper and it had a hopper type ashpan, fitted with an efficient arrangement of drench pipes. The ashpan doors were steam-operated, with provision for hand operation when required. The finger bar fire grate was operated by two steam shaker cylinders and had two drop grates. The boiler pressure was 20 pounds per square inch (138 kilopascals) higher than that of the Class GE and it had a larger superheater area with 36 elements and incorporating a multiple valve regulator. The locomotive had a self-cleaning smokebox and was fitted with a spark arrestor.[2]

Class GEA 4027 (4-8-2+2-8-4) ID a.jpg

Instead of plate frames, it was built on bar frames of 4 inches (102 millimetres) thick rolled steel bar with a tensile strength of 32 to 38 long tons per square inch (5 to 6 tonnes per square centimetre). The pivots were of the adjustable type and were oil lubricated. The wheel arrangement was extended from a 2-8-2+2-8-2 Double Mikado to a 4-8-2+2-8-4 Double Mountain configuration, which permitted increased coal and water capacities. It had 2 inches (51 millimetres) larger diameter coupled wheels, all flanged. The locomotive was designed to negotiate a minimum curve of 275 feet (84 metres) radius, with 4 12 inches (114 millimetres) superelevation and gauge widening not exceeding 34 inch (19 millimetres).[2]

The outer bogies had two-pin swing links and laminated side control springs which provided for a total side-play of 7 inches (178 millimetres). The outer pairs of bogie wheels were arranged with tyre flange watering gear. The inner bissel trucks were of the radial-arm type, with helical spring side control and a total side-play of 4 inches (102 millimetres). The bogies and bissels both had Timken roller bearing axle boxes. The front engine unit had two 21 inches (533 millimetres) diameter vacuum brake cylinders, while the hind engine units were provided with steam and hand brakes.[2]

The cab arrangement was made especially convenient for the crew. The double roof was lined with teak, while side louvre ventilators with roller slides were fitted. The cab front and sides had ventilating doors. Sliding louvres in the cab sides provided adequate weather protection, while the lookout had hinged adjustable glass windscreens. The cab was completely enclosed, with sliding side doors, while the crew had upholstered hinged seats with armrests.[2]


Soon after they entered service, the front tanks of some of the locomotives were modified. While the tank capacity apparently remained the same, the all-up weight of the modified locomotives and their adhesive weight were 4 long tons (4,064 kilograms) less and their individual axle loads were different, although their maximum axle loads remained at 15 long tons (15,240 kilograms).[6]

Two locomotives, numbers 4036 and 4049, were modified in 1952 by having their coal capacity increased by means of extensions to the upper sides of their coal bunkers. Photographs show that more locomotives were later similarly modified. It does not appear as if these locomotives were ever officially reclassified to identify them as mainline locomotives, although they are referred to as Class GEAM in an annotation in the South African Railways and Harbours Locomotive Diagram Book. The post-modification coal capacity is not specified in the documentation.[1][4][6]

In the 1970s, no. 4009 was used as an experimental spark-arresting locomotive, nicknamed Renoster.[4]


South African Railways[edit]

Class GEA 4023 (4-8-2+2-8-4) IDL.JPG

The locomotives were designed for goods traffic on light 60 pounds per yard (30 kilograms per metre) rail on branchlines. Some teething troubles were experienced when they were first placed in service, but these were solved and they proved themselves as fine performers. They started their service lives working goods traffic on the lines from Johannesburg to Zeerust in the Western Transvaal.[1][2][3]

In the Cape Province, they worked from Voorbaai to Oudtshoorn across the Montagu Pass and, in the opposite direction, to Riversdale. Some were later transferred to Natal to work on the North Coast line, based at Stanger and Empangeni, and on the Eshowe and Nkwalini branches. They also worked on the Franklin branch and the Overberg line from Cape Town across Sir Lowry's Pass to Caledon. The Class GEA was withdrawn from service by 1976.[1][2][3][4]

Royal visit, 1947[edit]

Princesses Margaret and Elizabeth on the footplate of no. 4024

During 1947, King George VI, accompanied by Queen Elizabeth and the Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret, visited the British territories in Southern Africa. The Royal Visit began in South Africa in February. Transport during the Royal Visit was aboard the Royal Train of the SAR, most of which later became the White Train, for use by the Governor General of South Africa during the remaining years of the Union era and, until the mid-1970s, by the State President in the Republican era. During the Royal Visit, only selected British-built locomotives were used as motive power for the Royal Train. One of these was Class GEA no. 4024.


Six Class GEA locomotives were sold into industrial service.[4]

  • No. 4003 went to Dunns Locomotive Works in the Witbank area.
  • No. 4020 went to Dunns Locomotive Works and was initially used at Enyati Colliery and later at Vryheid Coronation Colliery.
  • No. 4023 went to Vryheid Coronation Colliery as no. 6.
  • No. 4024 went to Dunns Locomotive Works, for hire in the Witbank area.
  • No. 4027 went to Dunns Locomotive Works for use at Enyati Colliery.
  • No. 4031 went to Vryheid Coronation Colliery as no. 5.


Three locomotives are known to have survived. No. 4003 was stored by the Transnet Heritage Foundation at Witbank and no. 4022 Millsite. No. 4023 is on display at the Outeniqua Transport Museum in George.



  1. ^ a b c d e f g Holland, D.F. (1972). Steam Locomotives of the South African Railways, Volume 2: 1910-1955 (1st ed.). Newton Abbott, Devon: David & Charles. pp. 103–105. ISBN 978-0-7153-5427-8. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Espitalier, T.J.; Day, W.A.J. (1947). The Locomotive in South Africa - A Brief History of Railway Development. Chapter VII - South African Railways (Continued). South African Railways and Harbours Magazine, March 1947. pp. 231-232.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Paxton, Leith; Bourne, David (1985). Locomotives of the South African Railways (1st ed.). Cape Town: Struik. pp. 91–92. ISBN 0869772112. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Durrant, A E (1989). Twilight of South African Steam (1st ed.). Newton Abbott, London: David & Charles. pp. 39, 112. ISBN 0715386387. 
  5. ^ Hamilton, Gavin N., The Garratt Locomotive - Garratt Locomotives produced by Beyer, Peacock, retrieved 10 November 2012 
  6. ^ a b South African Railways & Harbours/Suid Afrikaanse Spoorweë en Hawens (15 Aug 1941). Locomotive Diagram Book/Lokomotiefdiagramboek, 2'0" & 3'6" Gauge/Spoorwydte, Steam Locomotives/Stoomlokomotiewe. SAR/SAS Mechanical Department/Werktuigkundige Dept. Drawing Office/Tekenkantoor, Pretoria. pp. VIII, 34.