The first of Spoornet’s new class 39 GM diesel-electric locomotives has been placed in service at Lydenburg, following extensive testing and crew training at the Sentrarand complex between Pretoria and Johannesburg. It is to work in conjunction with class 37 units on the punishing, heavily graded branch that runs north from Belfast (on the main-line to Maputo) to Steelpoort. The intention is to identify and rectify any teething difficulties that may eventuate before Transwerk at Bloemfontein puts further class 39s into production.The class 39, a radical rebuild of a GM (EMD) class 34, features microprocessor control. It produces 26% more maximum continuous tractive effort and 15% more tractive horse-power. Converting the D29 traction motors to 500HP D31 benefits South African industry as conversions can be undertaken locally. Since tractive effort is a measure of a locomotive’s revenue generating potential, the earning capacity of the class 39 will also exceed that of the 34 by 26%. A Knorr-Bremse electronic brake rack (EBR) replaces the old pneumatic braking controls and provision has been made to convert to ECP/DP in the future.Features to improve the driver’s lot include:

  • Ergonomically designed cab and nosepiece.
  • Much more accessible controls
  • Toilet cubicle with wash basin
  • 50 litre refrigerator
  • Air conditioner
  • Microwave oven and hotplate
  • 12V cell phone charger plug
  • Multi position seats
  • Bigger windscreens with electric wipers
  • Insulation and noise attenuation cladding

It is intended to upgrade both 34 and 37 classes to 39.

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