The final locomotive of the 50 “as-new” class 39-200 series has rolled off the production line floor. The partnership between Transnet Rail Engineering (TRE) and Electromotive Diesel (EMD) of the USA completed all fifty units in only 12 months. This is a tremendous feat as TRE has not built a complete new locomotive in over 20 years.
The objective was to provide a quick solution for injecting new blood into an ageing fleet. The locos are to be used in the Mpumalanga area and on the north-south link through Swaziland to Richards Bay. At a “closing-of-the-line” ceremony on 12 March, TRE chief executive Richard Vallihu said that 40 Class 39 locomotives are already operating between Komatipoort and Richards Bay, hauling phosphate and magnetite.
The 39-200 series boasts many technical improvements over the existing class 37. The most impressive part of the whole project however was – as Vallihu puts it – “Building the class 39-200 has catapulted TRE’s capabilities and capacity far beyond that which we imagined.” He goes on: “With the transfer of skills and technology, our competencies have been elevated and continually sharpened. Our modernised facilities and methods of operating are up there with the world’s best – thanks to our solid partnership with EMD.”
Loco 39 203 took a record four months to build – and this included the laying out of the factory during this time. “At the peak of production you produced ten locomotives in a single month, I’d say that, at that rate, it probably puts the factory in the top ten of any factory anywhere in the world,” EMD President John Hamilton told the people of TRE.
In his address at the ceremony, Transnet acting group chief executive Chris Wells said: “We have this vision of TRE being a centre of excellence of locomotives – just as it is for wagons and just as it is for coaches. We have a vision of this being the first in a long line in the production of locomotives, hopefully satisfying all Transnet’s future needs, and we have visions beyond that – of being a supplier of locomotives into Africa.”