The 150th Anniversary of the First Railway and the 10th Anniversary of the RailRoad Association of South Africa By Allen A Jorgensen
16:49 in Magazine - article by stationmaster
Chris van Rensburg Publications (Pty) Ltd
R470.90, postage & high-quality packing included
The 150th anniversary of railways in South Africa deserved rather more ceremony than it enjoyed, but there was formidable competition – it fell in the middle of 2010, coinciding with the Soccer World Cup. Allen Jorgensen’s impressive chronicle goes a long way towards making up for this. The year 2010 also marked the tenth anniversary of the RailRoad Association of South Africa, an organisation that promotes a meaningful return of freight from road to rail.
It isn’t possible, of course, to cover every detail of 150 years’ event-filled history in 244 pages. A railway as colourful as that in South Africa, with so many notable achievements to boast about, needs more – much more – than a single book to do it justice. But Allen has made a great job of it, his very comprehensive text enlivened by more than a thousand photos, some seen before but many unfamiliar, painstakingly sought out in the archives, dusted off and enhanced. The layout and printing, in A4 hard-cover format, is superb, complementing the thoroughness of the content. Look out for David Hall-Green’s paintings for Rovos Rail.
The story builds from the early days to the turn of the 20th century,
trains during the Anglo-Boer War, Rhodes’ dream of the line reaching Cairo and successive locomotive superintendents designing locomotives that were truly “world-class”. These included the very first 4-8-2 engines seen anywhere. In the early twenties, comparative tests resulted in South Africa abandoning the articulated Mallets for the Garratt principle, successful examples of which were among the most powerful steam engines on the planet, never mind the 1,067mm gauge. Three decades later, the legendary class 25 condensing engines solved the unending problem of water scarcity in the Karoo.
Rail-related events during the hundred years to 2011 were remarkable. Electrification came comparatively early, on the main-line to Durban from 1925 at 3kV DC and from Cape Town to its suburbs at 1.5kV DC from 1927. The Sishen-Saldanha line followed at 50kV AC in 1978, then Beaufort West-De Aar-Port Elizabeth in 1984 at the new standard – 25kV AC. These developments resulted in the acquisition of dual-voltage locomotives, the classes 14E (1990, 5,470hp) and 19E (2009, 4,000hp). The latest class 15E (50kV AC, 6,000hp) are the most powerful locos in South Africa.
Progress in recent times is concisely recorded, with many key achievements highlighted – the 245km/h high-speed tests, heavy-haul ore and coal lines, impressive concrete viaducts and other feats of civil engineering including the 13km Hexton tunnel, 4km-long trains with remotely-controlled distributed power – all on the supposedly restrictive “Cape” gauge. The opening of the showpiece standard-gauge Gautrain system in June 2010 was a fitting milestone to mark South Africa’s 150th railway year.
An informative section at the end of the book, contributed by leading players in South Africa’s rail industry, brings the story up to the present with many topical photos – and it takes the page-count to more than 350. Which means you get your money’s worth – and then some.