South Africa

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In late May this year I was a participant on a steam hauled rail tour in South Africa.  Its primary purpose was to obtain action pictures of a variety of the surviving steam engines in as many different locations as possible.  Meticulous advance planning meant that the purpose was admirably achieved; several of the locations were spectacular in their own right, and with near perfect weather, we were active from dawn until sunset every day.

1.   The tour began in the wide open spaces of Gauteng.  Here our train is double headed by 12AR and 15F class locomotives, making plenty of smoke on an evening runpast.

2.   Perhaps the most scenic route was the eastern part of the secondary line from Bethlehem to Bloemfontein.  The exhaust of the class 25NC condenses in the cold air of a frosty morning near Slabberts.


3.   On the previous evening, the 25NC makes a silhouette as the sun goes down at Brandlaagte.


4.   Another favourite shot with steam photographers is the elusive ‘glint’, best in the light immediately before sunset as the setting rays are strongly reflected from the locomotive and train.  Here, in a landscape reminiscent of Arizona, the class 15F approaches the camera at Sekonyela.


5.   Further east and south, the Cape - Natal railway provided different, but equally spectacular settings.  Typical of the line east of Creighton are numerous sharp curves as the line gradually gains height amongst the hills.  The black exhaust of a GF class Beyer Garratt lingers over the curve as the train threads its way between the native dwellings.


6.   South west of Creighton, the line follows the route of the Umzimkulu river.  Locals watch as the GF makes a mountainous exhaust as it emerges from the river gorge on its way to Riverside.