12 April 2009

Touws River, Municipality - SAR Class 23 No 2556


The name plate on the plinthed locomotive celebrates the year of Touws River's centenary. When the railway line was completed to Matjiesfontein, the station where the line crossed the Touws River bed, was on 7 Nov. 1877, first named "Montagu Road", being the nearest railway station to the town of Montagu, but soon, on 1 Jan 1883, the station was renamed "Touws River". Apparently the first train to Matjiesfontein passed by Touws River on 20 Dec 1877.

This is a late 1970's colour slide taken of N0 2556 shortly after it was plinthed in Touws River in a municipal garden adjacent to the local High School and the Swimming Pool.
The following photos were taken on my visit to Touws River in August 2008.

The SAR Class 23 locomotive No 2556 plinthed in Touws River was works no 10742 built in 1938 by Berliner Maschinenbau AG. It has a 4-8-2 wheel arrangement, and the total length of the locomotive and tender is 87ft 2in. and the engine has a working order weight of 110 tons and the tender 104 tons. More Class 23 specifications are here. This Class was designed in 1938 as a general utility locomotive capable of operating on 80lb track.

Originally designed to have 5ft 6in-diameter wheels, they were finally fitted with 5ft 3in wheels to enable them to negotiate 300-ft radius curves. Even then the leading coupled wheels required a one-inch side-play. The centre line of the standard No 3B boiler is therefore lower and the chimney longer than the classes 15E abd 15F, which look similar.

A total of 136 Class 23 locomotives were supplied - 98 by Henschel & Sohn Gmbh, Kassel, Germany and 38 by Berliner Maschinenbau A.G., Berlin, Germany. The deteriorating political situation in Europe had led to all the locomotives being ordered before any had been received and tested. It had originally been intended to order only 20; however, the last of the class was placed in service in August 1939, less than a month before the outbreak of the war. The locomotive is fitted with
Walschaert's valve gear.

A 12-wheeled tender with 9 500-gallon capacity was fitted. This would enable the locomotive to operate more efficiently in the arid Karroo where the supply of water could be erratic. It had been planned to fit some of these engines with streamlined cladding but the additional cost and weight prevented this.

When they were placed in service over the Touws River-Beaufort West and De Aar-Klerksdorp sections, they formed the bulk of the motive power. With the simultaneous introduction of the classes 25 and 25NC, as well as the electrification of certain sections of the Cape main line, many of this class were transferred to Bloemfontein, as well as north to Kroonstad.

Eventually metal fatigue cracks appeared in their five-inch thick, rolled steelbar frames and the whole class was withdrawn in the 1970's. One locomotive, No 3300, was retained for hauling special trains, and was still operational by 2002.

Dec 2011 image courtesy Dylan Knott

At the end of 2011 Dylan Knott reported that the locomotive was given a new protective coat some months earlier - Well done for Touws River as a town with quite a bit of railway history.

Dec 2011 image courtesy Dylan Knott

Dec 2011 image courtesy Dylan Knott

In his book "Steam Locomotives of the South African Railways" vol 2 (1910-1955) - D.F. Holland offers the following information about the SAR Class 23. : "A new design of 4-8-2 locomotive was introduced by W. A. J. Day, which first went into service in 1938. The original design called for coupled wheels of 5ft 6in diameter, which would have meant a new design of boiler to accommodate the extra length. But because of the deterioration of the world situation, it became imperative to obtain these engines as quickly as possible. As there was not time to design a new boiler, the standard 3B was adopted, with the coupled wheel diameter reduced to 5ft 3in and an extra long smokebox to compensate for the increased length of the engine. As it happened, the last engine of this class to be delivered came out in August 1939, one month before the outbreak of World War II." "In general appearance and power these engines were very similar to the SAR Class 15E. To compensate for the increased wheel diameter, the boiler pressure was raised to 2251b/sq in, which was the highest yet used on the SAR. These engines were intended for working over the Karroo section where the water supplies were erratic and the water frequently bad, so very large tenders with a high water capacity were fitted. They were the largest tenders to have been used in the country up to that time and had a water capacity of 10,000 gallons. Owing to axle load restrictions, however, this was reduced to 9,200 gallons for the first order of twenty locomotives, and 9,500 for the second order of 116." "Four vacuum cylinders were employed, which operated clasp brakes on all tender wheels."

Photo Source:
nmsi - SAR Class 12 AR locomotive number 2127 on the coaling stage, with SAR Class 23 locomotive number 2566 below, at De Aar, South Africa, 1968. "These locomotives became the SAR Class 23, and were built by the Berliner Maschinenbau, and by Henschel & Sohn. The engines built by Berliner Maschinenbau were numbered SAR engines 2552-58, works numbers 10738-44, and the Henschel locomotives were SAR Nos 2559-71, works numbers 23742-54. Before they could be delivered, orders for a further 116 were placed with these two firms, and Henschel & Sohn built numbers SAR no's 3201-85, works numbers 24155-239, and Berliner Maschinenbau numbers SAR No's 3286-3330, works numbers 10985-99, 3301, works number 10816, and SAR no's 3302-16, works numbers 11001-15. The works number 11000 was reserved for a new 'Pacific'-type engine for the German State Railways. The class 23 were fine-looking engines, and the large tender enhanced their appearance." "At the time that these engines were ordered, streamlining of locomotives was in fashion in Europe and the United States, and it was proposed to adopt it on some of these new locomotives. On investigation, however, it was found that streamlining would increase the cost by R1,000 (500 British Pounds) per locomotive, and increase the weight by approximately two tons, so the idea was dropped. Unless very high speeds are contemplated, the value of streamlining is of little benefit and reduces accessibility of working parts."

  • Locomotives of the South African Railways published by Struik in 1985 - Authors: Leith Paxton & David Bourne
  • Railways of Southern Africa - Locomotive Guide 2002 - John Middleton
  • SESA Encyclopedia - Nasou Ltd - 1973
  • Steam Locomotives of the South African Railways vol 2 (1910-1955) - by D.F. Holland - Purnell 1972

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