12 April 2009

Fauresmith Municipality SAR Class 8BW No.1153

Fauresmith has a main street railway line
(..... but unfortunately without trains now.)

The branch line from Springfontein was opened up to Fauresmith on 1 February 1905. A further 54km extention to Koffiefontein was opened on 13 May 1915. The line saw steam classes 7, 8, 19D and 24 in service, until it was dieselised on 14 July 1982. The line was closed in 2001, and was used for some time to store derelict railway stock.

Here are some historical images, courtesy of the photographer ROGER GRIFFITHS, of a train running through Fauresmith way back on 13th October 1976.

In November 1978, Russ Cribb, his dad, and some other steam train enthusiasts, visited Fauresmith with the intention to make some movies of the steam train through the town's main street. This is his recollection:

"Another once in a lifetime experience never to be repeated... a footplate ride through the whole length of Fauresmith in South Africa, on a class 19D. This film has been spliced together from my standard 8 cine and my late fathers super 8 cine film taken in Nov 1978, you can hear the difference on the projector sprockets between the two types. The first train we see was the day before the footplate ride as we see the train disappear around onto the high street. My friend Andrew and myself travelled on the 19D swapping sides along the way, sadly I never seemed to be on the side dad was filming although a slight glimpse at one point I can be seen. The Yellow VW combi keeping the other three members ahead of the train and collected us half a mile out of the other end of town at the track crossing. It wasn’t until later that day I noticed a dusty thumbprint on the standard lens, bit of a gutter when I got the films back from processing a month later! Right at the end is a little motorised Dilly workers unit with two low trucks coming through following the train half an hour behind."

Here is the video spliced together by Russ Cribb, the link here by his kind permission:

Russ Cribb further notes about the video above:   "The first shot was the day before the footplate ride, in fact I think it just happened to be there when we arrived before checking in to the hotel. Nothing was planned for special locos so just a film of everyday operations through the town, which I think is really nice. It’s all well and good having the later planned railtours with photo stops and run pasts, but that’s not what it was all about, it was really happening with real freight , passengers and locals milling about in the road. All throughout our films there’s the little yellow VW combi van that keeps on making an appearance, we certainly put it through its paces over some extreme dirt and dried riverbed roads and tracks haha, but it never let us down. 3000 miles we did by road, never got to cape town as ran out of days to get back and do the planned visits. I think it was the two days on the Estcourt Weenen that took out Cape Town, but the opportunity for all of us to have a footplate ride over virtually the whole length of the line was too much of a must do. Billy Bester couldn’t let us be on the footplate departing or arriving at both ends of the line, he would have been in big trouble with the station masters 😂 but at the first station or crossing away and out of sight we joined him and his fireman on the footplate."

"I had only had my cine two weeks before we left UK with just enough time to put one roll of film through to make sure it worked ok. The annoying smudge got on the lens of mine as I got on the footplate at Fauresmith and didn’t notice it was there until that night and our next stop, upset at the time but now just so glad I had the opportunity . Great memories!"

Already in 1970, the town via the idea of the Mayor Dr. Benja van Zyl, requested a locomotive for the town. The response was positive, but it would cost the town council R1000 to move a locomotive from Port Elizabeth to Fauresmith - the town just could not afford this sum.

In 1975 a follow-up representation was made to the SAR, which then brought locomotive No. 1153 to Fauresmith on the SAR's expense - on one condition - the locomotive had to be plinthed at the railway station. Before it could be plinthed at the station, the locomotive occupied a side line in the station, and this caused much inconvenience when shunting was in progress in the station.

By good coincidence, Fauresmith's main street was being tarred, and part of the works was that a temporary rail track had been laid in the main street while the main rail track in the middle of the street was being strengthened. Someone then struck a bulb moment, and the locomotive causing disruption in the station, was moved via the temporary track to its present position in the centre of town!

We visited Fauresmith for the 1st time on 13 September 2005. One of our intentions was to visit the locomotive plinthed in the main street.

Fauresmith Municipality SAR Class 8BW No.1153.
Wheel type: 4-8-0

In 2004, after 29 years on the plinth, the locomotive got it's first re-paint - bringing its condition back to the appearance in the image above. The Fauresmith Action Group - more specific their publicity section - initiated this project, and with the help of Correctional Services, a team supervised by mr Beric Webster, worked 4 days to restore and repaint the locomotive. The work included quite a bit of repairs to the body work.

Fauresmith was once very special as the train ran down the town's main street.

The Railway line running along the main street of Fauresmith, is said to be a phenomenon which is found only in two other towns worldwide, namely Tula Homa, Tennessee, USA and in Wycheproof, Victoria, Australia.

Unfortunately this branch line between Springfontein and Koffiefontein has been closed down.

After long negotiations with the South African Railways by the old Town Council, they finally agreed to donate a steam locomotive to Fauresmith.

After it had been mounted on its current location, it took one last trip down the main street, although it wasn't on own steam! At that time the district's schools participated in the "Snyman Cup", a rugby competition. Mr. Moos Visser promised the Werda team that he would fulfill their wish of 'taking a train trip' if they won. The Werda team defeated the Philippolis team in the final, and Mr. Visser then pulled the train off its tracks with his truck.

Needless to say, it took a big effort to get it back on its tracks! Due to some creative welding, history cannot repeat itself. (See picture above)

This plate shows the locomotive as belonging to SAR Class "8B". Technically it is grouped with Class "8BW" - the "W" indicating that a modification was made to the locomotive during A.G. Watson's term as chief mechanical engineer. Many of the classes 8 - 8F were fitted with superheated boilers and either inside or outside admission piston valves. The classification of the inside admission engines was indicated with the suffix "W", while the outside admission engines retained their old classification.

This SAR Class 8BW locomotive #1153 was originally built in 1903 by North British Locomotive Co as works no 15794, when 60 locomotives were ordered by the Central South African Railways (CSAR).

The Class 8 engines were regarded as fine locomotives, and saw service on every system of the SAR, becoming the mainstay on many branch lines in the 1920s. Presumably they then also worked on the branch line going through Fauresmith.

photo: Elna Conradie

The Class 8 locomotives ended their days on shunting services until 1972 when all were withdrawn. The last steam locomotives to work on the Springfontein-Fauresmith-Koffiefontein branch were 19D's.

Judging from the engine number, this postcard was made between the years 1902 and 1910; it shows 4-8-0 engine no. 402 going down Main Street, Fauresmith. No. 402 belonged to the 8th Class in the Central South African Railways (CSAR), and was ordered in 1901 during the Anglo-Boer War by the Imperial Military Railways from Neilson, Reid & Co which in 1902 supplied Nos 401 to 420 as their works numbers 6176-6195. In 1910, under the newly formed SAR railway administration, no. 402 was renumbered to SAR engine no. 1070. This particular locomotive did not survive to the present, but today, a similar class 8(BW) locomotive no 1135 is plinthed in Main Street.

This photo was taken in May 2006 by Nick van der Leek while attending a cycling event in the area.

Once a year, the Fauresmith Action Group (FAG) has their fund raising event here right next to the locomotive with their Tussen-die-spore-ete ("Between the tracks meal") - in 2012 this happened on May 12th. At the time the newspaper VOLKSBLAD reported that FAG has identified the locomotive as now needing its next repaint job. FAG strives to maintain a clean well-kept town and recently it was party to the restoration of the lovely town hall building.

Unknown Photgrapher, published in "Pictorial Review - South African Transport Services" (undated - 1982?)

Children's Artwork

This looks much better without all the lampposts and overhead wires of the real world.

unknown wheel configuration!

Some historical pictures & notes

In November 1980 Roger Siviter wrote about the Springfontein-Fauresmith-Koffiefontein branch in his book "Focus On South African STEAM" published in 1981 by David & Charles (Publishers) Ltd.: There are two or three branch lines in the Orange Free State still worked by steam, but probably the most interesting is this line of approximately 90 miles (145 km), worked by Class 19D locomotives. There is a mixed train at 09.40 (not Suns.) and a goods on weekdays only between Fauresmith and Springfontein. One of the attractions of this line is the town of Fauresmith, where on leaving for Springfontein, the train faces a steep climb through the main street, moving so slowly that you could almost follow it on foot. At the top of the main street, is a preserved Class 8B 4-8-0 on a traffic island.

May 1968. Photo: © CP Lewis photo as posted to sar-L group.

03-08-1979 Photo © Roger Siviter. Caption: Class 19D No 2769 darkens the sky as it climbs through the main street of Fauresmith with a Koffiefontein to Springfontein train on (the morning of) 3 August 1979.

Fauresmith "Traffic Stopper" - photo © David Hill

David Hill took this picture and posted to flickr - his comments: "The railroad runs through the middle of the town - at least it did in 1976. This was the daily scene in Fauresmith, Free State, South Africa as the pick-up goods takes over the main street of the sleepy country town. Possibly a class 19D - I'm not big on engine classes." © David Hill. (as posted on flickr)

"Street Running" another 1976 fine image by © David Hill. Fauresmith in the Free State was probably the only town in South Africa to have a railway running up the main street. Here, the daily pick-up goods makes it's way through; the black pall of smoke casting a shadow over the fine Standard Bank building. This photo taken in 1976 from the cab of a plinthed loco. Nikon F. Kodak TRI-X. © David Hill. (as posted on flickr)

"View From From The Sidewalk" - The daily freight train steams down the main street in Fauresmith, South Africa, back in 1976. In the background is a plinthed loco which a gave good photographic vantage point (see earlier posting). Ektachrome scan. 1976. © David Hill. (as posted on flickr)

Going down in Main Street - Photographer unknown: Comments with picture: "Chasing 19D 2649 Richard and John in GTE Fauresmith 05-92" (could this refer to May 1992?). The locomotive carries the name "ANNA". The locomotive is going down the main street towards Koffiefontein.

The train then turned around at Jagersfontein and again came back through Fauresmith main street.

(c) R S Maidment Wilson - this image 1st posted to sar_L group.

(c) R S Maidment Wilson - this image 1st posted to sar_L group.

(c) R S Maidment Wilson - this image 1st posted to sar_L group.

(c) David Benn posted this photo to RailPictures.Net. The picture shows Class 24 No 3635 during a photo charter on 22 June 1996. David noted: Fauresmith is the only town in South Africa where the railway runs down the middle of the main street. Regular steam had ended some years before this picture was taken, but the cars, coincidentally were in period!

pre-1983 photo © William Smith. Going up in Main Street - past the plinthed Class 8B which is visible as a dark silhouette just right of the train's end.

Photographer: William Smith. This pre-1983 photo was published in "The Spirit of Steam" [AW Smith/DE Bourne] by Struik in 1983. The picture was commented thus: "Once a church centre, Fauresmith in the south western Free State, was named jointly after the Rev. Philip Faure and Sir Harry Smith, Governor of the Cape. The railway runs up the middle of the main street, giving the town the air of the American frontier. Fortunately, rail traffic is light - two mixed trains a day in each direction, usually hauled by a 19D such as this - their only victim, a brown rooster.

Photo: © CP Lewis photo as posted to sar-L group. Class 24 No. 3635 was heading this train.

Photo: © CP Lewis photo as posted to the sar-L group. This was probably the last steam drawn run through the town - a special organized for a Union Limited steam safari - the mixed train here was drawn by class 24 No. 3635.

Photographers doing their best to get the ultimate shot of a steam run up the main street. Fauresmith 1981 - Some people will do anything for the perfect shot commented Richard Niven - Jorgensen standing in the box on the chimney. John Middleton on left, and Peter Stow on the far right.

Unknown photographer: This is the kind of picture these photographers got!


  1. Anyone know what year the Fauresmith line was closed? Anyone else know if it is feasible to open this line again for tourism purposes? I know southern Free State is desperate for tourism assets and ideas.

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