12 April 2009

Graaff Reinet, Railway Station - SAR Class 6 No 429

This 4-6-0 locomotive is SAR Class 6 engine no 429 built in 1893 as works no 3097 by Dübs and Co (later part of NBL), Glasgow, Scotland.

Dübs and Co Henry Dübs came to Glasgow from Beyer Peacock to be works manager for Walter Neilson at the Springburn Hyde Park Works. However, the two men had major disagreements over the operation of the works, as a result of which Dübs left in 1863 and founded his own, very successful locomotive works at Queen's Park on the south side of Glasgow.

picture source.

This SAR Class 6 engine no 429, originally built for the Cape Government Railway CGR), and later absorbed into the South African Railways stock, was constructed at the Queen's Park works of Dübs & Co as no 3097 at the Glasgow Locomotive Works, in 1893, as the works plate shows. The distinctive diamond-shaped works plate is believed to have derived from the mark on the bricks used for building the factory at Queen's Park.

July 1978: Photo by David Werbeloff. Note the signboard which was likely to have referred to the road service to Murraysburg about 100km west of Graaff-Reinet.

July 1978: Photo courtesy of David Werbeloff. In April 2011 David noted: "I climbed up to the top of the cab of #429 on Graaff-Reinet station platform. It's interesting because it shows an active station with a goods train at the platform, and an RMS bus in the background, probably going to Murraysburg." [Click on image to view the detail better - Piet]

Henry Dübs died in 1876. The company was afterwards managed by William Lorimer, although the Dübs family retained partnerships in it. In 1903 Dübs & Co combined with Sharp, Stewart and Neilson, Reid to form the North British Locomotive Company. The Queen's Park Works, however, continued to be known locally as "Dübses" for long after amalgamation had taken place.

Nov 1979: Graaff-Reinet Station platform - Dübs 3097-1893 SAR Class 6 No 429. photo (c) HG Graser, Hersbruck as published in Steam Safari Nov. 1979: part 4 (German text)

Initially the locomotive was plinthed on the platform of the Graaff-Reinet railway station as shown by previous two pictures.

We visited Graaff-Reinet on the 4th September 2005 and the photo's following were taken then.

The history of these cocopans becomes evident when one studies the following two photos of the coaling stage taken by H.G. Graser in Nov 1979.

The coaling stage at Graaff-Reinet station. photo (c) HG Graser, Hersbruck as published in Steam Safari Nov. 1979: part 4 (German text)

The coaling stage at Graaff-Reinet station. David Werbeloff wrote: I don't have a photograph of the coaling stage at G-R, but I vaguely remember that there was a similar system at Rosmead: The locomotive tender would be parked beneath the coaling stage, and the coal was dumped from the cocopans into the tender, powered, of course, by hardworking black gentlemen. Photo (c) HG Graser, Hersbruck as published in Steam Safari Nov. 1979: part 4 (German text)

In 2001 the line to Graaff Reinet was also closed and therefor the station fell into disuse. It was a very positive move to re-plinth the old engine on the East side of College Road (when taking the N9 to the South).

In this position engine no 429, built in 1893, may serve as another of Graaff-Reinet's many tourist attractions.

The locomotive is protected from vandalism behind a fairly high fence, which unfortunately, is the proper thing to do these days.

Seems the old lady suffered a bump in the side (dent on the boiler)

Wonderful what a coat of fresh paint can do in the way of cosmetic restoration.

SAR Class 6 engine no 429.

Rust holes are visible on the back of the tender.

This July 2010 photo by Andre Guelpa shows the latest condition of this proud town guard.

Entering Graaff-Reinet station from the north-side. photo (c) HG Graser, Hersbruck as published in Steam Safari Nov. 1979: part 4 (German text)

The locomotive shed in Graaff-Reinet. photo (c) HG Graser, Hersbruck as published in Steam Safari Nov. 1979: part 4 (German text)

SAR Class 6 series locomotives are plinthed around South Africa as follows:

A brief history of the famous SAR Class 6 series as set out in Leith Paxton ans David Bourne's Locomotives of the South African Railways - Struik - 1985.

CLASS 6. 6A, GB, 6C, 6D, 6E, 6F, 6G, 6J, 6K, 6L.


Originally designed by locomotive superintendent Michael Stephens for fast passenger service on the Cape Government Railways (CGR), successive orders for the 6th class were placed with both British and American builders between 1893 and 1904 for use on the CGR and Orange Freestate Government Railways (OVGS). For convenience, the following descriptions are distinguished between the plate and bar-framed engines and are examined in date order.

The first order for 40 engines was delivered from Dübs and Co in 1893 and became the SAR Class 6. They were an enlargement of the CGR Class 5 (SAR Class 05) with Stephenson's link motion but with 'D' valves positioned above the now horizontal cylinders. They were placed in service on both the Western and Midlands system.

A further order for 50 locomotives was received from Dübs and Co and Sharp, Stewart and Co between 1895 and 1897. These engines had larger boilers than the first order and were classified SAR Class 6A on the SAR and distributed throughout the Cape colony.

A third order was placed with Neilson, Reid and Co for 54 engines which were delivered between 1897 and 1898 and again shared throughout the colony. Classified SAR Class 6B, they were almost identical to the 6A except they were provided with an eight-wheeled bogie tender.

The 33 engines delivered by Neilson, Reid and Co in 1898 were again similar to their predecessors but were fitted with six-wheeled tenders and became SAR Class 6D.

The last plate-framed 6th-class locomotives built for the CGR were 21 supplied by Neilson, Reid and Co in 1901. Their boilers were again enlarged and were fitted with H.M. Beatty's large cab. They became the SAR Class 6H.

Besides the CGR, the OVGS also bought and operated engines of this type. The first of these were 15 locomotives delivered in 1896 by Dübs and Co, Neilson, Reid and Co, and Sharp, Stewart and Co. After the Anglo-Boer War they were operated by the Central South African Railways (CSAR) where they became the 6L-2 type until they were classified SAR Class 6C.

A further six engines for the OVGS were delivered in 1898 by Sharp, Stewart and Co. Mechanically similar to their earlier engines but with a large cab and a bogie tender, they became type 6L-3 on the CSAR and classified SAR Class 6E on the SAR.

While under CSAR administration several of the Class 6L-2s were fitted by P.A. Hyde with a larger Belpaire boiler and a larger, more sheltered cab. This conversion improved their performance tremendously. Subsequently the SAR rebuilt many of the Class 6, 6A, and 6B in this way, without alteration to their classification.

During the 1930s AG. Watson further displayed his aversion to Belpaire boilers when he reboilered many of this type with round-topped fireboxes but retained the large cab, again without a change of classification.

These little engines had a long and illustrious career on the SAR. As they were displaced from main-line work they were assigned other less glamorous tasks. Most notable was the performance they set up on the Cape and Reef suburban traffic during the 1920s. During World War II, 16 of the classes 6 to 6D were sold to the Sudan to assist with the war effort. While the last 30 years of service was spent mainly on the shunt throughout the country, except Natal, they were used occasionally as late as 1960 to assist with branch-line work. The last of these engines were withdrawn in 1973.

The first bar-framed CGR 6th class was delivered in 1900. These consisted of two locomotives built by Sharp, Stewart and Co and were placed in service on the Cape main line, later to become the SAR Class 6F, but were withdrawn by 1929.

The next two orders were placed with American companies, the first for eight engines was delivered in 1901 by the American Locomotive Co and placed in service on the De Aar-Kimberley section. They had larger boilers and were more powerful than the previous 6 classes and became SAR Class 6G. The last engine of this type was withdrawn from service in East London in 1961.

In the same year, ten locomotives were delivered from Baldwin. They were similar in dimension to the Class 6G but were classified SAR Class 6K by the SAR. They worked on the East London main line and were withdrawn by 1928.

The most successful bar-framed 6th class were the 14 locomotives supplied in 1902 by Neilson, Reid and Co. Used initially on the Cape main line, they became the SAR Class 6J on the SAR. The last engine of this type was withdrawn from service in Bethlehem in 1972.

The final order for CGRs 6th-class locomotives included certain experimental improvements. For the first time in South Africa an engine was superheated and provided with piston valves. Whereas in later designs the superheater elements were passed down the boiler flues, the arrangement on these engines confined the elements to the smokebox. The two engines, to become SAR Class 6L, were delivered by Neilson, Reid and Co in 1904. The superheaters were not successful and in 1915 these engines were reboilered and reverted to using saturated steam.

Again they were confined to the Cape main line and were finally withdrawn by 1939.

From the Past: When this engine 429 was still in steam in 1965:

photo: Leith Paxton : Class 6 4-6-0 [ex Cape Government Railways 6th class] - No. 429 [Dubs 3097/1893 - ex CGR 353 / later 553] rebuilt - at Sydenham Loco Depot (Port Elizabeth) 13 November 1965

Specifications for SAR Class 6 may be found here.

Map directions to the Locomotive - it is on the left side of the street (Kollege Rd) on the N9 as you drive out of Graaff Reinet to the South (Aberdeen)

click on picture to enlarge for street names

  • Leith Paxton ans David Bourne's Locomotives of the South African Railways - Struik - 1985.
  • Railways of Southern Africa - Locomotive Guide 2002 - John Middleton
  • Angela Gawthrop's webpage on Dübs and Co.


  1. Line to Graaff Reinet now revived, apparently - but north over the pass as well?

  2. Line to Graaff Reinet now revived, apparently - but north over the pass as well?