12 July 2009

Krugersdorp - SANRASM, "Kitty" (National Monument)

23 October 2008 photo courtesy Franzois Oosthuizen

A mobile South African national monument, yes on wheels, is resting in the Museum railway yard at SANRASM, Krugersdorp. This Kitson locomotive was, in 1983, the oldest running steam engine in South Africa. She was doing so for more than 105 years! Kitson is on permanent loan from ESKOM to the South African National Railway And Steam Museum (SANRASM) in Krugersdorp. Unfortunately SANRASM seems to be unable to care for the monument in a way that the little workhorse deserves ...

2009 photo courtesy Derek Walker : To see what Kitty currently looks like, please visit Derek's "Kitty" page, where he photographically surveyed the once proud little engine.

In 2008, the RSSA made a R5000 cash donation, to SANRASM, towards the cosmetic restoration of the Kitson and Hunslet ex-ESKOM National Heritage Locomotives.

2009 photo courtesy Derek Walker - see Derek's "Kitty" page

She was built in 1879 by Kitson & Co, Leeds, England, as work's no 2269.

2009 photo courtesy Derek Walker - see Derek's "Kitty" page

Kitson 2269/1879

A Brief History of "Kitty"
This information on KITSON mostly comes from research material compiled by Mr. Rick Searle, a retired ESKOM employee, but Paxton & Bourne also fill in some of the gaps ...

This Kitson locomotive was, in 1983, the oldest running steam engine in South Africa. Built in Leeds, England, in 1879. Only 7 of these Kitson engines were made, and they were numbered 8-14. This engine was Kitson No 13. They were built for the Natal Government Railways, this engine operated there as No 13 from 1879 to 1910 grouped in the Class "K&S" - their class being named after their makers Kitson & Co and Robert Stephenson & Co - the latter company supplying 30 engines of this design. [exNGR No's 8 - 14, 16 - 26 and 29 - 47.]

These locomotives were used on the main-line trains out of Durban, displacing the earlier Beyer, Peacock 2-6-0T. They were occasionally fitted with small four-wheeled tenders, which increased their fuel-carrying capacity when required to work long distances.

Under SAR Administration, in 1910, this engine was classed under SAR Class C with road number 62. Specifications for the SAR Class C may be found here. In the SAR the Class C had road numbers 62-76, which mean only 15 engines survived from the NGR Class "K&S into the SAR.

Kitson c. 1940 as "VFP No 1" before the rear bunker was fitted - Photo Dave Parsons Collection - see Sandstone Rail Heritage page

In 1913, the locomotive started her industrial service as "V.F.P. no 1" with the Victoria Falls Company. The Victoria Falls Power Company Limited( VFP) was established in 1906, and was later renamed the "Victoria Falls and Transvaal Power Company Limited". Eskom itself was established by an act of parliament in 1922, but used the excellent facilities, and infrastructure of the VFP, until it absorbed the VPF, in 1948, to become the national supplier.

The Victoria Falls Power Company (VFP) bought "Kitty" from South African Railways in 1913. VFP paid £600, and hauled "Kitty" from SAR Durban workshops to Modrea railway station. Until 1920, "Kitty" served the VFP by hauling coal trains from Modrea railway station to Brakpan power station, a distance of 4 km.

Kitson was re-located to serve at Rosherville power station in 1920. From 1920 until 1966, "Kitty" hauled coal trains between Jupiter railway station and Rosherville power station, a distance of 2,4km. After the closure of Rosherville power station in 1966, Kitty was used to haul light loads at Rosherville central workshop and stores. A dedicated locomotive maintenance team, located at Rosherville central workshops, kept "Kitty" in first-class condition.

Kitson poses in 1946, now fitted with a rear coal bunker - Photo Dave Parsons Collection - see Sandstone Rail Heritage page

In accordance with conditions first stipulated in the Power Act of 1910 and included in the Electricity Act of 1922, all assets of the VFP were expropriated and taken over by ESCOM in 1948. ESKOM was formerly known as the Electricity Supply Commission (ESCOM).

Dave Parsons and Kitson in 1952 - Photo Dave Parsons Collection - see Sandstone Rail Heritage page

The Natal Government Railways, the Victoria Falls and Transvaal Power Company Limited, and ESCOM made numerous modifications to Kitson.

  • The rear portion of the frame was extended, the coal bunker moved to the rear of the cab, the custom built toolboxes removed and the discarded coal bunker converted into a toolbox.
  • The rear portions of the side water tanks were lifted away from the frames and were extended towards the front of the engine. This necessitated some modification to the steam chests.
  • The vacuum brake ejector was replaced by a Dreadnought ejector
  • The bottle type lubricator was replaced by a Eureka lubricator.
  • The oil headlamp, which had been replaced by an electric headlamp, was restored except for the replacement of the wick by an electric globe.
  • The original bell-type buffers were replaced by standard SAR knuckle couplers. Kitty was re-boilered in 1927, and again in 1952.

Kitson in steam in 1975 celebrating 150 years of railways - Photo Dave Parsons Collection - see Sandstone Rail Heritage page

In 1979, "Kitty" became the first steam locomotive in South Africa (possibly the world) to have completed a century of continuous service. "Kitty’s" feats are legendary in South African steam locomotive circles. Dave Parson, the foreman of the locomotive maintenance team at Rosherville central workshops, states: "I have been on the footplate when Kitty pulled 20 loaded coal hoppers, more that 50 times her own weight, from Jupiter station to Rosherville power station. Many ten shilling bets were won by ESCOM men when South African Railways drivers bet that Kitty could not pull such loads."

Acting on an ESCOM proposal, the South African National Monuments Commission declared Kitty a national monument on the 29 April 1983. It is the first movable, working machine to receive this distinction. This locomotive, at that time, was one of the oldest operating steam locomotives in the world. At the inauguration ceremony, Mr Jan H Smith, then Chairman of ESCOM, said of "Kitty." "To me, "Kitty" has always been a link between the past and the future - an example of how dedicated maintenance and the will to preserve can make a chunk of steel a symbol of inspiration which motivates both the young and not so young."

In 1984, after being in continuous service for 105 years, "Kitty" was still going strong. The last of the SAR's own Class C locomotives were finally scrapped in 1940.,

Kitson at Rosherville in 1985 - Photo Dave Parsons Collection - see Sandstone Rail Heritage page

Kitson is on permanent loan from ESKOM to the South African National Railway And Steam Museum (SANRASM) in Krugersdorp.

In 1998 a ride on this steam locomotive was still possible. Enthusiastic volunteers operated the museum. Their efforts ensured that Kitson "steamed" for the public approximately twice each year. Despite the numerous modifications made, "Kitty" was still resplendent in ESCOM’s familiar brown and gold colours closely resembling the original design.

Unfortunately "Kitty" is not steamable in 2009.

"Kitty" had been used in various film productions over the years. One example is on sa.transport.co.za - 3 photos taken at BADPLAAS in 1995 by Richard Niven - look here for the pictures under "Kitson No 13".

Type: Natal Government Railways Class 13
Work’s No: 2269
Wheel Formation: 4-6-0
Tractive Force (lbs): 11080
Year of manufacture: 1879

Much of this information on KITSON comes from research material compiled by Mr. Rick Searle, a retired ESKOM employee.

More information on Kitson can be found in R.V. Conyngham's book on "The K & S Class Locomotives of the Natal Government Railways".

1983 First Day Cover

In 1983 this first day cover was made - only 2000 were issued and most were bought by Eskom employees.

This engine was christened "KITTY". On the 29th April 1983 "KITTY" became South Africa's only moving national monument. In 2009 this this steam engine is on show at the railway museum yard in the Krugersdorp SANRASM museum site .

A Drawing of "KITTY"

This drawing has been sourced from sa-transport-co.za. It appears in a brochure commemorating “Kitty”, the oldest operating steam locomotive in South Africa, declared a National Monument on 29 April, 1983. [KITTY AND HER SISTERS - THE ESCOM LOCOMOTIVE STORY, Author: Jorgensen, A A, Publisher: Ixopo and District Historical Society]

photo: Eskom's heritage page.

Photos from the past

Some very interesting historical photos and detail about Kitty may be found on these Sandstone pages. "Kitty" is on the most well known of the Eskom locomotives, “Kitson”, a 4-6-0T locomotive built originally for Natal Government Railways which became South African Railways “C” Class No: 62. It was built by Kitson & Co. of Leeds in 1879 as works number 2269. It is a registered National Monument. The locomotive is now at the SANRASM site near Krugersdorp where it was sent on loan by Eskom along with a number of other Eskom locos in 1993. At that time it was the oldest locomotive, in working order, in South Africa, but is now out of use.

Movie Clips from June 1998

Trevor Staats has posted two movie clips of Kitty in action on Friends of the Rail Video Clips


  1. Is this the engine used in the film "The Ghost and the Darkness"?

  2. Hello - Please reach me at alonsitt@gmail.com - Alon (regarding this Kitson locomotive) - Thanks