10 December 2009

Darnall Sugar Mill, Office, Avonside 1740/1916 "MR BUSS"

NOTE: This page should be read collectively together with the other Sugar Cane tramway pages on this blog as general information is scattered across the different pages:
  1. Darnall, Sugar Mill, Avonside 1740/1916 "MR BUSS"
  2. Durban, Sugar Terminal - Maydon Warf: Avonside 1422/1900
  3. Gledhow, Sugar Mill, Hunslet 2647/1942
  4. Mtubatuba, Umfolozi Village, ?Hunslet 1032/1914 relic
  5. Umzinto, Indian Koran School, Hunslet 3385/1946
  6. Witbank, Tiny Tots Nursery School, Avonside 1858/1...
  7. SEZELA Sugar Mill: Sezela No 1 - Avonside 1719/1915
  8. RENISHAW Sugar Estate: Renishaw No 2 - Avonside 1986/1926
  9. The Kearsney-Stanger Light Railway (1901-c.1944)

In the November 1962 issue of the Industrial Railway Record, Anthony H Spit summarized the sugar tramway scene in Natal as follows: "The sugar plantations use a weird and wonderful collection of motive power including 0−4−0 side tanks, geared locomotives, 0–4–4–0 Mallets, and hefty-looking 2−6−2 and 0−6−2 tanks of Bagnall and Hunslet manufacture. One plantation depends entirely on a batch of 4−4−0 tanks. On the diesel side there are on this gauge (2'0") a considerable number of four- and six-coupled types of British and German manufacture, some double-bogie machines, and also a solitary triple-bogie articulated. "

"MR BUSS" is the name of Avonside 0-4-0T 2ft 0in gauge locomotive with works no 1740 built in 1916 which is plinthed in front of the offices at the Darnall Sugar Mill in Darnall, just north of Stanger, on the North Coast of KwaZulu-Natal.

This engine has a 8.5" x 12" design.

The locomotive saw service at the De Jagers Estate, Umhlali, which was under control of Huletts. The tramways there closed in 1967.

ca. 2005 photo by kind courtesy of Johan Pretorius. Avonside 1740/1916 "MR BUSS" as plinthed at the offices of Darnall Sugar Mill.

ca. 2005 photo by kind courtesy of Johan Pretorius. Avonside 1740/1916 "MR BUSS" as plinthed at the offices of Darnall Sugar Mill.

ca. 2005 photo by kind courtesy of Johan Pretorius. Avonside 1740/1916 "MR BUSS" as plinthed at the offices of Darnall Sugar Mill.

ca. 2005 photo by kind courtesy of Johan Pretorius. Avonside 1740/1916 "MR BUSS" as plinthed at the offices of Darnall Sugar Mill.

Also, at least in December 1985, another Avonside engine was plinthed at the sports club of the Darnall Sugar Mill.

This locomotive last worked as "Darnall No. 9". Darnall is not rail connected, but this locomotive comes from the 2' 0" gauge canefields tramways which closed in 1967. According to John Middleton (Industrial Locomotives of SA 1991) the identity of this 0-4-0T Avonside with an 8.5"x12" design is unsure due to part swapping. It is believed to be AE 1660/1913, but the loco is also reported as AE 1733/1916.

The two Dec 1985 photos of this locomotive were sourced from the Darnall Library webpage If you have more recent photos of this locomotive, please contact me.

Some historical background about the Avonside Engine Company may be found here elsewhere on this blog.


(first owner of the farm "Darnall")

ABOUT DARNALL (article on webpage of Darnall Library)

Born in England on the 13th April 1835, died at Darnall on 15th January 1910, buried at New Guelderland cemetery.

The village of Darnall, inland from Zinkwazi, takes its name from the prospector, David Brown, who was one of the first settlers in this district. He was the son of an eminent botanist, Robert Brown, who was awarded the Copley Medal by the Royal Botanical Society in London in 1839.

David Brown named his farm “Darnall” after his home town in Yorkshire, England. He built his homestead high on a ridge, where the Darnall Country Club now stands. He married and had four children, Jessie, James, David Jr and Agnes.

When sugar cane arrived from Mauritius and the sugar industry got under-way, from the mid 1840’s, Mr Brown was one of the first to introduce it to the Natal north coast. He set up a sugar mill in 1904, but his milling ventures were not a success financially and Mr Liege Hulett from Kearsney, took over the Darnall mill in 1906. However, Mr Brown did manage to bring a significant change to Zululand, which resulted in the railway line being extended through Darnall to the Tugela being completed.

On one of his trips to Zululand, Brown came across an outcrop of Anthracite, which he told Liege Hulett about. A diamond drill was set up the test the extent of the discovery and as a result, Brown, Hulett and Arthur Reynolds founded a syndicate and on the 8th April 1893, they applied for a lease of this area and a concession to construct a railway line from the TugelaRiver to the mine.

This 50 year concession was granted to them on the 11th August 1894, the line was to be completed by 1903. The last stage of the railway construction from Stanger to the Tugela River, through Darnall, was opened on the 1st December 1898. The first electric unit came in December 1969. However, it was only in July 1940, the Darnall became a village with its own Health Committee.

A bit of SUGAR plantation history

In 1846 Mr. Edmond Morewood was granted a large farm near Umhlali, which he called "Compensation", where he practiced the first commercial sugar cane growing.

He was inspired by a visit to the islands off South Africa's East Coast, (Mauritius, Reunion etc.) There he had been introduced to sugar cane growing and the sugar industry there. He had seed cane shipped back to Natal, which he planted. He built a small mill there, using the masts of a sailing ship wrecked off Compensation Beach (now Ballito), which he cut to lengths to form rollers to squeeze out the juice from the cane. In January 1851 he proudly took his first processed sugar to the Durban market for sale, and is thus acclaimed as the pioneer of the Natal sugar industry.

With his sugar venture under way, and cane growing better than expected, other European immigrants from England and Scotland began to arrive and obtain land between Durban and the Urnhlali river; along the Natal North Coast; Verulam; the Umdloti River Valley; Morelands farms, Tongaat. The development of the sugar industry raced ahead, and soon there were many sugar farms and mills in the area.


  1. Sandstone: Gary Barnes's spreadsheet of Cane Locomotives

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