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This topic follows on from the previous topic on rolling stock of the South African 2ft. gauge lines* and covers general views and locomotives. The photos were taken in September 1973, and cover the Port Elizabeth to Avontuur line as far as Van Stadens; Port Shepstone; Umzinto and Esperanza on the Donnybrook line; and the Umlaas Road to Mid Illovo line.



The black & white photos were scanned from postcard prints, so are not of the best quality, and some of the negatives are rather grainy. The few colour photos included were taken with a fairly basic camera and are scanned from slides.


Humewood Road was the main 2ft gauge station in Port Elizabeth and location of the locomotive sheds and workshops. Trains normally terminated here although it was not the end of the line as the 2ft gauge extended a further ¾ mile down to the harbour, 3ft-6in gauge goods transhipment shed and main line station. This section would normally have been worked by the NG11 class 2-6-0+0-6-2 Garratt No.55, but at the time of the visit it was under repair in 3 sections in the workshops. The locomotive facilities comprised three separate loco sheds, two with 2 roads and one single road, and a 2 road workshops; coaling stage; ash pit and large rectangular water tank. The only freight traffic actually dealt with here seems to have been the transfer of livestock to the 3ft-6in gauge, for which there was a raised cattle dock served by both gauges. The 3ft-6in gauge also served the coaling stage, an end loading dock for 2ft gauge equipment and storage hoppers for transfer of ballast to 2ft gauge hopper wagons (some of which are now on the Welsh Highland Railway). The station itself was quite a modest affair comprising a short platform and collection of small buildings. Leaving the yard the line curved sharply to the right and crossed the road on a concrete bridge beyond which was a wye for turning locos and a connection to the new diesel loco depot, then in course of construction.


View of passenger platform from north (harbour) end


View of passenger platform from south (Avontuur) end


View of yard from north end - 3ft-6in gauge track in centre


Loco Depot with ash pit in foreground, single road shed to left. 3ft-6in gauge wagons on right being loaded with ash.


Loco sheds to right and beyond; workshops in centre with large rectangular water tank in front; NG134 at coaling stage on right.


Opposite end of loco sheds with workshops in centre of photo

To be continued.....

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Is there anything left there now?




After dieselisation of the line, operations and useable stock seem to have been concentrated at the new diesel depot, with Humewood Road depot used for storing redundant stock and locomotives, although the station itself would presumably still have been used as a departure point for the Apple Express.

This train ceased running in December 2010 due to the loss of its government funding. The last of the steam depot buildings were removed in 2010, and possibly much of the track in the yard would have been removed at the same time.

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NG.G16 Class Garratt No.111 shunts the yard at Humewood Road





......and works a transfer freight down to the docks. A major traffic on the line was agricultural produce, much of which was shipped from Port Elizabeth Harbour.





NG15 Class No.NG122 prepares to leave Humewood Road on a short freight train









NG122 departs, crossing the bridge over the highway. One leg of the wye branches off to the left.





The new diesel loco shed under construction. Compare the size of the loco on the right with the track its standing on !





Diesel electric No.91.005 built by GEC Model UM6B, brand new and "straight out of the box"





Next more loco photos

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Some more photos of NG15 class 2-8-2s at Humewood Road loco depot:




NG18 one of the three locos in the first batch built by Henschel of Germany in 1931





NG19 another 1931 Henschel









Valve gear and lead truck detail of NG 19






NG117 a 1938 Henschel receives attention inside the loco shed






Cab detail of NG133 built by Anglo Franco-Belge of Belgium in 1952 and now on the Welsh Highland Railway






NG134 at the coaling stage - now under restoration at the Welsh Highland Railway






NG134 - the correct Anglo Franco-Belge works plate is at the bottom left corner of the cabside; the other side of the cab had the Henschel worksplate off NG144; parts of the left hand motion were from NG118 and parts of the right hand motion were off NG122, so evidently there was some swapping of parts between locos - I wonder what the WHR actually received ?






NG134 again






Rear view of NG134's tender showing how the water tank overhangs the tender chassis

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Garratt locomotives at Humewood Road loco depot:








NGG13 class No.83 built by Hanomag in Germany in 1928

















NGG16 class No.111 built by Beyer Peacock in 1939






NGG16 class No.125 built by Beyer Peacock in 1950 - with a rivetted front tank






NGG16 class No.127 built by Beyer Peacock in 1950 - with a welded front tank



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Along the line from Humewood Road:









Chelsea was the junction for the private 12 mile long branch to the Eastern Province Cement Company's works, the ultimate destination for the limestone trains on the Avontuur line. In 1973 the EPCC Hunslet Taylor 6wDM loco that normally worked the branch was under repair and the Baldwin 4-6-2 kept as spare had been in use. Unfortunately in August the Baldwin ran away while left unattended and suffered considerable damage to its front end and running gear. It was subsequently sold for scrap but purchased for preservation in the UK and now runs fully restored on the Brecon Mountain Railway. In September 1973 a NG15 hired from South African Railways was working the line. Shortly after two secondhand Funkey diesel locomotives were obtained by EPCC to work the branch and these were also later imported to the UK, one for use on the Festiniog Railway and the other for use on the Welsh Highland Railway.


An account of the limestone traffic and details of the locomotives used by both SAR and EPCC, together with drawings of locomotives and rolling stock, was published by the Narrow Gauge Railway Society in 2006 under the title "Narrow Gauge Superpower".






Chelsea - view towards Humewood Road, the EPCC line branches off to the left






NG19 in trouble - after leaving the EPCC sidings with an empty limestone train the loco is stopped on the main line with a derailed tender bogie.










Greenbushes, the next station west of Chelsea. On the main line the station is marked only by a sign and small shelter. The goods loop has a pen for livestock loading and a small goods shed on a short platform. The DZ class wagon in the loop was lettered "coal". Note how the weight on the point lever in the foreground has been painted white/red to indicate the route - with white uppermost the point is set for the main, with red uppermost it is set for the loop.

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Van Stadens Station was situated on the east side of the 250 ft high Van Stadens Viaduct. Limestone trains usually consisting of 8 DZ class wagons and a brakevan worked from the ropeway terminal at Loerie up the 1 in 40 gradient to Summit and on to Van Stadens, where the wagons were left in one of the four loop lines behind the station building. The loco then returned to Loerie with the brakevan for another 8 wagons, and when these reached Van Stadens the two trains were combined for the downhill run to Chelsea.






Van Stadens Station from the west end






Although regular passenger services had ceased and the South African Railways timetable stated "Passengers are conveyed by road transport service", coaches were still attached to the rear of some trains such as this behind NG15 class NG120, taking water at the east end of Van Stadens en route to Humewood Road. In addition to a tank wagon, several vans and a brake van, coaches NG50, NG65 and NG73 were attached to the rear and carrying passengers. NG120 was imported into the UK for the Welsh Highland Heritage Railway (Portmadoc) where it was allocated the name BEDDGELERT, but has since been sold on to a private owner.










NG.G13 Garratt No.81 takes water at the west end of Van Stadens Station after arriving on a limestone train






.....and pulls away from the tank with the driver in characteristic position on the seat outside the cab.






A less than ideal view of Van Stadens Viaduct (most of it being out of sight below) looking west towards Avontuur.

At the far end the line curved left and climbed up the hillside.




Next - Port Shepstone

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Port Shepstone is the terminus of the electrified 3ft 6in gauge line running south along the coast from Durban.

From here the 2ft gauge line was built inland to Harding a distance of 76 miles in 1911-17.






This rough sketch plan shows most of the 2ft gauge yard area with loco depot and transhipment facilities

- two large sheds for general goods, an overhead crane for timber and a cattle dock.

Sugar cane was dealt with at a separate yard to the north of the station (off this plan to the left)






View from the 2ft gauge entry into the yard area with the line straight ahead to loco shed and station and line to left into the goods sidings






Sidings alongside the transhipment shed






The loco depot - 2ft and 3ft 6in gauge locos shared the same shed






NGG16 Garratt No.NG130 at right, having a boiler washout, and beyond inside the shed is NG154, then only 5 years old.

The other road has the spare 3ft 6in gauge shunter - S2 class 0-8-0 No.3723.

Although the main Durban line was electrified many of the sidings had no overhead wires and steam was still used for all yard shunting






NGG13 Garratt No.49 at the water column, filling the tank on a windy day must have been rather messy !






The 3ft 6in gauge yard shunter - S2 class 0-8-0 No.3759










At the north end of the station the 2ft gauge crossed the main line and joined a 3ft 6in gauge branch for a short distance as mixed gauge track






Looking the other way the 2ft gauge separated and both lines continued down to an interchange yard alongside the river.

The 2ft gauge line dropped directly down to the yard at a steeper gradient than the 3ft 6in gauge line, which reached the yard via a reversal

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Umzinto was the eastern terminus of the 98 mile long 2ft gauge line to Donnybrook opened in 1908. It was connected to the main Durban to Port Shepstone coast line at Kelso by a 3ft 6in gauge branch line approximately 6½ miles long and overhead wire electrified like the coast line. From Umzinto both gauges ran together southwards as mixed gauge for approximately a mile to the next station, Esperanza, where the lines diverged - the 3ft 6in gauge curving away eastwards towards Kelso and the 2ft gauge curving westwards towards Donnybrook.




The separate passenger platforms for the two gauges were back to back, although by 1973 both lines were operated for freight traffic only, passengers being catered for by bus services operated by South African Railways. Transhipment facilities like Port Shepstone comprised a large shed for general goods, an overhead crane for timber and a cattle dock. The coaling facility for 2ft gauge locos was unusual (and would have been worth a photo or two !). The 2ft line and coaling stage were at a higher level than the adjacent 3ft 6in gauge line, so the 3ft 6in gauge wagons were unloaded into "V" skip wagons on an isolated 2ft gauge track which were then hauled up an incline to the top of the coaling stage by a winch.





The 2ft gauge station with brick station building and transhipment shed beyond




The locomotive depot





The 3ft 6in gauge side of the station with wagons loaded with timber at the platform

NG143 shunts the 2ft gauge on the left





NGG16 class Garratt NG143 - now working on the Welsh Highland Railway







Two more views of NG143 shunting - on two consecutive days it was noted on this duty, possibly being preferred for this use because of its lower water capacity than the other Garratts





NGG16 class Garratt NG149 built by Hunslet Taylor and only 6 years old





NGG16 class Garratt NG112 built by Beyer Peacock in 1939 prepares to leave Umzinto






A rather misty view of NG143 alongside a 3ft 6in gauge electric loco. On the left is the start of the mixed gauge line at the exit to the yard

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At Esperanza the 3ft 6in and 2ft gauge lines diverged and between the two were a series of sidings of both gauges, each ending in a single line under a hoist, which formerly served the adjacent Reynolds Bros. Ltd. sugar mill. Although the hoist remained the rest of the mill building had been demolished. The Mill formerly had its own 2ft gauge system with six 0-4-0T locomotives mainly built by Avonside Engine Co., but the last one was scrapped about 1972.





Mixed gauge track at Esperanza - left view towards Umzinto, right view towards Donnybrook






Esperanza station on the 3ft 6in gauge in centre of photo with the 2ft gauge at right and sidings beyond which formerly served the sugar mill.

There was no passenger platform on the 2ft gauge line





NG114 with a train of empty type B wagons from Umzinto crosses the road at Esperanza

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PGH, when you were recording these scenes where you aware that it was to be swept away in a few years or did you just happen to be on the spot and have an interest in the working railway? I can only add that it will remain one of the great "if onlys" of my life, but other things took priority and hey, we can now go to North Wales and see Garratts at work. Really enjoying this topic and please keep them coming.

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PGH, when you were recording these scenes where you aware that it was to be swept away in a few years or did you just happen to be on the spot and have an interest in the working railway? I can only add that it will remain one of the great "if onlys" of my life, but other things took priority and hey, we can now go to North Wales and see Garratts at work. Really enjoying this topic and please keep them coming.


The photos/details were taken on 3 week trip, covering mainline and industrial as well as the 2ft gauge. The main incentive was to see the Garratts especially the larger main line ones, and I could never have imagined that I would now be able to see some of the 2ft locos working only 30 minutes or so away from where I live. Thanks for your comments, I'm pleased you find the topic interesting.

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The Mid Illovo line was opened in 1911 and ran for 27¼ miles from Umlaas Road Station on the electrified Johannesburg to Durban main line southwest of Pietermaritzburg. Its loco allocation was two NGG13 class Garratts, one in use and one spare. According to the SAR timetable passenger accomodation was provided on the 5.30 am excluding Sundays Umlaas Road to Mid Illovo goods train and 9.30 am return from Mid Illovo, but that service didn't seem guaranteed as the timetable added "when run". The prospect of leaving the overnight hotel in Pietermaritzburg at some ridiculously early hour in order to catch a train that was not guaranteed to run didn't seem particularly attractive, so I spent the morning with the 30 plus main line Garretts at Masons Mill shed including watching a GMAM leaving south on the Donnybrook line and then chasing a pair of GMAs doubleheading a goods train north in the Greytown direction. The train from Mid Illovo actually arrived back at Umlaas Road at 2.25 pm, a somewhat leisurely schedule for the 54½ miles, although I was told that the departure for the trip was sometimes later than 5.30 am, and no doubt shunting was required at all the intermediate stations. Sometimes if traffic warranted another trip was done as far as Tala (about 10 miles from Umlaas Road). Traffic appeared to be mainly timber and sugar cane carried in open wagons.



Umlaas Road had most of the usual facilities within its rather minimal track layout, although there was no passenger platform on the 2ft gauge





View of Umlaas Road Station from the Pietermaritzburg end with the main line island platform on the left and electrified line to Durban in centre




NGG13 class Garratt No.58 after arrival at Umlaas Road from Mid Illovo on a train comprising 8 wagons loaded with sugar cane, 4 wagons loaded with timber, a van and brake composite coach No.27




Garratt No.58 built by Hanomag of Germany in 1927



No.58 at the passenger terminus. Behind the train is the goods platform and shed, the area in front is the nearest the narrow gauge terminus got to a passenger platform. The loco has just made up the train for the following morning and will shortly uncouple and retire to the loco shed



The spare locomotive NGG13 class Garratt No.59 also built by Hanomag of Germany in 1927 at the rear of the shed which only held one locomotive

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Enjoying your posts on this narrow gauge.


Do you have a list of key dates wehn passenger then freight services were deseilised / reduced / curtailed etc?


Some photos of present day locations would also be good if you have them.



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Eston was one of the main intermediate stations on the Mid Illovo line, situated at the foot of a 1 in 40 gradient near the 25Km milepost





Eston Station looking towards Mid Illovo





Mid Illovo terminus - fairly simple to model with only 6 turnouts, two buildings and a few ropey looking trees, but operation would be rather limited with only one train per day !





Mid Illovo Station from Umlaas Road end, with cattle pen and goods shed on the right






Mid Illovo station building. The platform edging is flat bottom rail upside down




Mid Illovo - view from near the end of the line.

Type B wagons in the siding in course of being loaded with timber. The standard method seems to be to place a vertical row at each end of the wagon, then a few vertical along each side after which the rest can be stacked horizontally to about double the height of the wagon sides.

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Enjoying your posts on this narrow gauge.


Do you have a list of key dates wehn passenger then freight services were deseilised / reduced / curtailed etc?


Some photos of present day locations would also be good if you have them.




The short answer to your two queries are no and no I don't have any, respectively.


However I do have a few suggestions. For present day photos try Google Maps and Street View. You can find views of Humewood Road and Port Shepstone Stations from the adjacent roads, although the views are rather depressing from a railway aspect. The other locations are too remote for Street View although there is a good view of the concrete overbridge where the Mid Illovo line crossed the two carriageways of the R603 and R103 roads (search: Camperdown, KwaZulu-Natal on the map and follow the R103 until it meets the R603)


Regarding key dates, try wikipedia:




There is lots of information there if you follow all the links, but I've no idea how accurate it is.


From other sources: The Umzinto to Donnybrook line was still operating in August 1984, when two trains each way were scheduled but normally there was only one due to shortage of traffic. In February 1985 part of the line between Umzinto and Ixopo (about 2/3 way to Donnybrook) suffered a washout and reopening was in doubt, but there was "reputed" to be still one train a day between Ixopo and Donnybrook. The Ixopo to Highflats (Highflats was between Ixopo and Umzinto) section closed in September 1985, so possibly the Umzinto to Highflats section did not reopen after the February washout. The Ixopo to Donnybrook section was the only one then operating with traffic said to be "heavy but irregular". That last section closed at the end of June 1986. Part of the 17 mile branch from Ixopo to Madonela has since been revived as a tourist railway.


There seems to be very little published information on the history of the South African 2ft gauge lines. The Avontuur line and other narrow gauge lines in Cape Province were covered by Sydney Moir in "24 inches apart" published by Oakwood Press in 1963, with a second edition published in South Africa in 1981 but not updated so only the period up to about 1961 is covered. He also co-wrote a book on the S.W.Africa narrow gauge entitled "Namib Narrow Gauge". The South African publishers of "24 inches apart" announced a future publication entitled "Two Footers: Transvaal & Natal" which would have covered the four Natal lines but as far as I am aware this was never published. As previously mentioned in this topic, the Narrow Gauge Railway Society published an account of the limestone traffic on the Avontuur line in 2006 under the title "Narrow Gauge Superpower" which covered the dieselisation of the line. Apart from other odd mentions and illustrations in photo albums and the like on South African railways in general that seems to be it. If anyone knows any different please let us know.

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To round off this topic are a few photos of other 2ft gauge locos






Preserved NG4 class 4-6-2T No.16 at De Aar Loco Shed. Built by Kerr Stuart in 1914 for the South African Railways and used on the Port Shepstone to Harding line. It was sold by SAR for industrial use, but returned to the SAR for preservation and restored to cosmetic condition as shown here. It was later acquired by Sandstone Estates and restored to working order






Crookes Bros Ltd of Renishaw Mill had a 2ft gauge system but by 1973 all the track had been lifted and cane was brought in by road transport.

RENISHAW No.2 an Avonside 0-4-0T built in 1926 was preserved with cane wagons on a brick plinth





Dumped nearby was RENISHAW No.6 a 1946 Hunslet 0-4-2T






One of the last working 2ft sugar mill systems was at Illovo Mill with a line about 20 miles long worked by diesel locos, one of which was 10 NTINYANA built by Hunslet in 1955. According to Don Townsley in his book “The Hunslet Engine Works” this loco and another built in 1963 were the upperworks of the standard gauge 204hp shunter and the bogies of the narrow gauge Avonside and Hunslet geared steam locomotive. One end housed a 204hp engine providing traction and the other end a 26hp engine driving a compressor, fan and other auxiliaries






Finally, slightly off topic, the 3ft 6in gauge sidings at the mill were shunted by this Kerr Stuart 0-4-2T built in 1920

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Thank you for a really super pair of articles on the SAR 2ft. I have photographs of the Avontuur and the Port Shepstone line all taken 1992 and 1997 I would be happy to send them to you on a disc.


On the modelling side my OO9 Scale layout "Roestok" has been around a while but still attracts invitations to shows after some twenty years or so. This I suspect is due more to the model locos and stock which I run on it including a model of brake van No27 from the Mid Illivo line. There are three NG16s running as NG109, NG131 and NG149, along with NG15 No 124.


Best regards


Ian Turner

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Thank you for a really super pair of articles on the SAR 2ft. I have photographs of the Avontuur and the Port Shepstone line all taken 1992 and 1997 I would be happy to send them to you on a disc.


On the modelling side my OO9 Scale layout "Roestok" has been around a while but still attracts invitations to shows after some twenty years or so. This I suspect is due more to the model locos and stock which I run on it including a model of brake van No27 from the Mid Illivo line. There are three NG16s running as NG109, NG131 and NG149, along with NG15 No 124.


Best regards


Ian Turner




Yes I have seen your very nice layout a few times. and last saw it at Amberley a few weeks ago whilst helping on a couple of layouts, one being alongside your layout.


Your layout is partly the reason for having interest in this topic by PGH.




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