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Reefsteamers
Johannesburg’s steam train

25NC No.3472 "buy the right to name this engine and bring her back to the rails"

The Loco was named after a previous chairman. Class 25NC No.3472 is the flagship of our steel-wheeled fleet. Now the name rights are up for sale! For only Rand 60'000, The 25NC No.3472 will be named with your chosen name for at least 5 years. after this time you have the chance to re-new the name right or you will hand over the name plate for you. With the amount we will have the money ready to bring her back to steam! Contact our Chairman for details!

With Built in 1953, she started life as one of the famed ‘Condenser’ locomotives that plied the arid Karoo.  The condensers were expensive to run but able to do 700km on one tender-load of water.  When diesels became available, the expensive condenser gear was no longer justified so as the locomotives came in for heavy repairs to the Salt River works, they were converted to conventional machines.  Many of them stayed on that line but ran shorter trips.

Class 25NC’s were amongst the last classes to operate on the SAR and they ran on the Kimberly main line as well as the Bethlehem line.  No.3472 was converted in the mid 1980’s and was one of the last SAR steam locomotives to haul the Trans Karoo and other long distance trains.  No.3472, then named ‘Milly’, was never allowed to go derelict, but was eventually laid aside due to boiler problems.  One of the major issues was a crack in the complicated saddle that supports the safety valves – which needed specialized welding repair.  She was restored to operation in 2006 and her post restoration debut was a run to the Bethal Potato Festival.

This locomotive is the largest single-frame locomotive type on the African continent and the largest single-frame Cape-gauge locomotive in the world.  They embody modern features such as mechanical lubrication, roller bearing axles and motion, a mechanical stoker, solid cast frames and cylinders, self-cleaning smoke boxes and combustion chambered boilers.  They were known as the ‘Cadillacs’ of South African steam.  The Wootten type firebox is massive at 70sq. feet and is supported on a unique 2-axle bissell truck, making this locomotive a 4-8-4 ‘Northern’ – an unusual wheel configuration on the Cape Gauge.  The roller bearing gear makes these locomotives very free-rolling and cuts down on the repetitive lubrication required.  The webmaster has been in one such 240 ton machine that started moving because of the wind impinging on the smoke deflectors!

The top speed of a Class 25 has never been officially measured but they have been clocked at 160kph on the ‘Steel Kyalami’ and can handle 120kph with ease.   Being a bit too big to operate economically on light weight trains, No.3472 is used for our long distance trains.  Under current rules under which we run, top speed is restricted to 80kph.

In spite of her relative complexity, No.3472 is quite a reliable machine.  She was known to not steam as well as she could but was later found to have a misaligned chimney stack.  The chimney stack and exhaust gear has a profound effect on a steam locomotive’s performance.  After the stack was centralized in 2010, the performance was much improved, the free drafting making the locomotive an ideal platform for training.  She is also known for blowing smoke rings, sometime two or three at a time!

This class, of which 50 were originally built as conventional locomotives from the start and 88 from converted condensers, was very successful apart from their tendency to slip upon start-up.  Reefsteamers has two intact Class 25NC’s on the premises.  While other examples exist in intact condition, as of October 2011, our ‘Elize’ was the only operating 25NC in South Africa.  Unfortunately she has recently been denied permission to run on main lines due to wear in her wheel profiles and the flanges.  They are too worn for machining so she will need to have new steel tires fitted before she can run again on the Transnet system – although she is quite capable (If not economical) of moving under her own power and doing yard work if necessary.

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