South Africa's professional steam train operator

Updates and Notices 2013

04.11.2013 Dear Friends of Steam and Railway

Here is the latest Reefsteamers Depot Report, which is a summary of about four days’ worth of Tour Train work spread out over two weeks.  The Workshop Gang are working their berries off to get the tour coaches and the associated service vehicles finished in time.  They are working double day weekends and have recently been putting in 10pm-Midnight shifts – and they kept the last few trains going too.

Although the completed coaches still require minor detail work and surface touch-ups, they are looking stunning.  The entire coach project has been done by mainly 10-12 people – including staff members working for free on weekends and one contracted casual.  When you see the completed coaches, it makes the achievement even more remarkable.

Advertising is already underway for bookings for another Steam Tour in April 2014 – an unusual combination of a photo-orientated tour based at Kommandonek and Sandstone Estates, overlapping with a second, more relaxed Easter Tour on the Bethlehem line. 

Now that we finally have a set of professional, presentable set of sleeper and service coaches that have reliable on-board services, Reefsteamers will have another source of ‘bulk-cash’ injections.  Once we get this project paid off, the bulk cash will be vital for things such as 12AR front tubeplate repairs, getting the 15F 2914 finished, and to start purchasing flues for the 15CA boiler.  There just isn’t enough money coming in from the regular trains to cover the projects as well as the day-to-day expenses.

All this focus and effort on the tour train coaches will be worth it in our fight to keep Reefsteamers alive in the increasingly difficult times to come.  The impending E-tolls alone will likely cut in to our regular passenger numbers if they make a pleasant day out even more expensive.

Future tour trains will also require further work and upgrades – but it will be progressive, forward-looking improvements rather than spending money on repairing the same faults and shoddy conversion work over and over again, as we did in the past.

I will be switching over to Tour-related media from tomorrow, so there will be no further Depot updates from me until December.  However, I plan to put some more photo updates onto Facebook before the tour runs, if I can grab the time.  So you will need to visit our Facebook page on or our browse our website at to see if there are any more updates.

Also, check out SAR Steam’s website to see what they are proposing for next year April.

I trust that you enjoy this report!

Lee Gates
Depot Report

04.11.2013 Dear Friends of Steam and Railway

Because of rising material prices, we are unfortunately forced to adjust our ticket prices
See bellow the new prices, valid from today (04.11.2013)

Ticket Prices for 2013:
Because of rising material costs, we are unfortunately forced to adjust prices
Johannesburg Park Station - Magaliesburg and return
Per Seat on a day sitter coach:
(Laid out in 2 x 3 seats in pairs facing each other)
Adults R 305
Children (4-12 Years) R 210
Children under 4 Years
R 50

31.10.2013 Dear Friends of Steam and Railway

Changes to the Summer Lunch Train running on 30th November.
first and last of the four meal seatings at 10:30 and 15:30 respectively are to fall away. We will instead be offering a pre-packed picnic basket option to be enjoyed on the lawns at Hermanstad during the stop-over. The 12:00 and 14:00 dining car sit-down lunch seatings will remain as advertised. The Picnic Basket option will cost the same as a sit-down meal. To find out more, please contact


05.10.2013 Dear Friends of Steam and Railway

Following the success of our recent Spring Lunch Train, Reefsteamers is running the second of the new-format steam-hauled Lunch Trains to Hermanstad.  We have a different catered menu for the day as well, although still with a traditional South African theme.

The attached PDF brochure has the necessary details.

We will be using our new longer route from Johannesburg’s Park Station through to Hermanstad Station, where Friends of the Rail (FotR) have made their home … and then we return after a two-hour stopover.  Our passengers can get off the train at Hermanstad and they can explore FotR’s attractive facility and see the preserved railway equipment.

Even if you have been on the Lunch Train before, please review the trip times.
carefully as the train schedules and dining seatings have been moved earlier.

Please help us to fill this train by passing this brochure on to all of your contacts.

Call  +27 (0)11 875 2354  or Email  for queries and bookings.

Lee Gates


01.10.2013 Dear Reefsteamers Friends of Steam

Please find attached the latest Reefsteamers Depot Report, an 18-page special that is focussed on the progress of the Sleeper Coach Refurbishment project.  The Depot Report covers about two weeks’ worth of work, hence its length.

Reefsteamers Carriage & Wagon is making definite progress and it is getting exciting to see the finished product.  However, time is starting to run short and we need all the assistance we can get.  From now until Mid-November, the workshop gang will be working on those coaches on Saturdays and Sundays.  So please come along and lend a hand if you can.

There is, of course, the routine work still taking place to keep the depot running, and I’ve included some pictures of air compressor repairs and of some work done on the locomotives.

Our next two trains will be the Magaliesburg Express, which will run from Johannesburg to Magaliesburg on Sat, 5th and Sat, 26th October.  There will be another catered lunch train running on 30 November.  The details for the lunch train will soon be released as the brochures are to be made up this week.  Please visit for trip details.

Visit our Facebook page for photo updates and comments -

Enjoy the read!
Lee Gates

Depot Report

27.08.2013 Dear Friends of Steam and Railway

Reefsteamers Announcing:

The Reefsteamers Spring Lunch Train 2013 for Saturday, 21st September.

We will be running
a new route, from Johannesburg's PRASA Park Station to Friends of the Rail's station facility in Hermanstad, and then back again.
This will include a 2-hour stopover at Hermanstad, so our guests can stretch their legs and explore. This will be a longer route than the previous Lunch Trains, thus allowing for four leisurely meal sittings in the dining coach. Please refer to the attached brochure for the menu, times and pricing details.

Book, board and enjoy!


13.08.2013 Dear Reefsteamers and Friends of Steam and Railway

We held a successful Depot Open Day on 27 July 013, which I have been recording in a Depot Report type format.  It was a complicated, many faceted event to record with all the exhibits, stalls and preparation that was involved.  Thank you once again to the Reefsteamers who got involved, and also for our many guests who helped to make the day such a success.

Here is Part 1of a multiple part Photo Essay that I’ve been working on over the last two weeks in between some intense office work.  I have two parts done so far and anticipate a third by the beginning of next week.  There are 140 photos included so far!

To keep the size of the file attachment manageable I will send Part Two in an email subsequent to this one.Please note that this email address is no longer monitored on a daily interval although I still use it for bulk email sends on occasion.  All email queries should be addressed to for the time being.


Openday photo pack No.1

Lee Gates

Openday photo pack No.2

14.07.2013 Dear Reefsteamers and Friends of Steam and Railway

A certain little Smidge has asked me to send out another request for volunteers for the coming Reefsteamers Depot Open Day on 27th July.  At the moment, we do not have enough volunteers to comfortably cover all the attractions and the numerous train trips that we need to run, especially as we need to have a few people assisting with the boarding and tickets at Johannesburg’s Park Station as well.

We need people to assist in the various areas as outlined in the Open Day Brochure.  In addition, we will need footplate and coach crews, as well as safety marshalls and hospitality people for the day.

Please do not just ‘pitch up’ on the Open Day and ask where you can help.  The relatively few individuals in charge of the attractions and trains are going to be busy, and they won’t have time to consult for and make productive last-minute arrangements for you.

Have a look at the brochure which I am sending out once again and see which sort of job in which you can assist.  You can also offer to assist in preparing for the Open Day, even if you can’t be available for the Open Day itself – any help would be welcome.  Send your comments and ideas through to Lauren Ackerman at

The Open Day isn’t going to be so long this year – the Depot closing when the last train leaves.  But we need folks to assist with the early and late trains on the Reefsteamers side, as well as assisting our guests and exhibitors with set-out and pack-up if necessary.  However, if you can only work half day, your assistance will still be appreciated.  But Lauren will need to know what hours you will be available so she can plan ahead properly.

Note that those who wish to assist in some way on the trains must be registered Reefsteamers Members as per our club rules and the access agreements.  Also, again as per our existing club rules, there will be no ‘freebie’ rides permitted on the Open Day trains.

Please do not reply to me – I am not involved with rostering for the Open Day, and this email address is no longer monitored during the day anyway.

On a more cheerful note, we have just held our annual Winter Morning Photo Shoot for 2013, which was also the first working assignment for our newly certified Class 15F No.3046.

Photos are already going up on Facebook, so mosey on over there for a browse.  Due to both Reefsteamers and ‘salary work’ related time pressure, I will not be producing a written report on this event.  (The next Depot Report style document from me will likely be on the Open Day itself.)

·         Lee’s Loco Minding Pictures :  

·         Aidan’s Winter Photoshoot Pics – May contain traces of smoke rings :      

·         Lee’s Winter Photoshoot Pics :

Lee Gates

05.07.2013 Dear Reefsteamers and Friends of Steam and Railway

Reefsteamers is pleased to announce our now-traditional annual Steam Locomotive Depot Open Day to be held on Saturday, 27th July 2013. 

We will be running a steam train shuttle service between our Germiston-based Steam Locomotive Depot and Johannesburg’s PRASA Park Station.  (Not Rhodesfield, as done previously.)  We will pick up our visitors from Johannesburg and take them to the Reefsteamers Steam Locomotive Depot at Germiston.  They can then enjoy the Open Day exhibits for a few hours, and then experience a main-line steam train ride back to Johannesburg in the afternoon. 

Visitors are free to take whichever train they choose to use.

As the PRASA Park Station in Johannesburg is conveniently next to the Gautrain Park Station, our visitors can also use the Gautrain to get to Johannesburg and transfer to the PRASA Park Station by foot.  Visitors can also drive their cars and park at either PRASA or the Gautrain facility.  (Parking costs to your own account.)

We ask that people do NOT drive directly to the steam depot and park.  The parking there is limited, and we need to keep the roadways clear for the exhibitors, participating members and staff.  (Non-participating Reefsteamers Members will be considered as visitors and they will need to catch the train.)

There will be two morning pickups at Johannesburg at 9am and 11am.  In the afternoon, the steam train will leave the Steam Locomotive Depot at 1:30pm and 3:30pm to get you back to Johannesburg.  We plan to use both the Class 12AR (No.1535 ‘Susan’) and 15F (No.3046 ‘Janine’) steam locomotives, swapping them over in between the trips so that one can be serviced while the other heads out with the next train.

In addition to the railway, workshop and heritage type exhibits, we will also be hosting a crafts market this year.  We will also be providing a play area for the kids to keep them busy while their parents enjoy the exhibits.

Further exhibits and demonstrations (not yet listed in the brochure) are still being negotiated or arranged at this time.  Please check in for updates on Twitter ( @Reefsteamers ), or on our ‘Reefsteamers’ Facebook page or on our website

Come along and join in the fun.  Please pass this message and the
accompanying brochure on to all of your friends, family and colleagues.

Lee Gates
Steam Power – It’s the Wheel Thing!


05.07.2013 Dear Reefsteamers and Friends of Steam,

Good news.

Class 15F No.3046 has just passed her mandatory boiler hydraulic test and apparently did it quite well. 

Well done to those who got her prepped and ready, especially with a few awkward washout plugs that just wouldn’t stop weeping.  (One of them turned out to be porous – the water actually migrating through the pockets and pores within the bronze material, rather than along the threads in the boiler plate!)

A team will start reinstating all the removed and blanked fittings tomorrow to get her ready for next week's steam test.  The fire arch needs to go back in too.  If she passes the steam test, she's certified to run for another three years.  This will finally get Reefsteamers out of the strategically dangerous situation of only having one locomotive able to run.  The pressure is on as she needs to be running for the photo shoot mid-July as well as for the Open Day at the end of the month.

We need to free up some of the mechanical people to work on the locomotive instead of the coaches, so please come out and lend a hand with the Coach Work on Saturday to help keep up the pace on the Sleeper Coach upgrade work.

- Lee

14.06.2013 Dear Reefsteamers and Friends of Steam,

The Reefsteamers/Shield Chemicals SMS competition is on!

SMS the word 'Sheen' to 33729 to be put into the draw for a R10 000 prize!

SMS's are charged at R1.50 each.  The prize draw will be on 1st September.

All proceeds will go towards a full set of replacement boiler flues for Reefsteamers’ Class 15CA No.2056 Steam Locomotive.
Shield Chemicals specialise in automotive cleaning products and you can visit their website at
Go on! Send in a quick SMS and help Reefsteamers to get their 15CA No.2056 back on the high-irons again!
I have included a PDF extract from our locomotive profiles for a brief history and some statistic about this machine.

Please forward this email to your friends, family and associates.

- Lee

PS : The attached brochure images are for a double sided A6 Brochure that has just gone to print.  However, the SMS line is already open.
The competition details are also being printed onto various tubs and cans of Shield-made products available at local retailers and autofactors.

Thanks, Shield!

23.05.2013 Dear Reefsteamers and Friends of Steam,

South African Rail Steam Tours is pleased to formally announce a traditional long distance steam rail tour running from 16 November to 26 November 2013.

This tour is to be known as the ReeFreestate Explorer – exploring the Reef and the Free State

Passengers will stay on board the Reefsteamers sleeper coach train as their steel-wheeled hotel, as they meander around the country for 11 days. The train is to be fully serviced in terms of bedding and meals. Just enjoy hours of steam train rides, take millions of photos, enjoy the sights and otherwise … hey, just relax.

Enjoy the hospitality of Reefsteamers, Friends of the Rail and of Sandstone Estates as they proudly show off their steam machines and associated heritage equipment.

The trains will run between Germiston and Koster (A bit beyond Magaliesburg),
Germiston to Pretoria and return through Springs, Pretoria to Cullinan and return
(Friends of the Rail) and then for a long trip to just beyond Ficksburg from Germiston.

Highlights of the tour will include:
• Depot and Steam Workshop Visits.
• A ride on the modern Gautrain to-and-from Rhodesfield to the airport. (A logistic move that will also give you a jolting contrast in technology!)
• A visit by bus to the Pilanesberg National Park, which hosts examples of the four-footed Big Five. Includes a bush lunch.
• Overnight at Hermanstad (Friends of the Rail) and a traditional South African braai. (BBQ).
• A whole day visit to the Sandstone Estates – a environmentally-conscious commercial farm which also hosts the largest 2-foot narrow gauge railway collection in the world, as well as an impressive collection of other heritage machinery and vehicles.
• We will run both passenger trains and goods consists.
• A visit to the old mining town of Cullinan, including lunch.
• A visit to arty Clarens for lunch after the train has serviced and laid-over at Bethlehem.
• Traditional South African food to is be served on board the coaches. (The catering and housekeeping staff will be professionals rather than volunteers.)
• We will offer a range of South African beers, including speciality micro-brewery beers, as well as a selection of South African wines.
• Traditional photo-stops and run-bys at strategic locations.

Please refer to the attached brochure for details.

The bookings for this tour are being arranged by SAR Steam Tours and NOT by Reefsteamers. Thus, please contact SAR Steam Tours directly at for enquiries.

A detailed description of the tour, as well as the payment details, can be found at

SAR Steam Tours is a part of the Two Foot Preservation Trust, a South African - based initiative that has long supported and promoted Reefsteamers and other Steam Preservation groups as a part of their activities.

SAR Steam Tours (Two Foot Preservation Trust) is volunteer-operated on a non-profit basis, and all proceeds from the ReeFreestate Explorer Tour Train will be returned to South African Steam Preservation.

Steam Power – It’s the Wheel Thing!

23.05.2013 Dear Reefsteamers and Friends of Steam,

Here is the next of the new generation Reefsteamers Waybills.

This one primarily covers the final running repairs on the Class 12AR 1535, preparing Class 15F 3046 for hydraulic boiler inspection (She has passed her visual checks) and the start of the Sleeper Coach upgrade project – specifically, the installation of new, high quality bathroom floors in the Gold Class Coach.

In this waybill, there are a number of announcements, one donation request for the          
depot gardens and a special limited offer on a classic and much sought-after steam book.

Please come and get involved this weekend even if you are not rostered on the Beer-Tasting Train.  With the 12AR’s repairs finished, we should be able to have two sets of people working on the Sleeper Coaches parked in the 15M shop.  It’s undercover work, doesn’t involve heavy lifting and you will have company all day.

Tea is usually served every 2 hours or sooner if Bennett or Ackerman can select a victim and bend their arms. 
Bring some money for lunch – generally between R20 and R30.  We usually eat at about 2-3pm.

I trust that you enjoy the read.

Lee Gates


20.05.2013 Dear Reefsteamers and Friends of Steam,

Reefsteamers is announcing our annual winter morning photo-shoot at the Reefsteamers Germiston Depot on Sat, 13th July 2013.  Entry registration opens early at 6:15am to catch the morning light.  Please see the attached brochure for details. 

Please note that this limited-size event is NOT a part of the Reefsteamers Depot Open Day, which will be held for the public two weeks after this event.  This event will only be open to a maximum of 30 photographers.

To avoid confusion (which has happened in previous years) this function has not been added as an event on Reefsteamers’ Facebook Page. 

Any bookings and queries concerning the winter photo-shoot should 
ONLY go to Aidan McCarthy by email at

Lee Gates


16.05.2013 Dear Steamers and Members

Here is the second of the new generation Reefsteamers Waybills.

This one is a lot longer than I originally planned as there are several extra articles and letters included, as well as a brochure.  However, The Waybill is to be all about the communications, so I am not complaining!We have also had an update on the Class 15F 2914 project and just wait until you read what our Hott-Nutts George has managed to get official engineering approval for!  Our bucket of bolts is going to be unique in another way apart from being a hand-bomber ‘F’.

Please note the projects planned for this weekend at the depot and come to get involved!
We need to get four teams going on the 12AR, 15F, Sleeper Coaches as well as the Bar Coach. 

I trust that you enjoy the read.

Lee Gates


28.04.2013 Dear Steamers and Members

Here the latest photos from 12AR 1535, heading out from Magaliesburg at 27.04.2013

All Photos copyright @ Aidan McCarthy

26.04.2013 Dear Steamers and Members

Here is the latest Reefsteamers Depot Report covering events at the depot up to 13th April. We’ve had a cloudy couple of work days and the photos aren’t of great quality. But my main focus is to record events, regarding beautiful pictures as a bonus if I can get them.

Since this report was written, the damaged clamshell on the coal grab wagon was dismantled and the bent/curled over sections were cut out for a good stiff 50-ton ironing. The little Yorkshireman is lethal with a mallet, I can tell you!

Class 15F No.3046 continues preparation for her boiler inspection. We had a small gang wrestling to get the throat plate and arch tube washout plugs out before gas torch heating and quenching techniques had to be applied. The next step would be for a good boiler washout, sending Jeandre Gordon into the boiler through the dome to wash tubes, the crown sheet and down the sides into the firebox flank water spaces.

We had also done an end-to-end coach inspection on the sleeper train to cross-check Philipp Maurer’s recent coach work report. The sleeper train coaches need to be tidied up and finished to a professional and ergonomic standard for the rail tour coming in November.

Apart from broken fixtures and unfinished painting, and hole patch work, there are stupid things such as towel rails mounted out of reach on the ceiling, obstructive beds, doors that cannot open fully and corridor facing windows that open into cupboards, bathrooms and showers. ( ! ) We will also take down assorted blinds, venetian blinds and curtains to reinstate the original SAR coach window shutters of which we have been gathering stock.

We are also looking at de-converting the silver-class coupe beds back into SAR style with three beds along one wall – the upper bunk as a parcel shelf, and the middle bunk dropping down to a seat back as per UCW design. No passengers like the L-shaped bed arrangements and normal-sized folk even find it difficult to turn over in the lower bed due to the deep cross beams on the center bunks.

Herr. Philipp Maurer is coming out soon for several weeks’ worth of dedicated work on the sleeper coaches – so you will soon be hearing of progress there.

In other news, we have had the first introductory meeting for the coming annual Reefsteamers Depot Open Day. We basically had the usual regulars attending but we need people to get involved as we have more events and exhibits planned for this year. Jeremy Wood has taken over the role of coordinating the event.

You will also find, over time, improvements to the depot’s greenery and gardens. Coen Pretorius has volunteered to look after the gardens and make improvements. He has already started by installing a low-wall brick planter along the concrete apron for the club house.

Reefsteamers Members are requested to not eat the pretty flowers! If you fancy chowing down on the cacti, feel free as we plan to get rid of them anyway.

Enjoy the report!

Lee Gates

Depot Report

26.04.2013 Depot Photo News

One of the two tool towers for the wheel lathe – intact and just needing a good cleaning and lube session. The square section shaft protruding to the left is the one which the chain-driven clutch is mounted as an automatic tool feed. The newly rebuilt motor for the Wheel Lathe. We now have everything we need to start reassembling the gearboxes and the drive .. except for time. Once 15F 3046 is ready for boiler inspection, this will be Depot Manager’s Gordon’s next major project amongst his normal tasks.
Another view of three old ladies awaiting major repairs. In the foreground, 12R 1947 ‘Rosie’, Middle 15F 2914 and rear, 15CA 2046. Doesn’t anyone out there have a million bucks that they want to donate to a good cause? Steam Crane No.578 makes an interesting line up with 15F No.3046 (middle) and 25NC No.3472. (Rear.) Notice that both of the locos are still wearing their wing heralds, as the currently operating 12AR loco has nowhere to put them!
‘Andrew’ the Hunslet’s builder’s plates. Built in 1951, he’s actually older than the 25NC 3472 (1953) and the Garratt No.4079. (1956) Trivia of the day : Did you know that the parent Hunslet Engine Co. still owns the names and designs of many North British locomotives? ‘Andrew’ the Hunslet Taylor shunter has recently been smartened-up with painted wheels, rods, walkways and buffer beams. Notice one of two new engine covers. It is of corrosion resistant steel, but will still need painting soon.
Reefsteamers grit-gangers stride off assertively on a mission – in this case, to go and fetch the donated fly press. I’d hate to be the collared brass thief who ever has to face this lot in a retributive mood! Caught in the act! James Thomson is just about to tidy a stray cupcake away. We had a pile of leftover cakes from a birthday party. The depot is crawling with neglected bachelors parked at the back of life’s great sales lot, and any food left at the depot will be efficiently taken care of!
A coach is warmly lit at the end of a bleak day. We are soon going to start a fix-the-coaches drive, aiming to increase capacity with ‘straight’ day sitters (including ‘Dusty’ the Semuma Coach), and getting Locomotion into service so Kango No.127 can be pulled out for service and mods. A different view of the RHS bypass valves (and a few birdie splats) on the GMAM Garratt No.4079 ‘Lyndie Lou.’ You can’t get this view on a standard locomotive, as the smokebox would be where I was then standing.
The Scottish Controller on a casual works visit. Topping his dome is the Clanking Tam-o-Shanter MkII. The first version ran out of fabric real estate to pin on any more badges! Parking the Coal Handling Wagon’s Boom away after a long day. The clamshell buckets have since been dismantled and the bent sections cut out, pressed flat in the 50 ton hydraulic press and made ready for re-welding.

16.04.2013 Running repairs to Class 12AR No.1535 'Susan' - 13 April 2013

The ideal slipper gap on this locomotive would be 1mm. The slide bars are too unevenly worn to get this clearance set up, so a compromise had to be made. Eventually, the four slide bars will need to be removed, and the white-metal surface re-machined straight and parallel. Doctor Smudge is tightening up the rear shim bolt to seat a newly inserted shim on top of the existing shim-stack. The front end is held on by two smaller bolts. Note the jack under the crank rod – it is taking the weight of the rod, bushing and crosshead away from the lower slide for measuring.
In this slightly blurred view, you can clearly see three rust-tinted shim plates above the tube spanner. Not only does a loose crosshead cause knocking and problems at the cylinder’s garter ring & packing gear, the points of the pivoting cross head also stresses the oil film as the surface area is much lower. (Hence exerting higher pressure.) Here is other side’s crosshead at mid-stroke. The clearance between the slippers and the two separate slide bars was about 5mm in the center. To complicate matters, the center parts wear more than the ends. Setting the center clearance correct would make the ends too tight.
This pair of goofballs are Andreas ‘Bob-Tail’ Matthee (L) and Dawie ‘Swakhart’ Viljoen. They had just camped-out up top of the Class 12AR’s boiler to start with re-lapping the clack valves that were leaking. Dawie had just taken his hard hat off, hence the rather wild ‘kuifie’ hairstyle. The old ballast scraper was being worked on by five volunteers at this moment, although only two of them can be seen perched up top. You can see that the person who previously cleaned the buffer beam never got to the center!
Yeah, so the action was mainly hidden away on this side of the locomotive at the moment. That’s ‘Noddy’ King reaching for tools with Jeremy Wood watching. Lil’ Susie was treated to some running repairs after her first run after recommissioning. We had no lights as our electricity bill was stated as being in credit, and then suddenly switched off due to non-payment. But the ‘Top Shed’ was light enough to work in, even on a cloudy day.

16.04.2013 Dear Reefsteamers Members

Here is the latest Depot Report.  My reports and my visits had gotten a bit out of synch as I was doing other time-consuming documents for Reefsteamers, as well as several brochures for trips, and then dealing with major changes in my work situation. 

With that in mind, this particular report is preceded by a page-long write up of what is currently under way and planned in the Ol’ Germiston Steam Depot.  The write-up is up to date as of 14th April, so everyone can get up to date.  The photos are from up to the end of March.

I DO have a Class 12AR report half-done.  I was planning to do a feature report on the 12AR’s recent boiler repair work but due to the lack of time, I have had to abandon that idea.  I will likely release the 12AR work section-by-section as be able to keep up with current weekend events.

I trust that you enjoy the photo essays within,

Lee Gates

Depot impressions
Heard at the west end of the 15M yard…‘Let me in! Let Me in!’‘No! By the hair of my chinney-chin-chin!’‘Then I’ll rumble and I’ll grumble, and I will PUSH your gate in! Oude Drywers never die, they just get demoted to cleaners! (Right back where they started, decades ago!) Attie is aware of the irony, but he is still happy to do this stuff. That ‘Shield’ brand polish worked well on the brass oval, but the buffing machine took some of the red paint off the inset surfaces. (As that paint was never primered.)
NOTICE : This Water Tap Is Presently Under Repair And Must NOT Be Moved. By Order : Attie De Necker. (In reality : A locomotive’s clip-on cab flag left out to dry after being repainted.) Two generations of genuine steam boys stand next to an increasingly warm 12AR. The vintage one on the left is admittedly a bit worn out by now, but still has a lot of productive miles left. On the right is the very latest model steam enthusiast still under warrantee. That’s Attie de Necker and Jeandre Gordon mugging it up for the camera.
In the last light after a long Saturday workday, the cluttered 15M workshop yard takes on a gloomy, industrial cast behind a light haze of smoke. The 12AR No.1535 is just out of frame to the left, with a blower fault being traced. A Class 24 tender behind a BIG pile of bogie-bits and a pair of flangeless drivers belonging to Sandstone’s 2-2-2 Class 14R Loco. The oxide primer-painted tender stuff belongs to Greg McLennan as a private restoration project.
With the ‘little’ 12AR finally out of the way after over a year of standing in Road No.2 for her intermittent boiler work, the fully revealed Class 25NC 3472 suddenly seems a whole LOT longer and more impressive! The King has Returned. (For a short while) Andrew King (RHS) was back in South Africa for the first time in just over a year while travelling the world as an engineering consultant. Here, he is discussing steam crane donkey pumps with an animated snr machinist, James Thomson.
Class 15F No.3046 ‘Janine’ shows the correct use of the red flag, indicating that the locomotive is under repair and must not be moved. Like the red flagged tripods for ‘locking’ out tracks, it is an honour system – relying on the person who posted the flag to be the only one to remove it. Sitting on scaffolding next to the Class 25NC 3472, a rather melancholic-looking Josh is watching the 12AR locomotive being moved. The aged coal resisted his attempts at trimming, but he will definitely be back for more!
Cousins at the braai with a hungry Bennett making sure he is first in line for free samples and spice analysis. I normally end up doing this, but I arrived just as Cousin Rob was heading out. Tired of wors, lately we’ve been doing Russians and Chips, with battered hake on the side. Sometimes, you just don’t want to ask! Notice the classic tongue-out pose on the right. We eventually had four people trying to separate the hose coupling. Later, the fire hose came apart with just one little knock on the vice – Jeremy Wood seemed a bit disappointed at the short fight.
When the blower ain’t goin’, the smoke is showin’ and it’s really laying low’in as fast as the Mini Mienie can keep thow’in the carbon! These guys don’t seem to mind though – they actually LIKE the scent of coal smoke! (Odd) A view a little further to the right in the hazy light, a serried row of three iron ladies with very expensive tastes wait for their turn of repairs. From front to rear; Class 15CA No.2056, then Class 15F No.2914 and Class 12R No.1947.
More of Greg McLennan’s stuff lying around our play area … I mean … workshop. Behind the tender axles, Class 12AR No.1535 is getting a good facial exfoliative anti-graphite treatment, courtesy of Jeremy Wood. Pump Trolley Benediction. The coal haze is making for some dramatic lighting effects under the 15M shop’s roof as Simon Bennett is dragging the scaffolding further back to finish rubbing sun screen onto the 12AR’s tender.
Machinist James (L) and Driver\TM Attie (R), who are able keep the rest of the depot staff and volunteers entertained without even trying. They take the mickey out of each other without mercy, communicating with their own unique blend of English, Afrikaans and their own sign language – quite something to see! Smokin’ out the night – the 12AR’s smoke column doesn’t quite blend into the clouds of the restless evening sky. The stupid locomotive moved while I was adjusting the camera’s shutter speed – but I kinda like the accidental asymmetric effect in the resulting picture.
Taking out the trash – Reefsteamers style.Actually, that’s the 15M shop’s scrap metal bin and we fill it up regularly. There is a large open scrap skip almost permanently on the premises. Our offcuts, steel shavings and junk make a small but useful revenue stream and it is good for the environment too. Sandstone’s Steam Crane No.578 is now also correctly flagged-out for maintenance work. This old crane has even has its own built-in anti-intruder system – once again, a swarm of wasps have made their home within the cosy, secure confines of the geared slewing ring.
The old Germiston Steam Loco Depot ... That's us! That 'sign' is actually a rolling blind destination marker from a coach. It is presently on display in the rehabilitated Fitter's Shop. An unusual view along the outer rail of the gantry crane. I was standing on the 12AR’s cab roof for this shot.
Seriously, how many shovels does The Mini Mienie need when firing the 12AR? The round-nosed shovels as on the left are better for coal trimming as they are easier to dig into the coal – the smaller point exerts higher pressure. Our chaps have been battling with this lathe recently as the cutting tools are starting to chatter. James shows the cause – the lower clamping plate on the tool holder has become distorted. James is planning to make new plates, and a matching tool holder for the other end – one dedicated to machining and one for cutting threads.

13.04.2013 Dear Reefsteamers Members

Reefsteamers will be running a special BEER TASTING steam train to Magaliesburg on Sat, 25 May 2013.  Our friends from the De Garve Micro Brewery will be showcasing a range of their speciality hand-crafted beers within our bar coach.

Included in your train ticket cost will be a complimentary glass of De Garve ‘Golden Blonde’ Ale, which will be served to you in a branded glass, which you can later keep as a souvenir.Patrick and Goedel De Garve will also be introducing the latest member of their range, a new spicy Belgian Ale called ‘Naughty Walloon.’  All De Garve beers (and ales) are brewed in the traditional way and they are classified as ‘live beers.’ 

We will be departing from Platform 14 of Johannesburg’s Park Station at about 9:00 and we will get you back there, by about 17:00.

This train will be plying our usual route to Magaliesburg.  The picnic grounds opposite the old Magaliesburg Station will be open free of charge.  They feature sun shades, serviced braais, a pavilion area and jumping castles for the kids.  You can walk down to the river or explore the nearby Magaliesburg Village.
If you are not up to doing a braai, there are food outlets in the nearby village, including a Spur, a Wimpy and a Chicken Licken.  There is also a Spar store conveniently close by so you can buy your food stuff without having to carry it on the train.  It is an easy five minute walk from the station and our volunteers will show you the way.
As always, you can watch and photograph our steam locomotive shunting and being serviced, and you can even get a guided tour of the cab and of the locomotive herself once the preparation work is finished.  However, due to safety regulations in force, we are not allowed to have passengers on the locomotive while it is in motion, so we cannot give cab rides.

Please do not address queries to me by return email, as I am just passing on
the message and thus I am not in a position to be able to assist you with bookings. 

Lee Gates
Stubbornly   unrepentant   ferro-equinologist!

05.04.2013 Dear Reefsteamers Members

An extra note has just come in to me concerning Reefsteamers Memberships. 
The Membership Cards will be available from Gordon Bennett (Depot Manager). Gordon is generally at the Depot from Monday to Saturday, so it should be easy to pick up your card.

This year’s Membership Cards will be a different colour, instead of the blue from last year.

Your cards will only be made available to Gordon once your payment has been confirmed.

Long Distance Members will not have Membership Cards snail-mailed to them, but their names will still be listed as for the local members.

Your Membership Card may be required in the near future to be granted member-level access to the Depot Premises, so please make a plan to keep them handy.

We are working on the security protocols right now and will let you know what the requirements will be.

- Lee

Membership forms

05.04.2013 Dear Reefsteamers Members and future Members,

It is that time of the year again, when Reefsteamers Memberships are due for their annual renewals
Membership forms. There is no change in the pricing structure or membership rules for this year.However, the mechanisms for payment and the handing in of the forms has been much simplified.

To summarize :
1)    Payments must be made electronically or deposited directly into our bank account. (The details of which are on Page 2 of the attached form.) 

2)    Membership Renewal Forms may be scanned and emailed to Lauren Ackerman ( ), or the paper copies can be handed to Depot Manager Gordon Bennett or to Lauren Ackerman - … and to those two people ONLY, please.  

3)    We will no longer be allowing Membership Renewal Forms to be dropped-off at the premises, especially in the canteen.  Gordon is usually present at the depot 6 days a week so you should have no problems getting your forms to him!  Lauren is often on the train, so she can take your forms on board. 

4)    Neither Lauren Ackerman or Gordon Bennett will accept cash payments even though they will take your Renewal Forms.  Lauren will confirm payment with the bank or upon receipt of Proof-of-Payment.

We have had to simplify things as there were issues in previous years with things going missing or not being collected, and it was a lot of extra work to administer.

Please read the instructions carefully and abide by them for a trouble-free Membership Renewal.

If you have previously been granted Lifetime Membership, your details will be automatically renewed and you will not need to send in a form or make a payment … UNLESS … any of your personal or contact details have changed in the past year.  In such a case, we will need your updated details.

Thank you for being a part of our team – and here is trusting that you will be pleased to continue to be counted amongst the Proud and the Few in year 2013!

* Cue Martial Bagpipes! *

Lee Gates

Membership forms

29.03.2013 Dear Reefsteamers and Friends of Steam,

Hello there!

Reefsteamers will be running another steam-hauled Lunch Train on Saturday, 20th April. Enjoy a pie and salads lunch while experiencing a real steam train ride in one of our typically beautiful autumn days.

We will be departing from Platform 14 of Johannesburg’s Park Station at about 11:00. You can use the Gautrain to get to Park Station, or come by car to park at the Gautrain Park Station facility. (Cnr. Eloff and Wolmarans Str.) The railways’ Johannesburg Park Station has pedestrian access from the Gautrain station.

We will be running our steam train through to New Canada Station via Langlaagte. There we will couple the steam locomotive onto the other end of the train, reverse direction and chug along eastwards along the southern districts of Johannesburg on the old Rand Mineral Line. The train will pass Kaserne and be routed back to Johannesburg via George Gogh. We will get back at about 15:30.

Come and join us for a fun mid-afternoon out! Please refer to the attached brochure for details.

For the steam enthusiasts, we will be running our grand old lady, ‘Susan,’ the Class 12AR No.1535. After a year in the workshops, she has just been repaired and her boiler newly certified for another three years. She is really looking forward to enjoying a good run with you all! ‘Susan’ is the very last survivor of her kind. At 94 years old, she is the oldest currently operable main line steam locomotive in South Africa. For more facts on Susan, check out her photos and her profile at: Rolling Stock

22.03.2013 Dear Reefsteamers and Friends of Steam,

12AR No.1535 'Susan' is almost ready to steam again.

The smokebox draft gear was reassembled and installed today, including a brand new table plate, new draft deflectors, a new solid-wall blast cone and the new steam down pipes have been fitted.

The baffle plates have been installed.

Steam chest cowlings have been re-installed but still need welding.

In the cab, the brackets for the left drop grate lever has been repaired and re-installed.

The entire cab's wooden floor was removed and all the coal and dirt removed from the floor trusses and the area painted in oxide paint.

The fire arch is now complete and the floor planks were re-installed.

There is a weep from one of the conical olives in the right side water gauge glass, so that will need repairing before steam up.

All boiler fittings have be remounted, leaving only the smokebox door and cover, and the headlamp which mounts onto the latter.

Lee Gates

16.03.2013 Dear Reefsteamers and Friends of Steam,

ere is a very quick and sloppy Saturday Depot Report for 2nd March 2013.  It is text based as I will be busy with some 15F 3046-related stuff for HobbyX this week.  If I have time later in the week, I will re-release this list with accompanying photos.  Unfortunately, I am battling at the moment with some regression-laden software releases from a software company in India, so my work schedule is going to be a bit erratic.  (Well, more than usual.)

But here are today’s Depot highlights.

Class 15F 3036 ‘Janine’ ran a successful final trip to Magaliesburg and back.  She will not run commercially again until the mandatory 3-year boiler ticket is renewed.  The boiler has been visually inspected by our guys and it looks good – so we don’t expect trouble during this test.

Philipp Maurer, our Web Master and firm supporter all the way from Switzerland, exchanged his SBB 140km/h goods trains for an old steam train for a recertification run.  He was successful and steam-assessor Coen Pretorius signed off the certification in the evening.

Andrew’ the Hunslet Taylor has had the entire wooden cab floor removed and a new joist fitted cross-ways at the leading end.  The existing arrangement had the unsupported planks shifting downwards under the operator’s feet.

During the same job, a new composite center plank was cut to size and fitted to complete the shunter’s cab floor over the awkwardly protruding gearbox covers and bolts.  The whole project was done with salvaged planks from recycled heavy-machinery crates!

A search was made for the missing Hunslet engine covers.  It has been decided to have two new ones laser-cut so we can run ‘Andrew’ the Hunslet looking neater with all six engine covers again.  The right rear cover will be made with a separate hinged door for access to the quick start button.      

A dusty Andrew the Hunslet had been degreased and ‘WAPped’ during the week – but he is booked for a bit of polishing by Oom Att.

The Class 12AR No.1535 ‘Susan’ has had the lower sections of her steam pipes radially ground-back for clearance for the steam chest flanges, and the pipes have been loosely fitted.  Work is now underway to make templates for the bent sections.

A new gasket was made for the repacked RHS Bissell Axle box on the 12AR No.1535 ‘Susan’

The Class 12AR’s regulator cover was refitted, and a loose clack cover tightened.  The dual pepper-pot safety valves had been fitted during the week.  

The smaller lathe in the machine shop has been partially dismantled for repairs to a slack speed shifter – and a worn key on a slotted shaft had been found to be the culprit.  The removed assembly has been taken away by James Thomson for fabrication of a new key.

The Hunslet Taylor was fired up and used to shunt the coal handling wagon down to the 15M shop yard.  It will be used during the week to clear the scrap cabinets, oil sumps and coal bins that have been removed from the Fitter’s Shop.  There are also the wooden panels, an old desk and windows of the demolished foreman’s office that still need to be removed.         

Along the way, a pile of salvaged rails which were very close to the turning balloon track were hoisted and placed further away before the 12AR is damaged on her very first run.  (She’s lower than the 15F 3046, which barely made it through last week, and the scrap pile would likely snag something on the 12AR.)  

A spare points frog was hoisted from the coal handling wagon and placed on wooden sleepers next to the turning balloon track for the ease of future slinging and recovery.      

A set of three duplex socket outlets (BS546) and a local sub-distribution board (With a 3 Phase ELU) were installed for the satellite benches next to the 15M shop main entrance. 

The old socket outlet near the yellow air compressor has been removed entirely – it was not in a useful position and it was dangerous as it wasn’t wired through an earth leakage.  The air compressor and sump pump are now fed through a local distribution board as well, with MCBs set for cascade from the main panel.

Plans were discussed to mounted an isolator box and to run a new power line along the entire wheel drop pit trench – with splash proof sockets conveniently available at every track.   

The Fitter’s Workshop is also in dire need of new lighting and especially some new sockets with the elderly, bodged wiring made safe.  The sockets need to be done first for safety and then the lighting arranged once the positions of the newly relocated tool cabinets is finalized.             

Plans were discussed for consolidation of the 15M yard this week – including shifting Greg McLennan’s 24 Class to get the cab roof clear of the traversing crane and to shunt its tender one or two tracks closer.  All of the tender bogie parts are to be moved in between.  The 15CA and 12R are to have their smokebox covers and doors temporarily re-mounted as the stored covers are obstructing the crane. 

Both the 15M workshop and the Running Shed are to be tidied up as they had been left a bit untidy after all the recent flurry of deadline work.     

Weed busting is continuing.  The 15M Yard headshunt, in particular, is rank with growth. 

We are awaiting quotes for a JoJo type water tank to be fitted in close proximity to the 15M yard.  It will be filled via a pipeline tapped into the existing sump pump’s drain and used to capture and recycle wash-down and boiler washout water for further cleaning.     

George is awaiting reports from a sonar scan for the Class 15F No.2914 foundation ring.  The Boiler Inspector approved of the newly trimmed and dressed patch, but not of the effect of the welding on the non-original corner piece of the foundation ring.  (It had been repaired with somewhat inferior steel in the past by SAR, and the steel is tending to cavitate under the welds.)  The other three corners were checked by MRI and found to be sound.  Depending on the sonar results, it is likely that we will have to fabricate a new corner for the foundation ring itself.        

The steel bars for the Class 15F No.2914 crinoline rings and assorted brackets has arrived, and the thermal blankets for the boiler lagging should arrive this week.  Steel sheet is already available to refabricate the cab floor, running bounds and the cut-away ash pan.   

Lee Gates

11.02.2013 Dear Reefsteamers and Friends of Steam,

Here is the latest Reefsteamers Depot Report, which is mainly focussed on the hydraulic pre-tests on the Class 12AR Boiler and the small but numerous improvements done as a part of the Wheel Lathe rebuilding project.  Included is a bonus photo feature of the Matthee Brothers crewing an all-day shunting turn.

If all goes well on the 12AR Locomotive’s boiler hydraulic tests this week (Wednesday), work will then resume on fabricating new steam pipes and getting the drafting and spark arrestor gear patched up.  It won’t be installed though as the boiler still needs to be accessible for a visual check.  The 12AR’s fire arch also needs to be rebuilt after the visual inspection of the new beaded and welded tube ends at the rear tube plate. 

Getting 12AR No.1535 ‘Susie’ running again is now the highest priority job on the deck, as the 15F No.3046 ‘Janine’ needs to be decommissioned for HER tri-year boiler inspection in March.  If something goes wrong with the 12AR or she fails her tests, Reefsteamers will be without a single operating locomotive.  (The GMAM and 25NC are operable but not permitted on the main line due wheel profiling issues.)

Class 15F 2914 has fallen into the background a bit with only George Hoddinott persistently working on the project - grinding and fitting the firebox corner patch.  The material is very hard and needs frequent checks as not to remove too much material.  However, metal stock has been ordered and is inbound for the repairs to the cab floor and the side-walk boards,  as well as steel bar stick for the crinoline cage.  (The circular hoops that support the sheets for the boiler cladding. 

We are hoping to get that infamous firebox patch welded-in at the same time that the 12AR’s tubes are done.  From that point on, we really do need volunteers to assist with continuing the 29914 project as there will be various ‘streams’ of work to be done while George and Dawie make-up and insert new firebox stays and re-rivet the foundation ring.

Incidentally, we are looking for a supplier of 3CR12 stainless steel sheeting for repairs to the 15F 2914’s tender coal deck and the shovel plate area.  3CR12 is an abrasion resistant chromium-stainless steel – although it does rust very slightly.  If anyone has contacts whereby we can buy plate steel at cost or even possibly as a donation, please reply to me with the contact details

As always, photographs are posted as albums onto the Reefsteamers Facebook Page
as the reports are written.  There are approximately 130 Photo Albums for viewing at:

Reefsteamers Depot Report

Dear Reefsteamers and Friends of Steam,

The main focus of the Depot Projects during the month of December was the fencing and gating.  I have been collecting some more photos of the 15F No.2914 firebox patch project and the newly re-roofed wheel lathe house – which will feature in Depot Report No.106.  But I felt the fencing project deserved a bit of publicity.  It is not very interesting to look at and doesn’t sound particularly exciting … but was jolly hard work all the same.

We had spoken about this for quite a while and the project is now almost done.  The photos included in the report are mainly of fences and gates, and not of locomotives.  But it illustrates the fact that it isn’t just the locomotives and coaches that need to be preserved/protected, but the facilities themselves as well.

Apart from a pedestrian gate still to be inserted at the west end – to complete the guard patrol loop between the Turning Balloon and the original compound, the gate project is complete.  The fencing still needs to be homogenised to one wiring schema, although it IS currently energized.  It is likely that the Turning Balloon fence will receive uprated energizers and we are looking at zoning the fence too.  The fencing still needs to have a few more earth spikes inserted too.

The solar-charged flood light project will be next.

Now the fences are up, it is worthwhile finishing up our track repairs, especially replacing the stolen infrastructure around the 15M shop head shunt – and to get the workshops connected to the rails again.  We have to get the headshunt repaired before the 12AR locomotive can be released after her latest boiler re-tubing project.

Looking at the photos in the report will show a lot of empty land surrounded by the new fence.  The total length of the fencing, including the existing structure, is about 2km.  What the fence symbolizes, apart the direct job of protecting the vulnerable Balloon Track with its wooden check-rail equipped sleepers, is the preservation of the surviving core of the old depot for greater things.  We still hope to upgrade the depot to a professional museum-type facility one day, to be of a suitable standard for members of the public to walk around.  We might even one day put a miniature multi-gauge model live steam track inside the Turning Balloon for the model engineering fans.  In this increasingly lawless country, it is of little use putting effort and money into facilities that are exposed to be stolen.
To the guys that gave up their Christmas and New Year holiday time for this not-so-exciting but still quite important job … thank you.

Lee Gates
Steam Power – It’s the Wheel Thing!
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