Reefsteamers
South Africa's professional steam train operator


Updates and Notices 2014


08.05.2014 Dear Reefsteamers and Friends of Steam

Here is the latest Reefsteamers Depot Repot based upon last week Saturday, 23 August.  It represents the start of another one of our long-term engineering projects – putting properly profiled wheels under our currently-boarded Class 25NC locomotive.  I took and annotated some extra photos to show recent changes around our depot.

A nice new Depot Report waiting in your email should ease the pain of returning to work on Monday Morning!  J

I don’t expect to get any reporting work done this week, but I do hope to get some older never-seen archive pics up on Reefsteamers Facebook … so pop in for a visit. 

Next week we plan to have a composite coach work party after the morning meetings, so I hope to take some pics of that.  Hott-Nutts George has also promised me a talk n’ chalk session of the progress on his rust-bucket 15F 2914, so I might be able to do an update report on that project.  (Being the total re-engineering of the firebox foundation ring from the riveted forged bar type to a more modern welded tube style similar to that of the 25NC and GMAM locomotives.)

I will release more details about this coming Saturday’s planned activities tomorrow…

Enjoy the read

Lee Gates


08.05.2014 Dear Reefsteamers and Friends of Steam

Here is the brochure for the next planned Magaliesburg Express Train running on 31 May.
Please pass it on to your friends, family and colleagues.

Reefsteamers has had a bad year so far with the December 2013 TFR ban stopping operations and then several cancelled trains since.  We are struggling to get enough passengers onto our trains to make the trips financially viable.  (We no longer run trains at a loss, as was sometimes done in previous years – a small but contributing factor towards the debt we are now struggling with.)  Advertising our trips is becoming a serious weak point in our operations.

I do most of the electronic advertising; Aletta reaches the contacts reached by SANRASM; and Diana forwards to various on-line and print publications.  Rinke Blok and JAWS of the Model Train Shop also support us, as well as Philipp Maurer from behind the various Europe-based websites.  Simon Bennett is more involved with trying to enhance the passenger experience after we have endured several years of erratic servicing at the picnic grounds and to provide more options in general.  We are also trying out on-line and electronic booking systems too.  We are currently using the Quicket system and we are investigating using Computicket.

The Magaliesburg Development Initiative (MDI) are getting more involved in Magaliesburg and I understand that they plan to take over the existing station and picnic grounds as a tourism hub for the village.  However, their arrangements will take time and we need to pay our bills in the meantime!

However, the current level of advertising is not sufficient to keep our operation running.  It boots not how cool the picnic baskets may be, or what engine is running ahead of what beer-tasting train if no one knows about it!

Many of our members seem to it for granted that there will always be more coaches to ride, or a locomotive footplate to enjoy – whereas the possibility of closing our depot down due to lack of business becomes more real.  In fact, the wolf is already baying at the gates and he is holding a burning acetylene torch!  Marketing is obviously not seen as vital, as judged by the very poor response we had to our expo stand at the recent HobbyX expo at the Coca-Cola dome.

The core people who are involved in operating Reefsteamers on a weekly basis are not giving up – but assistance is needed.  The people currently involved with advertising Reefsteamers are maxed-out and cannot do much more.  (Most of us have other roles at RS and day jobs.)  It is anticipated that adopting on-line booking will help a bit – but if the current state remains unchanged, Reefsteamers WILL eventually close due to lack of revenue. 

Who would be willing to assist on a regular basis with advertising our trains?  We are talking about printed brochure drops, on-line research, posting adverts into community papers and the like.  I believe we are also offering advertising spaces on our coaches , so talk to your employers and contacts about doing so.

Please consider what you can do and if you would be willing to join with the Reefsteamers Marketing Team to help preserve what we have already achieved and to keep the steel wheels rolling!

Lee Gates


12.04.2014 Dear Reefsteamers and Friends of Steam

Here is a photo report on yesterday’s (Saturday) weed-clearing exercise on the Magaliesburg turning triangle. 

This will become a bi-annual exercise for Reefsteamers in future as we are now expected to look after the minor maintenance of this trackage ourselves.  It is no longer considered as active trackage by Transnet.  We are now the only people that use this track for turning locomotives and if it weren’t for our usage thereof, it would have actually been abandoned long ago.

Enjoy the read

Lee Gates


02.04.2014 Dear Friends

Dear Reefsteamers,

Sadly, one of our old boys, Tony 'Shaky' King passed away in the early hours of this Monday morning.  He was full of fun and stories, and had a lively interest in aviation, models, machinery generally as well as steam preservation.  He voluntarily backed out from being active at Reefsteamers some years ago due to increasing fragility and a medicine regime that he was on.  But when he was still able, he pottered around in the workshop and served as a Coach Controller until chose to retire himself from service.  Here he is seen holding his coach controller certificate.

You will find his family page on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/kfamily1?fref=ts

Please leave a message of support for them.

- Lee



02.04.2014 Dear Reefsteamers and Friends of Steam

Here is a two-pager photo sequence illustrating the removal and rebuilding of the right-side Compensating Beam on Class 12AR No.1535 ‘Susan.

This project was performed at the same time that the right side crosshead slide bars were refurbished.

The compensating beam problem was causing the stirrup rod to be bent between the beam and the bissell springs.  Hopefully, there will now be no more frantic Friday Night rear suspension rebuilds before the train would be fit to run on a Saturday. 

Enjoy the read

Lee Gates


27.03.2014 Dear Reefsteamers and Friends of Steam

As you will know from the last brochure, there is a Reefsteamers train running this Saturday.  It will be pulled by Class 12AR 1535 ‘Susan’ – who will be running with two sets of repairs that need to be tested and checked on the run.

She has just had the worn crosshead slide bars remachined and repacked on the right side to eliminate a persistent and ever worsening knocking.  The compensating beam for the right side Bissell springing has also had its holes corrected and a new pivot bearing fitted.  The original weight-bearing pivot bearing was worn, which was causing the beam to tilt in the vertical axis.  It was causing stress on and eventually fracturing the stirrup rod between the beam and the trailing axle spring.

Susie has, in fact, been laid up before with a broken stirrup rod and then the boiler ticket ran out anyway – causing the loco to stand for some time before being recommisioned on 29 March 2009. (Five years ago on Thursday.)

This Depot Report covers the removal and replacement of the RHS slide bars.  As I already had a detailed set of captioned pictures before tonight’s work, this report is four pages long … you lucky beggars!

Enjoy the read

Lee Gates


24.03.2014 Dear Reefsteamers and Friends of Steam

What has oil, grit and frustrated Reefsteamers in equal quantities?

The Yumbo grab that is the boss of the coal dock came in for some long-overdue hydraulic repairs over the weekend.  Much of the repair work was necessitated because of poor fitting work by former employees.  Grit was getting into the system via bad assembly work on the coal grab’s actuator, and there were some wrongly assembled and located valves in the outer valve chest.

Not only should we be saving in no longer wasting expensive hydraulic oil, the grab will be safer to operate with the booms no longer just dropping downwards when incorrectly unrestricted valves are open.

But without the flammable hydraulic oil pre-soaking into the coal, it’s going to be a lot harder to light up the locomotive fires!  Poor Jeandre…

Enjoy the read

Lee Gates


22.03.2014 Dear Reefsteamers and Friends of Steam

Here are some pictures from the second team session of stripping the Semuma Coach No.25073 interior – this time focussing on dismantling the 3rd class seats so they could be removed from the coach.  Work has started on figuring out the repairs to some of the windows, which are of a different size and have different mountings compared to our existing coaches.  ‘Dusty’ was built back in 1970, so this is likely an older, more complicated system than our two existing main line coach sets. 

Work also started on stripping out the dingy cells of the existing toilets.  Poor Robbie…

The offset photo and page numbering is not a mistake.  I am building up and appending a master document for each project when I do the new format mini reports.  When Semuma runs one day, the entire document will be released as a special – and material from therein used to make a display poster for Semuma herself, as well as documenting the entire story in our future Museum – as well as remembering the late John Earles who initiated the Port Shepstone Holiday Train concept and the donation of this coach in the first place.


Enjoy the read. Semuma Part2

Lee Gates


21.03.2014 Dear Reefsteamers and Friends of Steam

While the main focus on the Susan the 12AR No.1535 has been the crosshead slide bars as of late, she has also recently had a boiler washout, conducted by Jeandre Gordon.  As I have been main posting reports on machinery and coaches, I thought it would be prudent to send in a few locomotive-related pictures for a change!

Enjoy the read

Lee Gates


20.03.2014 Dear Reefsteamers and Friends of Steam

As I need to work tomorrow afternoon anyway (Public Holiday), I pushed some hours back and sneaked in a new update for you today.  It makes a change from writing Patent Documents, I can tell you!

Reefsteamers has started the project of stripping ‘Dusty’ the Semuma Coach to facilitate cleaning, and also to permit access for a new floor covering within the main cabin.  This coach will be used as an extra coach to allow our existing rag-tag day-sitter fleet to be cycled out for repairs and upgrades.  (Including wheel chair access on one or more coaches.)

There is a lot of light duty work to be done on the coach, including cleaning, stripping of the bathrooms and removing the louvered window shutters for use in sleeper coaches.  If you can come along this weekend, contact Alan Lawton  alanll@global.co.za or Gordon Bennet gjbennett52@gmail.com and they can arrange a small work team. 

Work will otherwise be commencing on re-fitting the 12AR’s slide bars but there will only be space/access for two or three people.  So we could be more productive elsewhere….

Enjoy the read. Semuma Part1

Lee Gates


20.03.2014 Dear Reefsteamers and Friends of Steam

As I need to work tomorrow afternoon anyway (Public Holiday), I pushed some hours back and sneaked in a new update for you today.  It makes a change from writing Patent Documents, I can tell you!

Reefsteamers has started the project of stripping ‘Dusty’ the Semuma Coach to facilitate cleaning, and also to permit access for a new floor covering within the main cabin.  This coach will be used as an extra coach to allow our existing rag-tag day-sitter fleet to be cycled out for repairs and upgrades.  (Including wheel chair access on one or more coaches.) There is a lot of light duty work to be done on the coach, including cleaning, stripping of the bathrooms and removing the louvered window shutters for use in sleeper coaches.  If you can come along this weekend, contact Alan Lawton  alanll@global.co.za or Gordon Bennet gjbennett52@gmail.com and they can arrange a small work team. 

Work will otherwise be commencing on re-fitting the 12AR’s slide bars but there will only be space/access for two or three people.  So we could be more productive elsewhere….


Enjoy the read

Lee Gates


20.03.2014 Dear Reefsteamers and Friends of Steam

For several months now I have been struggling with a six day work week, as well as meeting my obligations at Reefsteamers.  My workload has been increased with requests from Marketing and the endless Customer Contact Database work.  The situation has been compounded by the general reluctance of Reefsteamers Members to assist with Loco Minding (Meaning I get called out by default.), and also to assist with special functions, such as the recent show stand that we hosted at the HobbyX Expo at the Coco-Cola dome.

Due to the workload and the consistent lack of support from other Reefsteamers Members in terms of Marketing/PR and the loco minding roster, I will no longer be creating Reefsteamers Depot Reports. Something had to give and that is the load I choose to shed.

As I have always stated, Marketing work takes precedence over the Reporting, so I will continue to assist with the marketing tasks. 

What I will be doing instead is providing more regular shorter updates on a per project basis up to say about 6 photos at a time.  I will try to put them into pages as per the Depot Reports to maintain the association of the captions and the pictures. If I am really pushed for time, I will just send them as email attachments.

The same photos and captions will also be used on Facebook as I currently do.  I am slowly re-indexing my growing photo archive of over 78 600 photos according to our rolling assets and depot projects, instead of the previous time-based indexing.  Thus, processing new pictures according to topics will fit right in with the updated filing system.

I am hoping that the smaller tasks will fit in easier around the mandatory deadline tasks I have to do, such as the various Brochures and sourcing material for publications.  In fact, this may work out better for everyone – keeping our members and friends more up to date during the week instead of waiting for four weeks to get an elaborate report.  It will also reduce my data costs in terms of bad links and returned emails. The attached document is an extract from the latest report that I was doing, so it is a bit longer than what I envisage to be sending in future.  It shows the brilliant work that James Thompson has been doing on restoring the tool stands for the wheel lathe project.  He is presently busy rebuilding the right side equalizer beam from the 12AR 1535, which was found to have a worn pivot bearing and was also bending the bissell axle spring’s stirrup rod. 

As I am also daily processing groups of older photos that were never indexed (about 21 000 of them), I am posting them up onto our Reefsteamers Facebook site.  So you need to use that service to see new and archive material never before released to members or the public.

Reefsteamers Update - Wheel Lathe Tool Stands


Enjoy the read.
Lee Gates


18.02.2014 Dear Reefsteamers and Friends of Steam

Here are some general announcements that concern us at Reefsteamers.

1). The Depot Workshops have been open for business for several weeks now, but very few people have been assisting with the work.  It is understandable though - Reefsteamers has just been through an unnecessarily tough time and it has been discouraging to those who work to see Steam prosper.  We have lost a lot of momentum, but we will not give up.  Work has commenced on another Silver Class Sleeper Coach, said work tending to be of a lighter duty nature.  Although we are running a train this weekend, the workshops will still be open – so please come along and get involved.  Alan Lawton and Gordon Bennett will show you what needs to be done.
We also need assistance to select and clean train/workshop items for display for a coming HobbyX Expo.  (Point 3)

2). Also to do with the workshops.  Last year, money was collected from many of our members for Reefsteamers-branded tee-shirts, but the tee-shirts were never purchased.  I have been discussing this with some of the parties involved and there has been a commitment to reimburse Reefsteamers members.  Unfortunately, the hand-written order form has since been lost.  If you ordered one or more Reefsteamers-branded tee-shirts which you never received, and would like your money returned, please inform me by return email of the number of tee-shirts for which you paid and I will pass it on.  They were R130 each.

3). MARKETING - HOBBYX.  Thanks to our friend in table top-sized steam J , Rinke Blok, Reefsteamers has been offered a free display table at this year’s HobbyX Expo at the Northgate Coca-Cola Dome.  Reefsteamers had to turn down the opportunity at the Gallagher Estates last year because we were all wrapped-up with a certain Tour Train.  This year we have an opportunity to show our stuff but because of the bad start we have had to this year so far, we only have two weeks’ notice.  It would be a shame to miss it again, as the turnout of visitors is quite strong at the Dome.We are also looking for ideas for our display stand. 

·         Shaun Ackerman has committed to bringing live steam locomotive model(s).
·         I will bring in my display computer as usual, with all the movies and slideshows on board so we can make a bit of noise! 
·         I also have the oval Reefsteamers headboard safely stored in my home.  (It was getting damaged at the depot.)
·         But we are looking for other ideas for our stand and items for display.  We do have items such as oil cans, tools, coal shovels, lamps and locomotive components that could be displayed, but they will need to be retrieved from the depot and cleaned-up, and we only have THIS weekend to do it.  So we will definitely need help to get selected display items ready.
·         I have two silent MS PowerPoint presentations on Reefsteamers (about 200 slides each) that could be run simultaneously with the noisy Steam Train Videos.  These were the two slide shows that ran on the hired big screens for the Depot Open day last year.  But we will need one or two extra computers to run those slide shows.  Does anyone have a reliable all-in-PC or a comp with a wide screen monitor that we can use?
·         We need to retrieve the ‘Falling Stars’ hand outs and the locomotive pamphlets that were printed for the RFS 2013 tour – I have no idea where they went.  Could someone help out there?
·         I am nearly out of stock for books and DVD’s but I do believe we have some train memorabilia somewhere.
·         We would prefer it if our volunteers wear their usual Reefsteamers uniform, jeans and tee-shirt, with a clean hi-vis vest.

If you can assist with a shift, and/or organizing items for display or coming up with interesting ideas for our display – please contact SIMON BENNETT at marketing@reefsteamers.com

Simon says that he will sponsor the food for the Reefsteamers who assist on the day.
That said, we will only commit to hoisting a Reefsteamers stand if sufficient people are willing and able to get involved as it will be unfair to have just two or three people trying to handle the whole project at short notice.

Thanking you in advance
Lee Gates



07.02.2014 Dear Reefsteamers and Friends of Steam

Good news!  Recent issues have been resolved and Reefsteamers has been granted permission to run trains once more on the Transnet Freight Rail system.Our next planned train is the Magaliesburg Express running on Saturday, 22 Feb. 2014.  Please pass on the word, as we haven’t been able to publicize our trains and we need to get these early 2014 trains running nice and full!  (This train is just over 2 weeks away.)

Incidentally, the depot workshops have been operating already.  Initial refurbishment and upgrade work has started on another Silver Class Sleeper Coach for tour train service – so come along to the Depot on Saturday and get stuck in!

Simon Bennett is taking over the role of Marketing Manager and we wish him success in his endeavours as he takes over from Lauren Ackerman.

All Aboard!  Steam’s Up! 

Lee Gates

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