Umgeni Steam Railway members Storm, Keegan and Mark Beavis are part of the team that wants to restore the steam locomotive at the old Kloof Station.
Umgeni Steam Railway members Storm, Keegan and Mark Beavis are part of the team that wants to restore the steam locomotive at the old Kloof Station.

Durban’s beloved pink locomotive needs a facelift

By Tanya Waterworth Time of article published Jan 16, 2021

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Durban - More than 120 years old, the much-loved steam locomotive, known as the Stokers Train, at the old Kloof Station desperately needs to be refurbished.

Members of the Umgeni Steam Railway (USR) have launched a Facebook appeal for skills and materials to restore the majestic old train to her former glory.

A visit to the train this week revealed graffiti and rust scarring the bodywork, while the woodwork is also in a poor state of repair.

USR member Mark Beavis said the train was a favourite place for children to play, being a well-known attraction on the railway line next to the popular Stokers Arms on the old station.

The old train is the poor cousin next to the well-known Inchanga Steam Choo-Choo, which runs from Kloof to the Inchanga market. The Inchanga Choo-Choo is kept at the Inchanga station, where the Railway Museum is also located.

“A local resident highlighted the state of the old train last year. I saw the post and we want to stir up some interest to renovate her. She needs more than just a coat of paint, she is badly rusted and the wood, such as the roof and doors, is rotting.

What the Stokers Train would look like if restored. Here Mpumalanga Rail Company team members work on a revamp of a similar train in Middleburg.

“We need volunteers to help clean, paint, weld and fix. We also need materials such as plates and wood,” said Beavis. Vagrants had been sleeping in the train, but they had been moved, he added.

The locomotive was built in 1904 for the Imperial Military Railway by the North British Locomotive Works, Glasgow, and was known as Class 8L-2 and numbered 464.

After 1910, the train’s number was 1155 under the South African Railways numbering system. It was unusual in that it would have had an SAR number plate in English only, because it had come from Britain.

USR chairperson Ashley Peter said 8th-class locomotives, such as the Stokers Train, had worked all over South Africa.

“In the 1920s and 30s, there were branch lines all around the country and these trains were used for passengers and freight,” he said.

In its later years, the locomotive used to run in Umkomaas at the Sappi paper mill. But instead of being scrapped when it was replaced, the train was handed to USR and kept in New Germany and Pinetown, before being moved to the old Kloof station.

It was put on display at Kloof because it could not be restored to good working order, having problems with the wheels, axle boxes and bent frames.

Peter said the remaining 8th-class locomotives around the country were largely “in very poor condition” and should the Stokers Train be restored, she would be one of the few left in South Africa.

Steam locomotives were first developed in the UK in the early 19th century and used for railway transport until the mid-20th century.

Richard Trevithick built the first steam locomotive in 1802, while the first commercially successful locomotive was built by John Blenkinsop in about 1812. Locomotion No 1, built by George Stephenson and his son Robert, was the first steam locomotive to carry passengers on a public railway in 1825, with Stephenson opening the first inter-city railway. His company was the leading builder of steam locomotives in the UK, most of Europe and the US.

In the 20th century Nigel Gresley, of the London and North Eastern Railway (LNER), designed some of the most famous locomotives, including the Flying Scotsman which was the first to record more than landmark speed of 100m/h (160km/h). The LNER Mallard held the record for being the fastest locomotive in the world at 126m/h (202km/h)

In the early 1900s, steam locomotives were slowly replaced by diesel and electric locomotives, with most steam trains having been retired by the 1980s. – Additional research trainhistory.net and wikipedia.com

To assist with the restoration of the Stokers Train, email [email protected]

The Independent on Saturday

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