Garratt steams at Vale of Rheidol

Posted by Chris Graham on 8th January 2022

Ex-South African Railway’s Garratt steams at Vale of Rheidol Railway in preparation for the 2022 passenger train season.

Garratt steams at Vale of Rheidol

Garratt steams at Vale of Rheidol after its major overhaul. (Pic: Andrew Simmonds)

The Vale of Rheidol Railway has completed commissioning of Hanomag 2-6-2+2-6-2 Garratt NG/G13 works number 10551, which was built in 1927. The ex-South African Railway’s locomotive No. 60, named Drakensberg, will be available to haul VoR passenger trains in 2022 in addition to the line’s iconic 2-6-2Ts.

The German-built NG/G13 ceased work in South Africa in 1973 and was purchased by Swiss enthusiasts in 1986. It returned to steam in 1998 and ran on the 60cm gauge Schinznacher Baumschulbahn line in Switzerland until changes to the track layout rendered it unable to traverse the full circuit at the site.

A successful conclusion to three years of negotiations by Vale of Rheidol management resulted in the locomotive being transported across Europe to Vale of Rheidol Railway where it arrived on 17 July 2017.

Although in generally excellent condition and certified to operate in Switzerland, UK regulations required a fresh boiler test. The decision was made to undertake a full overhaul at VoR’s Aberystwyth workshops. This has progressed between other work, including contract overhauls for other customers, and suspension of engineering work for periods during 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The locomotive undertook a successful light engine test and gauging operation over the full length of the Vale of Rheidol Railway from Aberystwyth to Devil’s Bridge on 16 October 2021.  A loaded test hauling seven carriages to Devil’s Bridge followed on 18 October.  The locomotive subsequently hauled a second test train with directors and trustees aboard and worked a demonstration freight train on 9 November for a photo charter.

Overhaul details
Boiler – stripped and found to be in good condition. The boiler fittings were overhauled, new tubes fitted and a new boiler certificate secured.

Power bogies – stripped, wheels turned, axleboxes inspected, the motion overhauled, new piston and valves rings fitted and accurate setting of the valves.

Brake gear – removed, checked and refitted with the addition of full VoR specification air braking including steam operated air pump. Although no longer functional the original vacuum train braking and locomotive steam brake equipment has been retained in the cab to conserve its original appearance.

On November 9th, the Garratt worked a freight train for a photo charter. (Pic: Andrew Simmonds)

Other equipment – a correct early NG/G13 pattern chimney has been fitted and the loco equipped with VoR couplings and safety chains. The original crossed SAR/SAS (South African Railways/Suid-Afrikaanse Spoorweë) lettering on the bunker has been replaced by crossed VOR/VOR lettering in the same format.

The name Drakensberg was applied in Switzerland, a reference to the area in central Southern Africa named Drakensbergen (Dragons’ Mountains) by early Dutch settlers, now known as Drakensberge in Afrikaans. The red dragon is an iconic Welsh symbol and Vale of Rheidol Railway runs from the sea into the mountains of Mid-Wales, the name is therefore highly appropriate and will be retained.

‘Wales to the World’
Vale of Rheidol Railway is progressively undertaking a £2.2million project entitled ‘Wales to the World’ which is transforming its Aberystwyth terminus with the help of £1.6 million of EU funding through the Welsh Government’s Tourism Attractor Destination programme.

The railway owns a significant collection of locomotives gathered from around the world which in time will be displayed within this development. Operating a British-designed, German-built locomotive which worked in South Africa, entered preservation in Switzerland and will now be seen steaming in Wales, presents a perfect educational opportunity to compliment this project.

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