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Steam Stories - Night Out - 15F #3075 - Richard Niven

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It was 28/01/1989 and Piet (my driver) and myself had just signed off duty at 09h20 after a night on the shunt in Germiston Yard. Home for a wash, bite to eat and a very quick 40 winks then back to work at 12h40. We were taken by mini-bus to Capital Park where we found 15F #3075 waiting for us. She was in full steam although her fire was full to the limits. After placing all the drivers kit, grease pumps, oil etc at each side of the cab door I climbed in and started cleaning the fire. Once all the clinker was out I closed the drop grate and spread the remaining hot ashes over the grate and started up the mechanical stoker. With the whole grate covered with fresh coal and the blower on hard I noticed something was not right. The coal was just sitting in the box andsx was not burning. I gave the fire a rake with the iron but that was not going to change things. I decided to leave it for a while with the blower on hard and go fill the tender. While up at the water I kept looking at the chimney expecting smoke to appear but with no joy. I returned to the cab only to find the fire with a few red spots here and there and still very dead.
Piet was now finished preparing the motion and was up alongside me in the cab.  "What the f--k have you done with the fire?" was his words. "Jy's 'n dom engelsman". I knew I was in trouble. Anyway we got it all going and left the shed for Pretoria station. All the way up the fire just seemed to want to die and I was struggling even with a light engine. By the time we arrived at the station the boiler was very low on water. "Wat maak jy engelsman? Waars die water?" were his words. We arrived at the station and coupled onto our 12 coach load and out of the blue pops Nathan "Trainman" Berelowitz.  Oh boy was I glad to know he was coming with us to Krugersdorp. Two fireman against one driver are always better than one.


After getting the fire and water  back to normal we were soon climbing out of Pretoria and up Fountains bank.  Regulator wide open and cut-off at about 50% 3075 was making enough noise to awaken the dead.  The first few miles went well but soon the steam pressure started to fall.  Trainman and myself were doing all we could to keep up the pressure and water.  Piet was sitting looking out his window pretending not to notice us both jumping around trying to maintain steam and water but things were not looking good at all for us.  By the time we got to Kloofsig things were getting really bad and speed was way down to about 30kph but still Piet just kept ignoring us and leaving us to struggle on with it.  Steam was now down to about 120psi and water was just showing in the bottom of the glass and this was on an uphill.

I could see Piet was desperate to say something and it was at that moment he flew at us and threw his hat on the floor then pointed at the tender shouting, "you have plenty coal, plenty of water but f--k all steam.  You pair are a bunch of useless bloody fireman".  Trainman as usual made a big joke of it all and picked Piet's hat off the floor and placed it on his head.  Before long he had Piet dancing and singing  around the cab.  Never mind the steam and water lets just disco was the order of the day now, just like the passengers on the train.  While these two were having their dance I continued to try and maintain stem and water but with no success.  With next to nothing in the boiler we flew through Olifantsfontein at a mighty speed and headed up the bank to Kalfontein where I shut off the stoker, opened the blower and put on the 2nd injector for the downhill run to Germiston.  With steam pressure back to normal the rest of the trip to Krugersdorp was uneventful.

At Krugersdorp shed (Milsite) we cleaned fire and took on water and a load of much better coal.  While sitting at the coal stage Trainman decided it was time to fry up some very large T-bone steak on the shovel.  While dinner was on the shovel in the firebox we were still joking and having a good laugh around the engine outside when Trainman suddenly shouted "oh no our steak' there on the bloody shovel".  We raced up into the cab to rescue the steak but it was too late and they were burnt to the bone and so the three of us went hungry (hey Trainman, you still owe me for those steaks ha ha).  We left shed and picked up our passenger train at Krugersdorp station and headed for Pretoria by-passing Johannesburg station. The engine steamed a treat on the new coal from Milsite and we had no problems on the return trip. On arrival at India junction near President station we joined the Elsburg - Germiston line and then should have headed towards Germiston station, instead the signalman had set the road towards Johannesburg and some very heavy braking had to be done.  After some very harsh words with the signalman we reversed back to India Junction and got signalled towards Germiston.

Once through Germiston we were heading passed Elandsfontein yard hitting speeds well above 100kph and the steam pressure was right up on red mark.  Trainman fired most of the way back to Pretoria and for once (ha ha) had plenty of coal, plenty of water and even plenty of steam and that kept the pair of them quiet while I sat on the tender eating my dinner that neither of them knew I had, ha ha.  That sure was one great night out. If only we could have nights out like that now.


Richard Niven