It’s gratifying to report that Dave Wardale’s Class 26 4-8-4 “The Red Devil” is once again back on track. On 4th July she moved under her own steam for the first time since August 2004, travelling from Worcester where she was overhauled, some 75 miles south to Cape Town. Her boiler certificate will see her through the next two years.
The locomotive is owned by Transnet (South Africa’s rail freight operator) as part of their Heritage Collection, and is currently under lease to Ceres Rail Limited which also operates 19D No. 3321 and 19B No.1412.
Ceres Rail takes its name from the Ceres Railroad branch line located in the Witzenberg Mountain Range 30 miles north of Worcester. In addition to its heritage operations, Ceres Rail operates passenger excursions from Cape Town to Ceres in the summer season, and from Cape Town to Elgin Railway Market, often using a double-headed steam. They have also co-ordinated a few small-scale freight haulages along the Ceres Railroad branch line.
The last time the Red Devil ran was in August 2004 on an excursion to Namibia after which she was parked at Dal Josafat, close to Paarl (half way between Worcester and Cape Town). Whilst there, most of the brass was stolen off her, and even after being moved to Monument Station in Cape Town she was still targeted by thieves for what remained on her.
Mr Ian Pretorius of Atlantic Rail in Cape Town came to the rescue by arranging various security measures to prevent further theft and vandalism. When Atlantic Rail had to cease operations at the end of 2017 due to drought and associated water restrictions, Ceres Rail Company took over their operations.
According to Derick du Toit, Managing Director of Ceres Rail, the recent restoration work was limited to puting the Red Devil back on the rails in her 2004 condition.
Whilst not currently in her 1983 apogee as a result of various modifications being removed during her operational years, Derick noted that further restoration work may be undertaken during the “fire season” when coal fired locomotives cannot be run, beginning what is expected to be a gradual process of “reverse engineering” back towards a “sweet-spot” somewhere between the condition Wardale left her in and her 2004 status.
Derick reports that he has visited the railway archives in Johannesburg/Pretoria and has obtained all the old meeting minutes, diagrams, and other records relating to the Class 26 which are being used to track changes over the years and to assist in planning future restoration work.
With regards to shedding of the locomotive, Ceres Rail is currently in negotiations with the Western Cape Provincial Government to take-over the old Kleinplasie Steam Depot in Worcester. The Red Devil will be shedded there in the off-season, but during the season she will most likely stay in Monument Station, Cape Town.
Below are three videos borrowed from YouTube courtesy Wayne Nauschutz:
1) 20th March 2018: In transit to Worcester for restoration (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jVAvMUaSrYU&t=20s)
2) 30 June 2018: First steam test (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OVVILvgHAks&t=9s)
3) 4 July 2018: Moving under its own steam; returning to Cape Town (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3_vDBjhOfUw)
- Since taking over Atlantic Rail, Since 1st July 2018, Ceres Rail has been operating tour trains over the route from Cape Town to Simonstown.
- Atlantic Rail operates a Class 16DA Pacific locomotive which is in need of a refit.
- Ceres Rail and Atlantic Rail share the same volunteer base named Friends of Heritage Rail.
- Information about the Ceres branch line can be found at the bottom third of the Soul of the Railway website.
- Derick du Toit’s statements come from a telephonic interview held with Rick Botha on 12/07/2018.
- Thanks to Rick Botha for passing on most of the other information presented here.