The International Steam Pages


Steam in Zimbabwe and Zambia, 2018

Dave Hallett reports on a visit to NRZ Workshops on 8th June and Bulawayo Steam Shed visit on various dates between then and 27th June. At the end is a summary of the situation in Livingstone / Victoria Falls.


As has previously been reported there are notionally 4 locos in serviceable condition, namely 14A no. 519, 15A nos. 395 and 414, and 16A no. 611. Annual visits since 2014 have shown little activity other than keeping these few locos operational, although 613 has been parked in the P15 shed undergoing a protracted boiler retube since 2014. However it has recently been moved to the NRZ MEs Workshop where it was observed as having been retubed on 08/06. It is understood that this work was moved to the Workshop to ease the workload on the Shed staff who have completed the retube of 15A no. 395 in the P15 shed. 395 was noted as sitting on the front power unit ex no. 414 which had suffered a crank pin failure.

16A no. 611 was also recently taken out of service to retube the boiler and the Klockner Demag-Gottwald Steam crane was used to remove the front tank and rear bunker. However at this time it was noted that there was an issue with the boiler cradle and the staff there initially thought it was unlikely to be repaired, leading to (erroneous) reports on social media that 611 would be scrapped. On my last visit (27/06) I was advised that the loco would not be scrapped and replacement parts obtained from the dump. (It should be remembered that most of the surviving locos are made up from an assortment of parts from others and it is difficult if not impossible to determine their true identities.

At the time of my visit on 8th June loco no. 414 was on hire to Hwange Colliery, although it had not worked since arriving there in May. 14A no. 519 was earmarked for the FarRail tour commencing on Friday 15th June with a run to Cement and back. It successfully completed a test run there on 13/06.

On my first visit to Bulawayo shed on 8th June staff were noted as working on 15A no. 417 in the steam shed. Subsequently the loco was moved to the P15 shed on 11/06 and work continues to the present time on this loco fitting parts that have been removed in the past. It is understood that 417 is to be cosmetically restored and re-numbered as 411 and plinthed at Masvingo. I understand that the current Zimbabwean President had a hand in blowing up the real 411 in the Masvingo area during the Bush War and had asked for this as some kind of memorial.

At the same time that 417 was moved to the P15 shed 14A no. 525 was also moved there along with 604. I am informed that both locos could be restored to running order. In addition no. 416 which has sat in the P15 shed for many years could be the next in line for returning to service.

The FarRail tour commenced on 15th June with a run to Cement with 519, and moved to Thomson Junction where 15A no. 414 was due to run to Old Hwange Station on 17th June. However after a few false starts at TJ early in the morning the loco was retired with a safety valve failing to shut off and returned to the colliery shed. 519 which was there was used to complete a number of run pasts on the original Hwange line for the rest of the day. On 18th June no. 414 had been repaired and it fulfilled all the duties required on the route between TJ and Victoria Falls, culminating in a number of moves across the Victoria Falls bridge on 20th/21st June. It was subsequently returned to the colliery to take up duties there, at this time 519 was reported as having a problem with the front power unit valve gear, later noted as being a broken expansion link bracket on the LHS.

In summary, the state of play with locos as of 27th June was as follows:

15A

395 Retubed awaiting reassembly in P15 and replacement of wheelset on front power unit (ex414) which has suffered a broken crank pin.
414 Operational, on hire to Hwange Colliery Company.
416 Possible next in line for return to working order.
417 In P15 undergoing cosmetic restoration and to be re-numbered 411 and plinthed in Masvingo.

14A

519 In P15 awaiting expansion link replacement.
525 In P15 for possible return to working order.

16A

604 Moved to P15 for possible return to working order.
611 Awaiting retube and boiler cradle replacement.
613 Retube completed in MEs workshop, awaiting reassembly of tank/bunker, etc.

While it is easy to be upbeat about this news it should be treated with caution, although it is thought there is a dawning realisation within NRZ hierarchy that there is a lucrative market for some sort of steam operation on safari trains and excursions. I will return to the country in September and advise accordingly any changes.


Meanwhile on the Zambian side of things, here is an update on steam locos in Victoria Falls/Livingstone.

Bushtracks Africa operate between Livingstone and the Victoria Falls bridge, and from Victoria Falls station to Jafuta siding. Additionally trains operate as required on the former Zambesi Sawmills line from Livingstone to Simonga Siding.

10th class 156, operational, based Livingstone for the bridge runs.

12th class 204, operational, based in Victoria Falls for the dining train runs to Jafuta.

14A no. 512, taken out of service for boiler tube renewal, inner firebox crown sheet found wasted (10mm>3mm), boiler condemned. Replacement to be acquired from 516 currently stored at the Bulawayo Railway Museum. Tyres at minimum thickness.

14A no 523 (exBCL) has been moved to the former Zambia Railways steam shed for tank/bunker removal. Many non-ferrous parts required, pony truck wheelsets to replace, coming from South Africa.


Rob Dickinson

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