The International Steam Pages

Sappi Saiccor Paper Mill, South Africa, May 2009

Michael Bleckmann writes:

In May 2009 we visited the Sappi Saiccor mill at Umkomaas, located approx. 50 km south of Durban. This is the last industrial steam operation in South Africa. We spent four days to take photos of the
railway operations.

The pulp mill was originally built in the early 1950s on the south bank of the Umkomaas (Mkhomazi) river upstream from the village. The factory is linked by a private railroad of just under 3 km running largely along the river bank and next to a public road to a connection with the SAS electrified Durban/Port Shepstone line just north of Umkomaas station.

The railway is used to deliver inbound raw materials pulp wood from forests north of Durban, coal from Free State mines, limestone from near Port Shepstone and imported sulphur.

The mill railway works 24 hours a day all year round with shift changes at 8am, 4pm and 12am. Three steam locos are on site and all are painted in blue colour. No 1 (ex-Spoornet 2697, Borsig 14748/1938), No 2 (ex-Spoornet 2633, Skoda 928/1938), No 3 (ex Spoornet 2767, Robert Stephenson Hawthorn 7280/1947). While we were visiting, No 3 was running, No 2 in inspection, No 1 in reserve. All engines are usable and they are rotated in use on a four-weekly cycle. No 3 is promised to an UK preserved railway, but Sappi Saiccor will continue to work with the steam locos, so you probably can see them work during the football World Cup in 2010.

Rob Dickinson