One of the new Afro 4000 diesels at Kimberley, with the old coaling stage in the background and two preserved 25NC steam locomotives, owned by Steamnet 2000       Picture by Peter Odell

New diesel locomotives are being delivered to South Africa to operate the Trans Karoo passenger trains between Kimberley and Cape Town and other inter-city routes.

The Spanish-built diesel-electric Vossloh machines are similar to the class 68 locomotives used in Britain on Chiltern passenger trains and Direct Rail Services freight trains. This week DRS ordered another seven of the class.

The Afro 4000 locos operate on 3ft 6ins gauge track, compared to Britain’s standard gauge 4ft 8½ins. There is another variant for Spain’s 5ft 5ins track.

Twenty of the South African locos are owned by Swifambo Rail Leasing but will be operated by the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa.

A GPS data system allows operating information to be relayed automatically to maintenance depots and a modular design allows  easy assembly and module replacements.

Ten of the Afro 4000 locomotives are to be used on commuter runs out of Port Elizabeth and East London.

It is hoped the new locos will help to reverse the decline in passenger services in South Africa where unfair competition from road has taken a toll.

Fifty electro-diesel versions of the Afro 4000 loco are also on order but there has been confusion in the media over whether it is comfortably within the South African loading gauge. Overhead pantograph tests have been carried out under bridges and in tunnels.

The electro-diesels will be expected to pick up power from overhead lines but use the auxiliary diesel engine on non-electrified lines. 

Information from P J Odell

Heritage Railway Association



Railwatch page 8