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Volume 8 Number 1. 30 July 2006
This is the first Newsletter to be distributed electronically. Whilst I accept the need to embrace the
new technology, I am still reluctant to commit our archives entirely to the computer. A compromise
has been reached, where a shorter newsletter will be sent out electronically, with a print copy being
posted on request, and to members without an email address. This will be supplemented with an
annual yearbook. The newsletter can be received in two formats, either HTML or plain text. The big
difference is layout and photographs, only possible on the HTML version. The downside is the file
size, and so I guess that some of our Zimbabwe members may still have to content themselves with
the word only copy. The yearbook will contain the research papers and suchlike, with the first copy
being published around the end of this year. Yearbook # 1 will feature the Victoria Falls Bridge,
although I certainly hope to include other items as well.
Let me know what you think of the new format. It will take a while to settle down, and in my defence, I
do not have a lot of time right now to make the best job of it, with the Zimbabwe trip looming in a few
The Bulawayo committee members have been kept busy recently as we have prepared for the
forthcoming Globe Steam tour that starts on 10 August. Globe has donated a petrol driven water
pump to the FoBRM, which will be used to pump water from an auxiliary water tank to the locomotive.
This should remove one of the most common causes of locomotive failure on such tours, being the
inability to make full use of the water being carried.
Funds have also been donated to enable the FoBRM to supply materials to the NRZ workshops,
allowing for the overhaul of a rake of 6 Museum based coaches. These coaches will be use on the
Globe tour, and will thereafter be available for hire. Included are Dining Car 644, Private Saloon 754,
First class Coaches 1045 and 1058, Second Class coach 2024 and Baggage Van 2602. We have
supplied materials such as malthoid and pitch for the roofs, hardboard for ceilings, paint, varnish
It has been proposed that we should increase our efforts to make archive information located at the
Museum more accessible to members. This ahs already been started with the production of a DH1
Factfile, as well as diagrams of locomotives and coaches. However, there is a tremendous amount
more that could be achieved, and the Committee is keen to see this progress. The project can easily
be broken down into sections, the obvious three being data procurement, preparation and archiving,
and distribution, which could be anythjing from sheets of paper, compact discs or books. Some
members have already discussed this topic with me, and I would like to form a sub-committee to
explore the options. If you would like to join this fascinating project, please drop me a line.
The past few months have been hectic. I have hosted a number of tours, and have prepared many
more. The Zimbabwe trip has taken an extraordinary amount of my time and to add to my workload,
we moved from Welshpool to Kidderminster. One project that has had to take a back seat is the
distribution of books on behalf of the FoBRM. Affected are a few orders for Thundering Smoke,
Sitimela and Tracks Across the Veldt. Please accept my apologies if your order has not been
fulfilled. I have not forgotten, and will contact you when I get back from Zimbabwe to see if you still
need the requested copies.
Geoff Cooke. Hon Editor.
The latest news from Zimbabwe's steam scene by Mike Taylor
11 April 2006: No steam locos were operational today due to unavailability of coal. 416 On Shed in
light steam. 424 On shed - no steam. 519, 525 and 612 in P15. 611 in refurbishment having driving
wheels fitted and boiler tubes welded up after the steam test. The reason for non-availability of coal
is not yet known.
20 April 2006: Now about ten days since steam locos were last in operation. 525 on Shed. 416, 424,
519 and 612 in P15. One wagon of coal was being shunted to the Coalyard by a DE9 pm today. In
refurbishment, 611 having driving wheels and bearings replaced into repaired hornblocks. Piles of
shiny black new superheater tubes deposited in P15. 395 stripped right down. We might have
08 May 2006: Two wagons of coal arrived over the weekend. Two locos rostered. 525 New Grain.
416 West End. 424 and 612 on Shed, not in steam. 519 in P15. Refurbishment progress is slow on
611. New superheater elements are ready for installation, but there is now a shortage of securing
clamps / bolts. Problems continue with replacing driving wheels.
16 May 2006: There has been a slight improvement in coal supplies. One loco rostered - 525 - West
End, but was on Shed in steam. Also on Shed in steam 519 and 424. 612 was on Shed but not in
steam. 416 in P15 - jacked up! Not much progress on 611. Some red paint has been splashed
around. Unconfirmed reports indicate that the Botswana train has been on test. Consisting of eight
carriages: two from each of the existing blue trains.
01 June 2006: Not a good start to the month! No locos in steam today. Steam locos were shut down
yesterday 31 May, because of coal shortage. One wagon of coal arrived earlier today and is being
unloaded by hand! Wagon hoist / tipper has been out of action for six months or longer with faulty
brakes. 424 and 519 on Shed. 416, 612 and 525 in P15. It is planned to put 424 in steam Friday 2
June. Two wagons of coal in coal yard have been condemned because of too much incombustible
material (stones). Loco refurbishment moving very slowly. 611 waiting for more driving wheels to be
machined, steam header joints to be ground and superheater header securing bolts to be
manufactured. Pistons being removed and checked from 395.
30 June 2006: No steam locos rostered. Coal shortage persists. 424 on shed in steam. 519 on
shed. 525, 416 and 612 in P15 for maintenance. 611 in refurbishment still waiting for superheater
tubes to be fitted. 395 having boiler painted in heat resisting black paint. Work progressing on
12 July 2006: One loco rostered. 416 Westend. 612 in steam on shed. 525, 424 and 519 in P15. No
coal in stock. 611 and 395 in refurbishment virtually no progress! Steam crane and tanker wagon
sent to area of Bannockburn for major freight train runaway and derailment.
Observations by Robin Taylor
I spent a very pleasant lunch hour at Harare station today,5th June. Two DE 9s were on shunts in the
yard,not that they moved while I was watching. Another arrived hauling the coaches from the
Bulawayo train which are taken to Lochinvar to be turned on the balloon. Yet another 9 arrived from
Lochinvar and coupled onto six wagons which after some time left for Norton. No guards van on this
train and shunters etc all crowded into the loco cab. The coaches from the inter city and commuter
trains are all looking very grubby and the commuters in particular all look as if maintenance is badly
needed. The station building, platforms and tracks in the station area are very free of litter and kept
clean. The station is by far the best kept public building in Harare. I was told that trains run to paper
orders between Harare and Kwe Kwe and then its CTC to Gweru and paper orders from Gweru to
Bulawayo. My informant told me that timekeeping has much improved in both directions.
Margaret and Buckeye
A new life for some old friends by Trevor Heath
I had a chat with Peter Nott at a convention last week. Peter is the current owner of the former
Zimbabwe narrow gauge locomotives "Buckeye" and "Margaret" The two locomotives together with
eight others and three diesels collected either directly or indirectly from Southern Africa where he
once worked as a crop spraying pilot on sugar plantations are now located in his new workshop
near Arroyo Grande in California. He stated Margaret is now overhauled and has a brand new boiler.
His intention is to open a theme park in Northern California to utilize them. The land, 200 acres is
under negotiations but not yet secured.
A book review by John Batwell
The book was written with real passion – the passion for one of Southern Africa’s great railways, that
of Rhodesia and subsequently Zimbabwe. This is just so evident from the author, now late, who has
been most affectionately called “a bevearing historian” by a fellow writer. George Pattison wrote with
such enthusiasm about railways, which he began experiencing in this part of the world as a traveling
schoolboy. He commuted by train between Rhodesia and Grahamstown in South Africa’s Eastern
Cape sixty years back. As an adventurous singleton, George’s love of railways took him all the way to
East Africa. He loved the trains then and wrote reflectively about his youthful love. On the subject of
love, George met the love of his life – a friendship and companionship that spanned thirty-nine years
- on a train, his late, dear wife Geraldine. Not too surprising then that Thundering Smoke should be
dedicated to Geraldine and their three offspring, Susan, Richard and Gillian.
Thundering Smoke is the culmination of over twenty years of research and studious pen-pushing
documentation. Yes, it does cover the wealth of locomotives that were instrumental in the
development of the country’s rail system from 1892, but its distinct uniqueness lies in the passion
and enthusiasm of writing about the locomotives – from footplate or cab experiences – to the men
who ordered certain types and those who drove them with a tremendous likeness or dislike.
Pattison cultivated friendships with many of the men on the system and as a result gleaned much
about the nuances of individual locomotive types. Unlike any other author, Pattison resided in
Rhodesia-cum-Zimbabwe most of his life with his finger on the pulse of every development in the
country – widespread dieselisation, the appearance of South African steam and diesel locomotives
on the system, the intriguing economic sanctions’ era with its below-the-counter motive power
acquisitions, the large-scale refurbishment of steam and diesel locomotives, the emergence of
Zimbabwe Railways and the post- independence innovation of electrification.
Pattison spent hours and hours in the NRZ Headquarters’ building researching the operational
history files of individual locomotives in particular classes and the mileage contribution of these
locos – steam, diesel, electric – have all been documented. George Pattison unashamedly credits
locomotive types which were real stunners in their contribution to the Rhodesia Railways and latterly
National Railways of Zimbabwe. The North British 12th Class, Beyer Peacock 15th Class, the
English Electric DE 2 and the General Electric DE 6 classes all come to mind in the accolades.
The personal accounts and anecdotes which appear in the book make it different. George, who was
a school teacher and then a principal in several government schools, recalls taking his soccer boys
for a practice in Marandellas (east of then Salisbury) one afternoon and everything coming to a
standstill as the horn and growl of an unknown source of motive power permeated the air. It turned
out to be the first of Rhodesia Railways DE 2 Class diesel units from the English Electric company
back in 1955. Everyone watched it go past the school boundary.
Pattison provides early in the publication a most useful preamble concerning the construction of the
system, the terrain, the track, the weather, operating aspects, trains’ working, depots and crew
working and the chief mechanical engineers and their individual contribution to motive power choice
and development. This publication is not just for locomotive aficionados – it’s a commentary on the
social and economic fabric of a vibrant young country down near the bottom of “the stretch of Africa”.
The text is complemented by black and white photographs and tables of data. The cover is
illustrated in colour. The publishing of the book in the United Kingdom was undertaken
enthusiastically by Mr Tony Morkel, a former pupil of the late author! At £24, 50 Thundering Smoke is
a superb addition to one’s railway shelves and a tribute to one of the most prolific researchers of the
railways in the old colonial African sub-continent. [George Pattison’s untimely death was in early
(A4, soft, laminated cover in colour, 240pp, 176 b/w photos, colour photos only on cover, 2 maps,
steam and diesel spec. tables, mileage tables for most locomotive classes; ISBN 0-9549488-1-5.
Contact: admin@Sable-Publishing-House.com )
South African housekeeping
by Juliet Rickwood
We have had a message from Alan Buttrum to say that banks in his part of the world are becoming
very particular and Members paying subs through him are requested to make any cheques out to 'D
A J Buttrum' otherwise they are rejected.
The FoBRM Committee
Chairman: Robin Doust
Public Relations: Juliet Rickwood
Secretary: Mike Taylor
Treasurer: Charles Rickwood
Newsletter / website: Geoff Cooke
The Friends of the Bulawayo Railway Museum is a support group for the National Railways of
Zimbabwe Museum, Prospect Avenue, Raylton, Bulawayo, Zimbabwe
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