RN 23 - News of the Decauville locomotiveClick here to view gallery
The identity of the locomotive has been established without doubt as being works no. 302, built in 1899. Lukas Nel has found this number stamped on motion parts and elsewhere on the locomotive, so the information from John Middleton and others has been proved correct, as was expected!
It was a fortunate survivor of a number of locomotives at the Dombe Grande sugar plantation in Angola. Its sister locomotives, one of which was spotted in a Benguela scrapyard in 1974, were an interesting mix of locos by various continental builders but went for scrap. Our Decauville survived because it was a resident of the Museum, although when discovered the roof had collapsed, thus the damage and woebegone appearance. This had the advantage of ensuring that many of the non ferrous parts were not stolen, it being too dangerous to get to them.
The locomotive first went to Charles Viljoen in Pretoria as he was going to carry out the restoration. Charles dismantled the loco into its component parts, some of the plate work virtually fell to pieces, and cleaned up the frames and repaired the chimney, and did a fine job as can be seen from the photos. It was then decided that Charles should concentrate on the Kerr Stuart Wren Class loco Little Bess so the Decauville loco 'kit' was loaded up and taken to Bloemfontein.
Lukas Nel reckons this is the smallest loco he has ever worked on, having been more used to Class 25NCs, 15Fs and the like during his SAR days.
A start has been made on the boiler, as this is the heart of the loco and its condition determines whether restoration proceeds immediately or a new boiler has to be built. The photos show the basic boiler and the stages of removing the tubes.
The boiler was thoroughly cleaned and the tubes removed, and as can be seen the smoke box is more hole than metal and will need to be renewed, and the barrel and firebox will be inspected, thickness tested etc. Surprisingly perhaps a local supplier has boiler tubes of the correct diameter for this tiny unit, and as the length required is only 1 metre, not many 8 metre lengths are required. One wonders how many other pieces of mechanical equipment, built in a country thousands of miles away, more than 100 years ago, by a company that has long ceased to exist, can have spares purchased ex-stock?
There will be regular updates on the restoration progress of this unique little loco.