A grand old lady of the age of steam trains in KwaZulu-Natal, Maureen, has celebrated her 100th “birthday” at her home in Inchanga Station.
Story: Keith Ross/Hillcrest Fever
Maureen, now the chief workhorse of the Umgeni Steam Railway, was built by the North British Locomotive Company in Glasgow and commissioned in Natal in February 1912.
She served in Natal, Eastern Transvaal and Eastern Cape before being withdrawn from service by the South African Railways in 1974.
Maureen was then bought by a coal mine in Utrecht. She was used there for shunting purposes until 1997, when the mine, which has since closed, donated her to the Umgeni Steam Railway.
“Maureen has served us well,” said the acting chairman of Umgeni Steam, Ashley Peter. “But she has now reached the stage where she needs major repairs.”
Peter said she would in the next few months have to get her boiler retubed, and have major work done to her axle boxes and bearings.
“It is going to cost about R1.3 million and as yet we just don’t know where the money is coming from. We are still hoping to find a sponsor.”
He said Umgeni Steam had a back-up engine, which was now undergoing repairs. “It is not as powerful as Maureen and still needs repairs that will cost about R250 000. We will have to make a plan.”
Peter said Umgeni Steam had survived on a rail and a prayer since it was formed in 1982. “We have survived from month to month. We dare not even plan as far as next year.”
Umgeni Steam was formed by a group of enthusiasts who wanted to preserve some of KwaZulu-Natal’s rapidly disappearing railway heritage.
It is staffed entirely by volunteers and is self-funding, relying largely on ticket sales for the train which runs on the last Sunday of each month, when it does two round trips between Kloof and Inchanga.
“It costs us about R30 000 to run the train for that day,” said Peter. “We have to pay for advertising, for coal, for use of the line, for insurance and many sundries such as lubricants. It all adds up.”
For more information about Umgeni Steam Railway, call Bev Bennett on 083 226 1024 or click here