Background to the Class

Year Quantity Builder Builder's №s SAR №s 
1931 3 Henschel & Sohn 21905 - 21907 17 - 19
1934 3 Henschel & Sohn 24475 - 24477 117 - 119
1941 5 Societe Anglo-Franco-Belge 2667 - 2671 120 - 124
1952 5 Societe Anglo-Franco-Belge 2682 - 2686 132 - 136
1957 5 Henschel & Sohn 29585 - 29589 144 - 148

A total of 21 NG15 class locomotives were built in 5 Lots between 1931 and 1957 with construction shared between Henschel & Sohn in Germany and Societe Anglo-Franco-Belge in Belgium . All of the class were extant at the end of steam on the narrow gauge in South Africa, and of those a number found their way to other countries, or found themselved plinthed or in use at other private or volunteer run railways in South Africa. However, in recent years, notably in the run up to South Africa hosting football's World Cup in 2010 there were a number of casualties amongst those remaining at their former base of Hulmewood Road in Port Elizabeth. This loco depot was demolished as part of the preparations for the World Cup and those NG15's in extremely poor condition there were scrapped.

Operational history

The first four batches consisting of sixteen locos in total were all built for use on the Otavi system in South West Africa as it was when a German colony, now known as Namibia. So this was a German built 60cm line that at its maximum extent totalled nearly 700 route miles. Gradually sections were replaced or re-gauged to 3' 6" with the exception of 250 miles from Karibib, running north east to Otavi, and to the mines at Tsumeb and Grootfontein. The route crossed an area that became known as the Kalahari Desert, thus the NG15's became known as Kalaharies. Having to run through so much semi-desert type terrain resulted in the design having very large tenders that, as well as 2860 gallons of water, can carry up to five and a half tonnes of coal.

As traffic increased the fifth and final batch of five NG15s was ordered in 1958 directly from Henschel by the Tsumeb Corporation itself, who also ordered seven NG/G16 Garratts shortly afterwards. However with traffic at an unprecedented level the decision was made to re-gauge the whole system to 3' 6" as a better way of increasing capacity. The Otavi system ran for the last time in November 1960. The result was that 5 as yet undelivered NG15 locomotives, seven as yet undelivered NG/G16 locomotives, as well as the rest of the in service NG15 class locomotives were without a home.

№134 in the Engine Siding at Loerie on the
Avontuur line, 17th September 1977.
Photo © & reproduced with kind permission of Alan Gilbert

There were other 2' gauge lines in South Africa, most notably the Aventuur system out of Port Elizabeth and it was to here that all the existing NG15s were transferred and the new NG15s were delivered. They ran on that system for the rest of their working lives being based at the Hulmewood Road depot in Port Elizabeth and proved themselves ample to the task in hand on that line. In the 1990's however the NG15s were eventually displaced by incoming Class 91 Diesel locomotives before the whole system became victim to a deregulated road haulage industry in South Africa. A few NG15s remained operational and these provided the motive power for various attempts at reopening the system and for tourist trains.

Vital statistics

Wheel arrangement 2 - 8 - 2
Overall length 54' 4"
Cylinders - 2  15¾" x 17¾"
Driving wheel diameter 2' 10"
Boiler Pressure 171psi
Tractive effort at 85% boiler pressure 18,820 lb
Total heating surface 1028 sq ft
Axle Load 6.7 tons
Locomotive Weight 36.6 tons
Tender weight 31.2 tons
Tender capacity coal - 5.5 tons 
water - 2860 gallons 

The NG15s have a 2 - 8 - 2 wheel arrangement, so they have an 8 coupled set of driving wheels. This is not an ideal arrangement for tightly curved narrow gauge lines, however, in the case of the NG15s this was overcome by using the distinctive feature of the Krauss-Helmholtz system for leading the front driving axle around curves. This system allows the front driving axle some sideways movement controlled by the front pony truck, so as in effect only the rear three driving axles form a rigid wheelbase. This makes it much kinder on the track

The NG15s were themselves a development of an earlier class, the NG5s of 1922, however the NG5's made use a flange-less pair of driving wheels to help the locomotive transverse tight curves with its 8 coupled driving wheels. 

NG15 №134's background

The two NG15s №s 133 and 134 were imported into the UK for use on a proposed two foot gauge tourist railway on the east coast of England in the Robin Hoods Bay area, however, this never came to fruition and so the two locos were put up for sale. They were bought privately but then transferred to the Ffestiniog Railway Trust for possible future use on the WHR. №134 was deemed the most suitable of the two locomotives for restoring to working order and so once the railway had opened its section from Caernarfon to Dinas, and whilst planning permission was awaited for the rest of the railway to be rebuilt, a start was made in 1999 on restoring №134. Once the authority had been given in 2001 for the rebuilding of the Welsh Highland Railway to proceed the restoration was halted to concentrate all resources at the rebuilding of the railway.

There were small amounts of work done from time to time as resources allowed, however, it was only once the railway's rebuilding was complete that a proposal was put to the Ffestiniog Railway by Cymdeithas Rheilfford Eryri to continue with the restoration. Once plans were agreed work resumed in 2008. The full 'blow by blow' details of this restoration can be found, together with many more details about the NG15s and №134 in particular at: