South African Class 34-600

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South African Class 34-600
SAR Class 34-600 34-612.JPG
No. 34-612 on yard duty at Empangeni, Kwa-Zulu Natal, 14 August 2007
Type and origin
♠ - Original locomotive, as built
- Locomotive with upggraded traction motors
Power typeDiesel-electric
DesignerGeneral Motors Electro-Motive Division
BuilderGeneral Motors South Africa
Serial number101-1 to 101-100
Build date1974-1976
Total produced100
RebuilderTransnet Rail Engineering
Rebuild date2006-2008
Number rebuilt3 to Class 39-000
 • UICCo'Co'
 • CommonwealthCo+Co
Gauge3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm) Cape gauge
Wheel diameter1,016 mm (40.0 in)
Wheelbase14,732 mm (48 ft 4.0 in)
 • Bogie3,632 mm (11 ft 11.0 in)
Pivot centres11,278 mm (37 ft 0 in)
 • Over couplers19,202 mm (63 ft 0 in)
Width2,819 mm (9 ft 3.0 in)
Height3,924 mm (12 ft 10.5 in)
Axle load18,850 kg (41,560 lb)
Adhesive weight113,100 kg (249,300 lb)
Loco weight113,100 kg (249,300 lb) max
Fuel typeDiesel
Fuel capacity6,100 litres (1,300 imp gal)
Prime moverGM-EMD 16-645E3
RPM range250-900
 • RPM low idle250
 • RPM idle315
 • Maximum RPM900
Engine type2-stroke diesel
AspirationGM-EMD E16 turbocharger
Displacement10.57 litres (645.0 cu in)
Alternator10 pole 3 phase GM-EMD AR10F-D14
Traction motors♠ Six GM-EMD D29B DC 4 pole
Six GM-EMD D31 DC 4 pole
 • Rating 1 hour♠ 485A
 • Continuous♠ 450A @ 21 km/h (13 mph)
520A @ 21 km/h (13 mph)
Gear ratio63:14
MU working6 maximum
Loco brake28-LAV-1 with vigilance control
Train brakesGardner-Denver ADJV-8401 compressor/exhauster
Air tank cap.850 litres (190 imp gal)
Compressor0.021 m3/s (0.74 cu ft/s)
Exhauster0.098 m3/s (3.5 cu ft/s)
CouplersAAR knuckle (SASKOP E)
Performance figures
Maximum speed100 km/h (62 mph)
Power output:
 • Starting♠ 2,145 kW (2,876 hp)
2,342 kW (3,141 hp)
 • Continuous♠ 1,940 kW (2,600 hp)
2,171 kW (2,911 hp)
Tractive effort:
 • Starting♠ 272 kN (61,000 lbf)
306 kN (69,000 lbf)
 • Continuous♠ 218 kN (49,000 lbf) @ 26 km/h (16 mph)
245 kN (55,000 lbf) @ 26 km/h (16 mph)
Factor of adh.:
 • Starting25%
 • Continuous20%
Brakeforce65% ratio @ 345 kPa (50.0 psi)
Dynamic brake peak effort188 kN (42,000 lbf) @ 28 km/h (17 mph)
OperatorsSouth African Railways
Transnet Freight Rail
National Railways of Zimbabwe
Caminho de Ferro de Congo-Ocean
Ferrovia Centro Atlântico
Ferrovia Sul Atlântico
ClassClass 34-600
Number in class100
Numbers34-601 to 34-700
First run1974

The South African Railways Class 34-600 of 1974 is a diesel-electric locomotive.

Between December 1974 and July 1976, the South African Railways placed one hundred Class 34-600 General Motors Electro-Motive Division type GT26MC diesel-electric locomotives in service.[1]


The Class 34-600 type GT26MC diesel-electric locomotive was designed by General Motors Electro-Motive Division and built for the South African Railways (SAR) by General Motors South Africa (GMSA) in Port Elizabeth. One hundred locomotives were delivered between December 1974 and July 1976, numbered in the range from 34-601 to 34-700.[1][2][3]

Distinguishing features[edit]

Class 34 (600) Number Plate (34-672).jpg

Of the GM-EMD Class 34 family of locomotives, Classes 34-200 and 34-600 units are visually indistinguishable from one another, but they can be distinguished from the Class 34-800 by the thicker fishbelly shaped sills on their left hand sides compared to the straight sill on the left hand side of the Class 34-800.[4][5]

Rebuilding and modification[edit]

Class 39-000[edit]

The Class 39-000 type GT26CU-3 diesel-electric locomotives were to be rebuilt from Class 34-600, 34-800 and 37-000 locomotives. The project commenced in 2005, using suitable frames from wrecked locomotives. Rebuilding was done at the Transwerk shops in Bloemfontein between 2006 and 2008.[2][6]

It was intended to produce one hundred Class 39-000 locomotives but in spite of the technical success of the project, rebuilding was halted after completing the first five locomotives due to higher than anticipated cost. It was decided, instead of rebuilding old locomotives, to continue the program by building fifty new Class 39-200 locomotives from imported and locally produced components. Three Class 34-600 locomotives, numbers 34-620, 34-635 and 34-674, were rebuilt to Class 39-000 before the rebuilding project was halted.[7]

Traction motor upgrade[edit]

In 2010, an upgrading project commenced at the Koedoespoort Transnet Rail Engineering shops to upgrade Class 34-600 locomotives by, amongst other modifications, replacing the GM-EMD D29B with GM-EMD D31 traction motors, thereby improving their performance to the standard of the Class 37-000.[6]

Locomotives that are known to have undergone this upgrade are annotated "D31 TM" in the "Leased, rebuilt or sold to" column in the table.


South African Railways[edit]

In SAR, Spoornet and Transnet Freight Rail (TFR) service, the Class 34-600s worked on most mainlines and some unelectrified branch lines in the central, eastern, northern and northeastern parts of South Africa.[3]

National Railways of Zimbabwe[edit]

From at least 1988 until at least 1992, the National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) hired type GT26MC Class 34-600 locomotives from the SAR and later Spoornet. Locomotives which were observed to be working on the NRZ between April 1988 and September 1992 are annotated "NRZ" in the "Leased, rebuilt or sold to" column in the.[8]

NLPI Ltd.[edit]

NLPI Limited, abbreviated from New Limpopo Projects Investments, a Mauritius-registered company, specialises in private sector investments by using the build-operate-transfer (BOT) concept. It had three connected railway operations in Zimbabwe and Zambia which formed a rail link between South Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo.[2]

In Zambia, the RSZ locomotive fleet included former ZR locomotives, but the rest of the locomotive fleet of all three operations consisted of South African GM-EMD Classes 34-200, 34-600 and 34-800 and GE Classes 35-000 and 35-400 locomotives from Spoornet and later TFR. These locomotives were sometimes marked or branded as either BBR or LOG or both, but their status, whether leased or loaned, was unclear since they were still on the TFR roster and still often worked in South Africa as well.[2]

Class 34-600 locomotives which served with NLPI include the locomotives annotated "NLPI" in the "Leased, rebuilt or sold to" column in the table.

Zambia Railways, the state-owned holding company, resumed control of the Zambian national rail network on 11 September 2012. This followed the Zambian government’s decision to revoke the operating concession awarded to RSZ after Finance Minister Alexander Chikwanda claimed that RSZ had "blatantly disregarded the provisions of the agreement" and had been "acting in a manner prejudicial to the interests of Zambians”.[9]


One of the Class 34-600 locomotives, no. 34-640, was sold to Sheltam, a locomotive hire and repair company based at the Douglas Colliery near Witbank in Mpumalanga which undertakes complete operating contracts and maintenance contracts. By the turn of the millennium, Sheltam locomotives were operating at Randfontein Estates Gold Mine in Gauteng, in Mpumalanga at Douglas and Vandyksdrift Collieries and at SAPPI, Ngodwana. They also operated on Spoornet’s Newcastle-Utrecht branch in KwaZulu-Natal and on Kei Rail in the Eastern Cape. Outside South Africa, they operated on the BBR, NLL and RSZ lines through Zimbabwe and Zambia and in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.[2][10]

Chemin de Fer Congo-Ocean[edit]

Six Class 34-600 locomotives were leased to the Congolese railway, the Chemin de Fer Congo-Ocean (CFCO), where they were renumbered in the range from CC801 to CC806.[2]


Six more locomotives which were at one time erroneously believed to have also gone to CFCO in the Congo, are now believed to have gone to Camrail in the Republic of Cameroon in about 2002, where they were renumbered in the range from CC2601 to CC2606. The order of their renumbering is not known.[8]

Ferrovia Centro Atlântico[edit]

Five Class 34-600 locomotives went to Ferrovia Centro Atlântico (FCA) at Divinipolis in Brazil, where they run on 1,000 mm (3 ft 3 38 in) metre gauge. While they were initially part of Spoornet Traction’s leasing scheme, they were later renumbered onto the FCA roster in the number range from 8226 to 8230.[2]

Ferrovia Sul Atlântico[edit]

Ten Class 34-600 locomotives went to Ferrovia Sul Atlântico (FSA) at Curitiba in Brazil, where they also run on Metre gauge. While they were also initially part of Spoornet Traction’s leasing scheme, they were later renumbered onto the FSA roster in the number range from 8231 to 8240.[2]

Works numbers[edit]

The builder’s works numbers of Class 34-600 locomotives as well as their known disposal and deployment are listed in the table.[2]


The Class 34-600 were all delivered in the SAR Gulf Red livery with signal red buffer beams, yellow side stripes on the long hood sides and a yellow V on each end. In the 1990s many of the Class 34-600 units began to be repainted in the Spoornet orange livery with a yellow and blue chevron pattern on the buffer beams. Two known locomotives, numbers 34-651 and 34-652, were painted in Spoornet’s orange era Blue Train livery. Some later received the Spoornet Traction maroon livery. After 2008 in the Transnet Freight Rail (TFR) era, some were repainted in the TFR red, green and yellow livery.[2][11]


Depicted below is no. 34-652 in Spoornet’s Blue Train livery, incorrectly numbered as a Class 84-000 on the cabside. The error was corrected later. Other liveries which were applied to Class 34-600 locomotives are also illustrated.[12]


  1. ^ a b South African Railways Index and Diagrams Electric and Diesel Locomotives, 610mm and 1065mm Gauges, Ref LXD 14/1/100/20, 28 January 1975, as amended
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Middleton, John N. (2002). Railways of Southern Africa Locomotive Guide - 2002 (as amended by Combined Amendment List 4, January 2009) (2nd, Dec 2002 ed.). Herts, England: Beyer-Garratt Publications. pp. 38, 41, 46–47.
  3. ^ a b Paxton, Leith; Bourne, David (1985). Locomotives of the South African Railways (1st ed.). Cape Town: Struik. p. 141. ISBN 0869772112.
  4. ^ Class 34-600 sill (Accessed on 11 June 2017)
  5. ^ Class 34-800 sill (Accessed on 11 June 2017)
  6. ^ a b Information supplied by staff at Transnet Rail Engineering, Bloemfontein and Koedoespoort
  7. ^ The Class 39 Diesels (Accessed on 11 June 2017)
  8. ^ a b Spoornet Diesels Leased to ZR 1978-1993. P.F. Bagshawe.
  9. ^ ZRL in charge as RSZ concession revoked. Railway Gazette International, 13 September 2012
  10. ^ SA Rail, Volume 46, Number 2, April 2008, p3-7, ISSN 1026-3195
  11. ^ Soul of A Railway, System 7, Western Transvaal, based in Johannesburg, Part 9. South-Eastwards as far as Volksrust (2nd part) by Les Pivnic. Caption 4. (Accessed on 11 April 2017)
  12. ^ Class 34-651 livery (Accessed on 11 June 2017)