South African Class 35-400

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South African Class 35-400
SAR Class 35-400 35-406.JPG
No. 35-406 at Stikland, Cape Town, 13 March 2007
Type and origin
Power typeDiesel-electric
DesignerGeneral Electric
BuilderSA GE-DL Locomotive Group
Serial number40520-40569, 41300-41349
ModelGE U15C
Build date1976, 1978-1980
Total produced100
 • UICCo'Co'
 • CommonwealthCo+Co
Gauge3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm) Cape gauge
Wheel diameter915 mm (36.0 in)
Wheelbase10,782 mm (35 ft 4.5 in)
 • Bogie3,188 mm (10 ft 5.5 in)
Pivot centres7,860 mm (25 ft 9.4 in)
 • Over couplers15,152 mm (49 ft 8.5 in)
Width2,753 mm (9 ft 0.4 in)
Height3,874 mm (12 ft 8.5 in)
Axle load13,720 kg (30,250 lb)
Adhesive weight82,320 kg (181,480 lb)
Loco weight82,320 kg (181,480 lb)
Fuel typeDiesel
Fuel capacity2,700 litres (590 imp gal)
Prime moverGE 7FDL-8
RPM range385-1,050
 • RPM low idle385
 • RPM idle450
 • Maximum RPM1,050
Engine type4-stroke diesel
AspirationElliott H-584 turbocharger
Generator10 pole GE 5GT-581C15
Traction motorsSix GE 5GE-764-C1 DC 4 pole
 • Rating 1 hour655A
 • Continuous645A @ 17 km/h (11 mph)
Gear ratio90:17
MU working4 maximum
Loco brake28-LAV-1 with vigilance control
Train brakesWestinghouse 6CDX4UC compressor/exhauster
Air tank cap.740 litres (160 imp gal)
Compressor0.033 m3/s (1.2 cu ft/s)
Exhauster0.130 m3/s (4.6 cu ft/s)
CouplersAAR knuckle (SASKOP DS)
Performance figures
Maximum speed100 km/h (62 mph)
Power output:
 • Starting1,230 kW (1,650 hp)
 • Continuous1,160 kW (1,560 hp)
Tractive effort:
 • Starting201 kN (45,000 lbf) @ 25% adh.
 • Continuous161 kN (36,000 lbf) @ 21 km/h (13 mph)
Factor of adh.:
 • Starting25%
 • Continuous20%
Brakeforce60% ratio @ 345 kPa (50.0 psi)
Dynamic brake peak effort138 kN (31,000 lbf) @ 28 km/h (17 mph)
OperatorsSouth African Railways
Transnet Freight Rail
Tanzania Railways
ClassClass 35-400
Number in class100
Numbers35-401 to 35-500
First run1976

The South African Railways Class 35-400 of 1976 is a diesel-electric locomotive.

Between March 1976 and May 1980, the South African Railways placed one hundred Class 35-400 General Electric type U15C diesel-electric locomotives in branch line service.[1][2]


The Class 35-400 type GE U15C diesel-electric locomotive was designed by General Electric (GE) and built for the South African Railways (SAR) by the South African General Electric-Dorman Long Locomotive Group (SA GE-DL, later Dorbyl). The first batch of fifty locomotives was delivered between March and December 1976, numbered in the range from 35-401 to 35-450. These were followed by a second batch of fifty between October 1978 and May 1980, numbered in the range from 35-451 to 35-500.[1][2][3]

Distinguishing features[edit]

Inter-bogie linkage

The locomotive has interlinked bogies, hence the "Co+Co" wheel arrangement classification. The linkage is usually hidden from view by the saddle-shaped fuel tank.

With the two GE U15C Class 35 models, the Class 35-000 can be distinguished from the Class 35-400 by the length of the humps on their long hoods, the Class 35-000 having a hump that is more than twice as long as that of the Class 35-400. An externally visible modification which was done during major overhauls is the addition of a saddle hood astride the long hump of the Class 35-000. By 2013 this modification had been done on a large number of long-humped Class 35-000 units, but no similar modification was done on any short-humped Class 35-400.[4][5]


South African Railways[edit]

Class 35-400 35-473 ID.png

The Class 35 family is South Africa's standard branch line diesel-electric locomotive. The GE Class 35-400 was designed to operate on light rail and they work on most branch lines in the central, western, southern and southeastern parts of the country.[3]

In the Western Cape, they work out of Bellville Depot in Cape Town on the branch lines to Bitterfontein, Saldanha and Caledon, and out of Worcester to George. Since the Ceres branch was reopened during 2012 in terms of an agreement between the Ceres Rail Company and Transnet, they also work fruit container trains in that line during the fruit season.[6]

NLPI Ltd.[edit]

NLPI Limited, abbreviated from New Limpopo Projects Investments, is a Mauritius-registered company which specialises in private sector investments, using the build-operate-transfer (BOT) concept. It had three connected railway operations in Zimbabwe and Zambia that formed a rail link between South Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo.[1]

  • The Beitbridge Bulawayo Railway (BBR) was commissioned on 1 September 1999 and operates the Beit Bridge to Bulawayo line in Zimbabwe.
  • Since February 2004 NLPI Logistics (NLL or LOG) has been operating between Bulawayo and Victoria Falls on the Zimbabwe-Zambia border.
  • Since February 2003, the Railway Systems of Zambia (RSZ) operated on the former Zambia Railways (ZR) line from Victoria Falls to Sakania in the Congo.

In Zambia, the RSZ locomotive fleet included former Zambia Railways 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, supplied by Transnet Freight Rail (TFR). These locomotives were sometimes marked 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. The locomotives did not appear to be restricted to work in any one of the three operations sections and have been observed being transferred between Zimbabwe and Zambia across the bridge at Victoria Falls as required. Class 35-400 locomotives which serve with NLPI include the locomotives annotated "NLPI" in the "leased or loaned" column in the table.[1][7]

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 which had been 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”.[8]

Tanzania Railways[edit]

Ten Class 35-400 locomotives were leased to Tanzania Railways, where they were regauged to Metre gauge. Locomotives which served there include the ones annotated "Tanzania" in the "leased or loaned" column in the table.[1]


Class 35-400 locomotives were also leased to Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer Zaïrois (SNCZ) in Zaire and were occasionally used by Zambia Railways on their journey north through Zambia. This was done with the agreement of SNCZ, who stipulated that they could only haul transit traffic for Zaire. Class 35-400 locomotives which were noted in such service through Zambia were, amongst others, two unidentified locomotives at Kabwe in August 1981, no. 35-464 at Choma in May 1985, no. 35-451 at Lusaka in February 1986, and another unidentified locomotive at Lusaka in May 1990, all under power on northbound goods.[9]

Works numbers[edit]

The Class 35-400 builder's works numbers and known international deployment are listed in the table.[1]


The Class 35-000 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 35-400 units began to be repainted in the Spoornet orange livery with a yellow and blue chevron pattern on the buffer beams. In the late 1990s many were repainted once again, this time in the Spoornet blue livery with outline numbers on the long hood sides. After 2008 in the Transnet Freight Rail (TFR) era many were repainted in the TFR red, green and yellow livery.[1][10]


The last picture below shows the roof of a Class 35-400 U15C locomotive. It was involved in a major derailment near Moorreesburg on 7 June 2007 after the track roadbed was washed away during heavy rain and flooding.[11]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g 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, 42.
  2. ^ 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
  3. ^ a b Paxton, Leith; Bourne, David (1985). Locomotives of the South African Railways (1st ed.). Cape Town: Struik. pp. 141–142. ISBN 0869772112.
  4. ^ "35-003 without saddle filter".
  5. ^ "35-001 with saddle filter".
  6. ^ Ceres Rail Company: The Story So Far (Accessed on 16 June 2017)
  7. ^ Railways Africa, 7 Dec 2006: 35 Class Diesels
  8. ^ ZRL in charge as RSZ concession revoked. Railway Gazette International, 13 September 2012
  9. ^ Spoornet Diesels Leased to ZR 1978-1993. P.F. Bagshawe.
  10. ^ 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)
  11. ^ Derailment at Moorreesburg on 7 June 2007

External video link[edit]

External video
In March 2017, we follow a quartet of vintage 35 Class diesels going about their daily work on the spectacular Cape Town to Caledon and Klipdale railway. The 35s pick up a load from Klipdale and work their way back towards Cape Town. After dropping wagons at Caledon, the 35s make their way through the tight curves and grades, with final shots watching the train ascend the tortuous curves of Houwhoek Pass. Numbers 35-467, 35-034, 35-483 & 35-043, Trevor Staats, March 2017 (5m 28s)