South Africa's 4-8-4 'Red Devil' steams again

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South African Red Devil 4-8-4 No. 3450 steams near Robertson, South Africa, on July 14 with its first public trip in 14 years.
Peter Rogers
CAPE TOWN, South Africa — South Africa's Red Devil celebrity steam locomotive is back on the main line after a major overhaul — the first time the locomotive has been used in 14 years.

The unique Class 26 4-8-4 No. 3450 Red Devil returned to the main line after overhaul with a test run on July 3. Cape Town-based steam tourist train operator Ceres Rail funded a four-month long overhaul and restoration on the locomotive. Red Devil had a total repaint into the signature vermillion red livery that gives it its nickname.

Henschel, in Kassel, West Germany, built the locomotive in 1953 as a Class 25NC, and was overhauled in 1981 in an attempt to show that reciprocating steam power had a viable future. The modifications made for the tests were based upon development work undertaken by Argentine engineer L.D. Porta and aimed to increase the amount of steam available while reducing the amount of fuel required. They included conversion to a coal gas-producing fire box, the fitting of a new Lempor exhaust and improved lubrication. Tests between 1981 and 1984 showed that compared to an unmodified Class 25NC, the new Class 26 used 28 percent less coal and 30 percent less water while increasing power output by up to 43 percent. Despite these positive results no further locomotives were converted with new diesel and electric engines being bought instead.

The locomotive had been stored since 2004 at Monument station in Cape Town owned by the Transnet Heritage Foundation, but was in the care of local railfans. The locomotive remains the property of Transnet but is now leased to Ceres Rail which will use it to operate special trains between Cape Town and Robertson in the Western Cape wine region — the first trip was just ten days after the initial test run.

More information is available online.
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