South African Class 35-000

The South African Railways Class 35-000 of 1972 is a diesel-electric locomotive.

South African Class 35-000
No. 35-020 in Transnet Freight Rail livery,
Saldanha, Western Cape, 10 February 2013
Type and origin
Power typeDiesel-electric
DesignerGeneral Electric
BuilderGeneral Electric
Serial number38161-38210, 38724-38743
ModelGE U15C
Build date1972-1973
Total produced70
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.:
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
Zambia Railways
ClassClass 35-000
Number in class70
Numbers35-001 to 35-070
First run1972

Between March 1972 and May 1973, the South African Railways placed seventy Class 35-000 General Electric type U15C diesel-electric locomotives in branch line service.[1][2]


The South African Class 35-000 type GE U15C diesel-electric locomotive was designed and built for the South African Railways (SAR) by General Electric (GE) and imported. The first batch of fifty locomotives was delivered in 1972, numbered in the range from 35-001 to 35-050, with the first locomotives arriving in March. These were followed by a second batch of twenty in 1973, numbered in the range from 35-051 to 35-070. The last locomotives arrived in May 1973.[1][2][3]

Class 35 series

GE and GM-EMD designs

The Class 35 locomotive family consists of five sub-classes, the GE Classes 35-000 and 35-400 and the General Motors Electro-Motive Division (GM-EMD) Classes 35-200, 35-600 and 35-800. Both manufacturers also produced locomotives for the South African Classes 33, 34 and 36.[2]

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.

Distinguishing Features

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 Class 35-000 units, but no similar modification was done on any Class 35-400.[4][5]


South African Railways

The Class 35 is South Africa’s standard branch line diesel-electric locomotive. The GE Class 35-000 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 Cape Town on the branch lines to Bitterfontein, Saldanha and Caledon, and out of Worcester to George. A threesome is allocated to the Swartkops depot in Port Elizabeth from where they work the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) MetroRail commuter trains to Uitenhage.


Between October 1978 and May 1993, Zambia Railways (ZR) hired locomotives to solve its chronic shortages in motive power, mainly from South Africa but at times also from Zaire, Zimbabwe, the TAZARA Railway and even the Zambian Copper Mines. In Zambia, the South African locomotives were mainly used on goods trains between Livingstone and Kitwe, sometimes in tandem with a ZR locomotive and occasionally also on passenger trains.[6]

The first period of hire lasted from October 1978 until about April 1981. Locomotives were selected from a pool of units in the Classes 33-400, 35-000 and 35-200 which were allocated by the Railways for hire to Zambia. The South African fleet in Zambia was never constant, since locomotives were continually exchanged as they became due back in South Africa for their three-monthly services. [6]

The pool of Class 35-000 locomotives allocated by the Railways for hire to ZR included the locomotives annotated "Zambia" in the "allocation" column in the table. The first Class 35-000 units to serve in Zambia were on hire by May 1980. They served there for less than a year, being employed on road work as well as shunting. By the end of March 1981 the last Class 35-000 unit to remain there was no. 35-064 which was due to return to South Africa as soon as the last of ZR’s new Krupp-built diesel locomotives, no. 0-210, was delivered.[6]


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 between Beit Bridge and Bulawayo 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 Zambian Railways (ZR) line from Victoria Falls to Sakania in the Congo.

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. These units 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. The units did not appear to be restricted to working 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 35-000 locomotives which serve with NLPI include the locomotives annotated "NLPI" in the "allocation" 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]

Works numbers

The Class 35-000 builder’s works numbers and where applicable, leased service in Zambia or more recently with NLPI 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 35-000 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][9]


The main picture shows no. 35-020 in the Transnet Freight Rail livery and with a saddle hood in the Orex Yard at Saldanha. The other liveries that were applied to Class 35-000 and the saddle hood modification are illustrated below. The last picture shows the top of a locomotive with a saddle hood. It was involved in a major derailment near Moorreesburg when the track roadbed was washed away during heavy rain and flooding.[10]


  1. 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, 41–42.
  2. South African Railways Index and Diagrams Electric and Diesel Locomotives, 610 mm and 1065 mm Gauges, Ref LXD 14/1/100/20 (amended ed.). 28 January 1975.
  3. 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. Bagshawe, P.F. Spoornet Diesels Leased to ZR 1978-1993.
  7. "35 Class Diesels". Railways Africa. 7 December 2006.
  8. "ZRL in charge as RSZ concession revoked" (PDF). Railway Gazette International. 13 September 2012.
  9. 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)
  10. "Derailment at Moorreesburg". 7 June 2007.
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