NG15 Class 2-8-2s

The NG15 2-8-2 tender loco is the other, earlier classic design of the South African narrow gauge, alongside the NGG16. Having evolved from engines designed for heavy-duty work across the dry terrain of what is now Namibia, they later migrated eastwards to other South African narrow gauge lines, following the conversion of their original systems to "Cape gauge" (3'6"). As used in Africa, the NG15s are coupled to very large tenders, designed for arid country with long gaps between water and fuel stops, and for railways with turning facilities at either end - unlike the WHR. To ensure safe tender-first working, the tenders will be altered for use in Wales. The leading driven axle is semi-articulated in a truck combining it with the pony truck, so that the class is able to traverse sharper curves than the long coupled wheelbase might suggest. This arrangement is known as a Krauss-Helmholtz truck, and is illustrated below in the form of the truck from NG15 no. 120, dismantled at WHR (Porthmadog) (see foot of page).

Given a dry rail (or plenty of sand!), the NG15 is reputed to be almost as powerful as the Garratts, and should be eminently suitable for Welsh Highland services.

Two NG15s were imported into the UK in January 1998, for a planned railway scheme on the Yorkshire coast which unfortunately ran into difficulties and was abandoned, with its rolling stock put up for sale. Both were subsequently purchased for the Welsh Highland Project. The railway declined to bid for three NGG16s that were for sale from the same source, as their condition was considered poor as candidates for restoration to working order. These locos were subsequently purchased by the Exmoor Steam Railway in Devon, which had already imported another NGG16, and NG15 no. 135. Exmoor Garratt no. 87 would later find its way into the WHR fleet.

With the completion of the WHR approaching, consideration has been given to getting at least one of the NG15s into service, after years in store during which many WHR supporters have retained a keen interest in the NG15s, including gaining practical experience of the operational one at Sandstone Estates in South Africa. The management feel that one of these locos would make an ideal project for an individual or group looking to make a significant contribution to the WHR project; the locomotives are to hand and one of them is currently in progress of overhauled - see below and

A possible look for an NG15 in WHR use (J.Hamlin/NG15 Group)

The above illustration (that is available as a painting from the NG15-134 group) shows how №134 will look once fully adapted for the WHR, with a new design of cab and tender body that will be more suited to regular tender-first running. 

A summary of previous and the current restoration work on №134 is covered on a separate page and on its own website where you can also find details of how to help and how you can donate to the restoration.

No. 133

Loco no. 133 is on view at Dinas. Both locos were built in Belgium in 1953, at the La Croyère works of the Société Anglo-Franco-Belge. The name Springbok which was chalked on the engine for a time is thought to be unofficial! Volunteers from the WHRS East Anglia Group applied a coat of paint to 133 in September 2000, making the loco much more presentable as well as halting any further deterioration, as this loco is kept out of doors. The loco is in a tolerably complete state, but will of course require overhaul before it can work on the WHR. It is hoped that eventual restoration may be eligible for grant aid, for which reason no work has started on it, and it is not being stripped of parts for the overhaul of no.134 (see below).

Boiler records received from South Africa in 2004 have confirmed that no. 133 is carrying the oldest extant NG15 boiler, originally on no. 17 and built in 1933. However it has been established that the loco was taken out of service with three years remaining on its boiler ticket, and it was withdrawn owing to a lack of work for the NG15s following the introduction of the Class 91 diesel-electrics; so it is to be hoped that the boiler will not prove a major hurdle when 133's turn in the restoration queue eventually comes.

No. 134

No. 134 arrived shortly after 133, looking rather more woebegone than its sister - but in this case looks are deceptive. 134's overhaul was started on a "no budget" basis pending the completion of Garratt K1, the current focus of loco funding appeals. Nonetheless donations have been received for items such as boiler tubes and washout plugs, and numerous spares have been acquired from South Africa to replace missing items on both locos, such as injectors and vacuum ejectors. To date the work has revealed no unpleasant surprises, indeed quite the opposite. It is thought that 134 was overhauled soon before withdrawal in South Africa, as its mechanical condition and the internal condition of the boiler have been found to be excellent.

Planned modifications include a redesigned tender body giving better visibility than the original. The outline design will retain the full-length bogie tender chassis, with a lower water tank than the original. While a design with some resemblance to smaller BR standard tenders had been sketched out, no firm decision has yet been taken on the design. One suggestion under consideration came from the late Handel Kardas ("Young Isambard" of Railway World, and a good friend to the WHR), who envisaged a design resembling the type of bogie tender seen with some Southern Railway Maunsell designs (e.g. the S15 class 4-6-0), with the addition of a removable cab back (as seen on the FR's Linda).

Restoration work on no. 134 is covered on a separate page.

There has also been an NG15 (no. 120), latterly in dismantled condition, at WHR Ltd's Gelert's Farm Works. This loco was imported by a group of members in the period when WHR Ltd was bidding to rebuild and run the whole line, and later passed to the company. It was announced on February 6th 2009 that no. 120 had been sold to a WHR Ltd member, and would be restored at a private site with the intention of eventual use on WHR Ltd services. No target date had been set for its return to steam.

NG15 Class - Technical Details
Length over couplers (including tender) 54 feet 4 inches
Wheel arrangement 2-8-2 & bogie tender
Driving wheel diameter 2' 10"
Total heating surface 1,028 square feet
Boiler pressure 171 pounds per square inch
Cylinders (x 2) 15.75" diameter, 17.75" stroke
Valvegear Walschaert
Tractive effort @ 85% pressure 18,820 lb.
Water capacity (of tenders as built) 2,860 gallons
Weight of locomotive 36.6 tons
Weight of tender (as built) 31.2 tons

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Authored by Ben Fisher; last updated March 23rd, 2015 by Laurence Armstrong