The Fastest Steam Loco On Cape Gauge

120 Kph Speedster

While researching locomotives with the largest driving wheels, there was only one contender on the 3’6″ “Cape” gauge, the preferred rail width in Southern Africa.

Of course, we are talking about the mighty 16E, which I only was mounted on a plinth outside Bloemfontein Station.

Just a few years earlier, US Photographer, Ron Wright, managed to photograph these in regular service.


With a driving wheel diameter of 6′, they were larger than the NSW 38 class! Across the Karoo desert, they regularly clocked 120 kph on large Express Passenger trains.

I visited the country in 1975 and the best I could do was this shot on Christmas Eve.


I know they got one of the 16Es running on specials just after my visit, but it was a real treat to find these shots from Ron on his website.

As it turns out the maximum speed of a steam engine is related to the size of the driving wheels. The 100 mph plus class all had wheels in excess of 2 meters.


Here are a couple more of Ron’s photos of 16E’s. He takes an excellent photo.

SAR pacific 16E 858 leaving Springfontein_South Africa with_10_cars_1Aug1969_web


Video of 16E in action.


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