By Novell Zwangendaba – Following a derailment on Sunday afternoon of a steam locomotive, owned and operated by a private operator, Friends of Rail, travelling from Pretoria to Cullinan, the Railway Safety Regulator has initiated an investigation into the incident. The train utilises a branch line and normal commuter operations have not been affected. None of the 627 passengers sustained any injuries. Preliminary investigations indicate that sleepers may have been stolen resulting in the derailment.
About 10 railway sleepers had been stolen near the Cullinan station, causing the train to come off the tracks.
None of the 627 passengers travelling from Pretoria were injured in the accident.
Friends of the Rail chairman Nathan Berelowitz said this is the first such incident in 25 years.
“We always approach the station slowly only because it’s coming around a corner that’s deep-cutting. It then just toppled over and fell on its side against the rock because about 10 or so wooden sleepers had been removed. With that out the tracks just separated,” Berelowitz said.
The passengers were ferried back to Pretoria by bus on Sunday afternoon.
Last month another derailment of a freight train, Transnet Freight Rail, that was carrying diesel occured at Burlington near Mt. Vernon in KwaZulu-Natal. Two locomotives and five wagons were affected resulting in the closure of the KwaZulu-Natal main line to allow clean up operations.
Investigations also suggested that there was tampering with the track, resulting in the spillage of approximately 10,000 litres of diesel.
In April another private train Rovos Rail rolled backwards, gained momentum, and eventually derailed, leaving three people dead. One of the women who died was pregnant.
The train was carrying 55 passengers, many of them international tourists, and 30 staff.