South African Class 5E1, Series 2

South African Class 5E1, Series 2

No. E610 at Paardeneiland Depot, 11 April 1970
Type and origin
Power type Electric
Designer Metropolitan-Vickers
Builder Union Carriage & Wagon
Model MV 5E1
Build date 1963
Total produced 130
AAR wheel arr. B-B
UIC class Bo'Bo'
Gauge 3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm) Cape gauge
Wheel diameter 1,220 mm (48.0 in)
Wheelbase 11,279 mm (37 ft 0.1 in)
  Bogie 3,430 mm (11 ft 3.0 in)
Pivot centres 7,849 mm (25 ft 9.0 in)
Panto shoes 6,972 mm (22 ft 10.5 in)
  Over couplers 15,494 mm (50 ft 10.0 in)
  Over beams 14,631 mm (48 ft 0 in)
Width 2,896 mm (9 ft 6.0 in)
  Pantograph 4,089 mm (13 ft 5.0 in)
  Body height 3,937 mm (12 ft 11.0 in)
Axle load 21,591 kg (47,600 lb)
Adhesive weight 86,364 kg (190,400 lb)
Loco weight 86,364 kg (190,400 lb)
Power supply Catenary
Current collection Pantographs
Traction motors Four AEI 281 AZX
  Rating 1 hour 485 kW (650 hp)
  Continuous 364 kW (488 hp)
Gear ratio 18:67
Loco brake Air & Regenerative
Train brakes Vacuum
Couplers AAR knuckle
Performance figures
Maximum speed 97 km/h (60 mph)
Power output:
  1 hour 1,940 kW (2,600 hp)
  Continuous 1,456 kW (1,953 hp)
Tractive effort:
  Starting 250 kN (56,000 lbf)
  1 hour 184 kN (41,000 lbf)
  Continuous 122 kN (27,000 lbf) @ 40 km/h (25 mph)
Operators South African Railways
Class Class 5E1
Power class 3 kV DC
Number in class 130
Numbers E591-E720
Delivered 1963-1964
First run 1963

The South African Railways Class 5E1, Series 2 of 1963 was an electric locomotive.

In 1963 and 1964 the South African Railways placed one hundred and thirty Class 5E1, Series 2 electric locomotives with a Bo-Bo wheel arrangement in mainline service. These were the first electric locomotives to be built in South Africa in quantity.[1]


Series 2 of the Metropolitan-Vickers (Metrovick) designed 3 kV DC Class 5E1 electric locomotive was built for the South African Railways (SAR) by Union Carriage and Wagon (UCW) in Nigel, Transvaal, with the electrical equipment supplied by Associated Electrical Industries (AEI).[2][3]

UCW, at the time Australian owned, opened its works at Nigel in 1959 and the building of the Class 5E1, Series 2 was its first large locomotive order.[4]

It did not allocate builder's numbers to the locomotives it built for the SAR, but used the SAR unit numbers for record keeping. The Series 2 locomotives were all built in 1963 and were numbered in the range from E591 to E720.[1]

No. E591, the first in the series, was handed over to the SAR in January 1963 as the first mainline electric locomotive constructed in South Africa.[5]

Class 5E1 series

The Class 5E1 was produced in five series, the Series 1 built by Metrovick and the Series 2 to 5 built by UCW. Between 1959 and 1969 altogether 690 of them were delivered, 135 Series 1, 130 Series 2, 100 Series 3, 100 Series 4 and 225 Series 5.[1][2]

With the exception of Series 2 and 3, the series distinction between Class 5E1 locomotives was based on the different model traction motors each was equipped with, MV 281 in Series 1, AEI 281 AZX in Series 2 and 3, AEI 281 AX in Series 4 and AEI 281 BX in Series 5. The distinction between the series 2 and 3 locomotives appears to have been based on the grounds of the design of their traction motor bearings.[1][6]

Identifying features

These dual cab locomotives have a roof access ladder on one side only, just to the right of the cab access door. The roof access ladder end is marked as the no. 2 end. A passage along the centre of the locomotive connects the cabs, which are identical except that Cab 2 is where the handbrake is located.[1]

The locomotive has two cut-outs on the roofline on the roof access ladder side, but an unbroken roofline on the opposite side. Like the predecessor Class 5E, the Class 5E1, Series 1 and 2 had two rectangular panels on the lower sides above the battery box, but they also had an additional rectangular panel on the lower sides above the second axle from the left.

The Series 1 and 2 locomotives could be distinguished from each other by the builder's plates on their end doors, a rectangular Metropolitan-Vickers plate on Series 1 locomotives and an oval Union Carriage and Wagon plate on Series 2. The Series 3, 4 and 5 locomotives can be visually distinguished from earlier models by their three small square panels on the lower sides above the battery box, compared to the two larger rectangular panels on the Series 1 and 2 locomotives. Series 4 and 5 locomotives can be distinguished from all earlier models by their one small square and one larger rectangular panels on the lower sides above the second axle from the left, compared to the single rectangular panel on all earlier models.


The locomotive itself used air brakes, but it was only equipped to operate trains with vacuum brakes. While hauling a train, the locomotive's air brake system would be made subordinate to the train's brake system and would come into operation as the train brakes were being applied, gradually building up to its maximum of 350 kilopascals (51 pounds per square inch). While working a train downgrade, the locomotive's regenerative braking system would also work in conjunction with the train brakes.

The locomotive's air brakes would usually only be used along with the train brakes during emergencies. Under normal circumstances the train would be controlled using the train brakes alone to slow down and stop.

While the locomotive was stopped, the air brakes on each bogie could be applied independently. The handbrake or parking brake, located in Cab no. 2, only operated on the unit's last axle, or no. 7 and 8 wheels.

Traction motor bearings

The axle-hung traction motors of all earlier SAR electric locomotives were suspended on the axles by means of plain oil-lubricated bearings consisting of bronze shells with white metal linings. With the introduction of the more powerful Class 5E1, Series 1 considerable trouble was experienced due to flaking of the white metal linings as a result of the increased intensity of the pressure on these bearings. The use of roller bearings was investigated and one traction motor of a Class 1E was converted for trial purposes. Since satisfactory results were obtained, it was decided to equip the traction motors of these 130 UCW-built Series 2 locomotives with roller-type suspension bearings.[6]

The arrangement consisted of a self-aligning spherical roller bearing at the pinion end and a parallel roller bearing at the commutator end of the traction motor. The roller bearings were grease-lubricated and were carried in a split cannon box to which the traction motor was attached by means of two clamps which engaged cylindrically-machined seatings on the outside of the housing. The roller-type suspension bearings required little attention other than the replenishment of the grease when the wheels were removed for tyre-turning.[6]

Orders for the subsequent Class 5E1, Series 3 and later models made provision for roller suspension bearings incorporating a lip-type cylindrical roller bearing to replace the self-aligning spherical roller bearing at the pinion end, and alternatively for tapered roller bearings at both ends. Since the external dimensions of the bearing housings would remain the same, the traction motors would still be freely interchangeable.[6]


The Class 5E1 served on all 3 kV DC electrified mainlines country-wide for almost forty years, but by the early 2000s the Series 2 locomotives were all retired. After withdrawal from SAR service, fifteen of the Series 2 locomotives were sold to the Middelburg, Transvaal, mines of the Ingwe Coal Corporation, where three were later scrapped and the rest renumbered in the range from 5401 to 5412. The Ingwe locomotives were numbers E607, E609, E617, E630, E649, E650, E655, E661, E669, E670, E673, E675, E678, E681 and E696.[3]


The main picture shows no. E610 in the SAR Gulf Red and whiskers livery which was introduced in 1960 and which the whole series was delivered in. No. E613, displayed below in the pre-1960 SAR green and whiskers livery, was repainted green in the early 1990s for use on Union Limited tour trains.[3]


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 South African Railways Index and Diagrams Electric and Diesel Locomotives, 610mm and 1065mm Gauges, Ref LXD 14/1/100/20, 28 January 1975, as amended
  2. 1 2 Paxton, Leith; Bourne, David (1985). Locomotives of the South African Railways (1st ed.). Cape Town: Struik. p. 128. ISBN 0869772112.
  3. 1 2 3 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. 50, 63.
  4. Dulez, Jean A. (2012). Railways of Southern Africa 150 Years (Commemorating One Hundred and Fifty Years of Railways on the Sub-Continent - Complete Motive Power Classifications and Famous Trains - 1860-2011) (1st ed.). Garden View, Johannesburg, South Africa: Vidrail Productions. p. 293. ISBN 9 780620 512282.
  5. "UCW - Electric locomotives" (PDF). The UCW Partnership. Archived from the original (PDF) on 12 October 2007. Retrieved 30 September 2010.
  6. 1 2 3 4 SAR&H Annual Report 1963-64, Research - Mechanical engineering. p. 73.
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