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Red Devil Stories by Richard Niven

The story of SAR Class 26 No 3450 The Red Devil is told in great detail by David Wardale in his book "The Red Devil and Other Tales from the Age of Steam".  Other tales have been written about it, including two by Richard Niven who lived in South Africa through the 1980s and into the early 1990s working for SAR as the regular fireman on 25NC No 3488.

Richard's first encounter with The Red Devil was in 1983 when he rode on its footplate while the locomotive was undertaking a test run.  However it was not until 1984, the year after Wardale left the country, that Richard had his first opportunity to fire the Red Devil.

Richard, who now lives in Scotland, has prepared three short narratives for this website describing his experiences in South Africa, two of which relate to his encounters with The Red Devil:

The last tale tells of an incident in which The Red Devil was recorded travelling at 92mph [148 km/h] with 900 tonnes behind on a short downhill gradient of 0.8% (1 in 125).  A video of the occasion can be found on a DVD titled "Steam Fever", copies of which can be purchased from www.trainpictures.com.au/ and http://www.frameline.co.za/dvdsales.html.

If its speed was recorded accurately, then The Red Devil should be entitled to claim title to the world speed record for steam traction on narrow gauge tracks, currently claimed (according to Wikipedia) by a Japanese 4-6-4 that ran at 80 mph [129 km/h] in 1954.

The account also serves to vindicate Wardale's prediction that The Red Devil was capable of operating high speed passenger services, having a balancing speed on level tangent (i.e. straight) track of at least 150 km/h with a 500 tonne load (see page 287 of his book).

The Red Devil's gradient-speed diagram from Fig 97 page 281 is reproduced below with extrapolations for loads of 500 tonnes (which suggests that Wardale's prediction was conservative) and 900 tonnes (as per the train in Richard Niven's story).  It may be seen that with 900 tonnes behind the tender, the locomotive should have been capable of maintaining around 140 km/h on level track.  The locomotive should therefore have easily been able to run up to 148 km/h on the 4 to 5 km of downhill grade approaching Poupan.  [Ref: The Red Devil and Other Tales from the Age of Steam Fig 31 page 107 "Simplified Gradient Profile, Beaconsfield (Kimberley) - Da Aar Section".]

Another S.A.R. tale told by Richard Niven can be found on Rob Dickinson's International Steam website - see http://www.internationalsteam.co.uk/tales/sartales01.htm.  Titled "Firing a Condensing Steam Locomotive, 1991" , it is is the story of the very last run of SAR 25C 3511, the last condenser in service.