FONG KONG Locomotives

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Transnet says some of its Gupta-deal Chinese locomotives have stood idle for 6 years

Very interesting! Maeder sent me this link.

It is hard to believe just how lousy these Fong Kong locomotives are.

I was a footplate man in 1966. The words “failed unit” were actually more common than the words “failed engine” (meaning “steam” engine), yet when you read stuff today, the impression given is that steam was woefully unreliable. Not true. In the entire year of my duties in Empangeni, one engine failed. Out of hundreds. Interestingly, it was coal related, just as today we have power stations failing from bad coal. It’s quite simple: bad coal contains sulfides, good coal doesn’t. Power stations didn’t fail in the old days, so why do they fail under the ANC? They fail because “someone” sabotaged rail & moved coal onto road trucks. That way, you can drive a truck somewhere, offload the good coal, load up lousy coal, & deliver the crap stuff to a power station. Sulphides eat boiler tubes for breakfast. Power station boilers are three times the size of locomotive boilers (or more) & take years to build and test. Where do you find a boilermaker today? They were two a penny in the sixties. The fact is that diesel-electric locomotives have a higher failure rate than steam locomotives, per year, but that isn’t how the statistics are compiled: down days are calculated as a factor “per ton carried”, not “how often per year”. That way, diesel beats steam, but only just.

For a perspective, Class 1E Locomotives (the ‘E’ in the class name denotes Electric) were put into service beginning in 1926. They were made in England by Metropolitan Vickers & freighted here on ships. In 1966, ie after FORTY YEARS, class 1Es were being shopped for their FIRST OVERHAUL. That is the sort of longevity that Elon Musk is predicting for electric cars & trucks.

So, how can these brand new Chinese units lie idle for six years? Worse. actually. They started out broken. You can not get more useless than that, I thought, but then …

Wait a minute. This sounds familiar. When we wanted to return AFRO 4000 locomotives to the suppliers, we had a problem, because it was found they had not been maintained as required in the purchase contract. Oops. Yet another thing that still unsentenced bogus engineer Daniel Mthimkulu, thought by Transnet CEO Lucky Montana to be a genius, kind of didn’t think of.

I think as a nation we hold the record for burning trains. It’s what we do. I mean, has any other country managed to burn 1496 coaches within a few years? How about R636 million down the drain?

Design lifespan for ANYTHING on rail with moving parts is 40 years. For track & things with no moving parts, it is 100 years. There are railways all over Africa built by colonial governments a century ago without a thing done to them, that are still carrying trains. Paul Theroux wrote of some in East Africa. He also wrote of another, more recently constructed in Tanzania that is unusable between ten in the morning and four in the afternoon, because it buckles and crinkles in the sun. Rail tracks don’t do potholes. Or, you would think not. But China, priding itself on building anything anyone else can build, but at a quarter of the price, managed it.

Oops. For the sake of Kenya’s Standard Gauge Railway, let’s hope China has learned a few things since those Tanzania days.

Meantime, it would be nice to hear that Transnet did do the required maintenance on these locomotives that “stood idle for six years”, but … I am not holding my breath.