In 1972 the greatest train show was South Africa, international sanctions against the country because of apartheid meant that it was a time warp. The diesel salesmen couldn’t sell their products in South Africa, so it was operated by steam, and what locomotives they were. South African engineers really pushed the limits on what could operate on 3’6’’ guage track. Everything was built and maintained to the highest standards and the lines were heavily utilised, on the main lines if you stayed in one place there was always a train on the horizon. There was also the variety of motive power, my favourite was the 23 class but the most intriguing were the 25 class condenser engines, instead of the steam exhausting through the stack it was returned to an enormous tender to be condensed back into water, logical for a dry continent. However to compensate for the draft usually created by exhausting steam the 25 class had a giant fan housed in the smoke box , which meant no ‘chuff’ sound but something that sounded like a jet engine. I got a job so that I could stay because I also wanted to photograph in Rhodesia and Mozambique.
I was an un-qualified male nursing assistant at the Johannesburg General Hospital, by working night shifts I could gat reasonable blocks of time to go photographing.