Vidrail stock a fabulous selection of Railway and Steam Train books covering railways from Southern African countries.

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All prices quoted are in South African Rand (ZAR) and exclude postage.


The Great Steam Racetrack thru the KAROO

by Paul Hloben (2017)
Product code: VB7

In the 1970s and 1980s, steam enthusiasts from all over the world flocked to South Africa to experience the thrill of big time steam on the central part of the Cape Town-Johannesburg main line, nicknamed "Steel Kyalami" after the Grand Prix circuit near Johannesburg. Here, modern 4-8-4s hauled a succession of fast heavy freights, interspersed with some passenger workings. The famous condensing class 25 ruled the Beaufort West-De Aar section until 1974, and the non-condensing 25NCs soldiered on between De Aar and Kimberley into the 1990s.

This major new book is a celebration of South African steam in outstanding photography as well as evocative text about the heavy traffic, working on the locos and chasing them. It also covers

The construction of the main line from Cape Town towards Johannesburg, and its branches
The railways during the second Boer War
The development of South African steam locomotives
The long distance passenger trains
Chasing steam in its final years

252 large pages (23x33cm) with good reading, illustrated with a wealth of historical photographs and great colour photos, hardbound.

by Leith Paxton (2017)
Product code: VB8
Out of stock

R400.00  + R50.00 P&P registered postage (SA only). Postnet counter to counter or Aramax direct delivery is R100.00.

Well known graphic designer and railway historian Leith Paxton has a printed new drawing book - this consists of 166 drawings of SAR Mainline coaches from types A (Dining Saloons) to H (Baggage Vans) from the period 1892 when the first corridor coaches arrived for the CGR to 1957 when the last of the Watson wooden body coaches were buil.

The drawings depicted them in their "as built" condition and in many cases no photographs of some of the coaches exist. Private coaches are also included, of which many were used on the various Royal Tours. Although the drawings are intended for modellers, they are equally of interest to the SAR historians, as well as the arm chair railway enthusiast. The book is A4 soft cover.

Locomotives and Trains
by Jean Dulez (2012)
Product code: VB1
SOLD OUT, Revised Edition due 2018
CD version (PDF) now available

As the title implies, this book deals not only with the motive power and trains on the South African network, namely the South African Railways or SAR but also those of specific neighbouring countries, namely Swaziland, Lesotho, Namibia and Botswana, all of which have experienced various periods of SAR administration. In addition, some private railway systems are featured, which includes special sections on the provincial Gautrain and Kei Rail systems. Going back before Union in 1910, the obsolete motive power of the Central South African Railways (CSAR), Natal and Cape Governments Railways (NGR and CGR respectively) and the Transvaal railways (NZASM) also feature, since many of the steam locomotive classes from these administrations no longer existed after the SAR was formed in 1910.

In recent years, the state controlled transport organisation has been restructured and its name changed to Transnet, with the railways division, initially known as "Spoornet", later also changed to Transnet Freight Rail (TFR).

The book documents in great detail all the various designs and classes of steam locomotives to have been placed in service between the years 1860 and 1968, as well as the electric locomotive series (from 1925) and diesel locomotives range from 1938. In addition, the electric multiple unit designs (EMU) for the high density commuter services have also been given due recognition, an area ignored by most previous publications on the subject of railways in South Africa. This service now falls under the Department of Transport: the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) which now also encompasses the long distance Shosholoza Meyl and upmarket Premier Classe passenger services (the world famous luxury Blue Train operation was still in 2012 being operated by Transnet itself). Metrorail is the operator of the commuter services.

The author, Jean Dulez, railway photographer since 1964 and also video producer since the early 1980s, has left no stone unturned in coverage of all the relevant subject matter. In total, over ten years of research, accumulation of photographic material and information has been amassed, with the assistance of prominent authorities within various areas of the topics of Southern African motive power and railways; specifically Richard Clatworthy, Les Pivnic, Tony Elliot, Leith Paxton, John Middleton and the late Malcolm Bates, to mention but a few of the major contributors. In addition the above mentioned, other well-known photographers of the Southern African railway scene have also provided contributions, namely Peter Stow, Eugene Armer, Dennis Moore, Charlie Lewis, David Benn, Bill Botkin and yet several more. The former Transnet Heritage archive collection (now functioning under the TFR library) has provided an invaluable source of photographs and drawings, as such also containing the collections of Frank Holland and Frank Garrison. The collections of the late Dusty Durrant and Boon Boonzaaier have also been sourced in order to provide many more railway images.

The book contains many unpublished photographs and comprises:

416 pages, 30cmx24cm format, hard cover
Approximately 848 black and white photographs and 885 colour images
391 technical drawings
11 special regional maps by Bruno Martin
23 major tabular reference layouts

We believe that this is the most comprehensive technical book on this subject, dealing with the entire period 1860 to 2011, to have appeared to date and deserves a prominent place in any Southern African railway enthusiast's library.

A History of the South African Railways 25 Class Condensers and 25NC 4-8-4's, by Phil Girdlestone.
160 pages A4, 200 photographs, technical drawings and maps, hardbound with laminated dust jacket.
ISBN 978-91-7266-185-1
Product code:

After the Second World War, the South African Railways were in dire need of more motive power for its growing traffic, particularly for the artery connecting the Johannesburg area with Cape Town. This includes the 340 mile crossing of the semi-desert Karoo, where water is scarce. Comprehensive studies and development work led to the order for 90 Class 25 4-8-4s with condensing tenders and 50 non-condensing locomotives, Class 25NC, from North British and Henschel. They were the largest non-articulated narrow gauge locomotives ever built and the largest locomotives to use the Henschel condensing system.

In this book, renowned steam engineer Phil Girdlestone details the development of these ultimately very successful locomotives, which incorporated much American technology, such as cast steel frames, automatic axlebox wedges and firebox circulator tubes. He explains the many efforts to improve mechanical and thermal efficiency and output, and the initial problems with the separation of oil from the condensed steam, blower fans, the roller bearing rods and breaking connecting rods.

The locomotives were delivered in 1953-55. Their low water consumption and excellent riding qualities earned them their nicknames. Twenty years later, the usefulness of the complicated condensing locomotives was over, and by 1980 all but three had been converted to non-condensing. Regular service ended in 1992, but no less than 31 have been preserved. The book is illustrated with several technical drawings and numerous colour photographs showing these impressive machines at work in the often stunning South African landscape. In all, the book is a worthy tribute to SAR's most remarkable locomotives.

Compiled by John Middleton (2002)
Soft cover, booklet size with 32 colour digital photographs.
2012 update flyer is included.
Product code: VB2

This has been the standard reference for the locomotives in Southern Africa for some years now. It was fully updated in 2002.

It features historical information, details of operations, numbering lists, depot allocations, builders details for all steam, electric and diesel locomotives from the national systems of South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Swaziland, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi and Tanzania.

There is really no other publication that covers the railway systems' motive power in the subcontinent to this extent.

by Paul Hloben
Product code: VB3

In this book, the dead-serious black & white photography is supported by light-hearted articles. The black & white theme was chosen to emphasize the drama, mood, composition and tonal range of the photographs, capturing steam locomotives and crews at their most spectacular moments. This publication is intended as a breakaway from the standard photographic books on steam, showing more evocative ENCOUNTERS of the steam world from the early days of railways right up to the latest scenes.

Inspired by the now-classic 1950s B&W night-photography book "Steam, Steel and Stars" by O. Winston Link, "Steam Encounters" is a book dedicated to B&W photography of South African steam power, its various locations, moods, challenges, times and people. It is not a documentary covering as many different types of steam locomotive that can be shunted between the pasteboard covers, but is rather a presentation of a generous buffet of encounters with the great gritty machines. Unlike the late Mr. Link, Paul Hloben covers the entire diurnal cycle. Paul has asked numerous photographers and writers to contribute in terms of memories, stories and observations, as well as many photographs from a range of shutter-flies. So, this book is a compilation of contributions from people that were "in steam" or following steam today.

by Paul Hloben (2008) limited edition
Product code: VB4

This 160 page hard cover publication deals with the preservation operations around South Africa in the new millennium together with some old time colour and black white historic steam train operations. Excellent quality and production.

by Dennis Moore, published by Chris van Rensburg (1998)
Product code: VB6

This all colour all steam photographic record of the 1990s is out of print but a few copies still available.

Note that the video/DVD we have (VR50) is intended as a companion for the book.

The series "Best of Steam 1983-90" on the other hand, is a more extensive record of action to accompany the book the "Sunset of Steam" for those who own a copy.


by A E "Dusty" Durrant
ISBN-10: 1779011342
ISBN-13: 9781779011343
African Publishing Group 1997
Out of stock

This was destined to be the final book written by renowned steam locomotive enthusiast and historian, A E "Dusty" Durrant in 1997. The book features technical detail and drawings for all the steam locomotive classes of Rhodesia/National Railways of Zimbabwe service, plus a number of archive black and white steam locomotive/train photographs of all these types.

There are also a number of colour plates featuring steam train scenes taken on the Bulawayo to Colleen Bawn, Plumtree and Victoria Falls lines during the final years of steam from the mid 1980s until 1996.

Although technically out of stock locally, we believe that a limited number of soft cover copies are still available from the Railway Museum in Bulawayo.

by George Pattison
ISBN-10: 1906255164
ISBN-13: 9781906255169
Out of stock

A comprehensive illustrated review of the locomotives of Rhodesia Railways and National Railways of Zimbabwe.

by Boon Boonzaaier.
Soft cover
Product code: VB5

This soft cover 350 full colour publication has been compiled by the operator of modern traction tours called Bushveld Safaris; these covered most of the major routes in Southern Africa and is an account of the history, information and trains over these areas, also illustrated by many maps.

It covers Namibia, Botswana, Swaziland as well as all of the Transnet lines, regardless of whether the tour travelled these or not. Like the AA travel book covers road system, this book is the veritable guide for the rail systems on the subcontinent.

150th Anniversary of the First Railways and 10th Anniversary of the RailRoad Association of South Africa.
Allen A. Jorgensen
Approx. 340 pages
Hard Cover.
Chris van Rensburg Publications - 2010
Out of print

ISBN 0-86846-113-X

This book also celebrates the 150th anniversary of railways in the country, but covers general railway history in more detail and reviews current railway topics from various perspectives.

Peter Bagshawe
Stenvalls 2012
Approx. 60 pages, hard cover.
Out of stock

The 2'6" gauge Namaqualand Railway in West Africa opened over its 91 mile length in 1876 and was originally horse powered. Steam followed quickly, and locomotives were supplied from Lilleshall, Kitson (including the "main-line" 0-6-2 tender locos), Dick, Kerr and Bagnall. The company's copper mines closed in the 1920s, but a skeleton service continued over the railway until the mines restarted in 1937. This excellent book offers a brief history of the line, and a more extensive one of its unusual locomotives, but no drawings, up till the closure of the final section of the line in 2004.