Questions relating to the security of the Sandstone Heritage Trust’s locomotive assets.
The collection of assets at Sandstone Estates is very securely housed, maintained and operated where necessary. At present we are involved in a high level dialogue with the Rail Safety Regulator concerning the need to adopt a Heritage Railway specification in South Africa, more specifically for 2-ft Narrow Gauge railways that are ring-fenced or isolated from any other railway network.
The Rail Safety Regulator has only one specification in South Africa and we are being treated as a Main Line railway and therefore we are having various restrictions placed on our operations and we are having to upgrade parts of our infrastructure at enormous costs to levels that we believe are entirely unnecessary for the axle loading and speed of operation of our railway.
Our current Rail Safety Regulator permit expires at the end of 2019 but going beyond that we have advised the RSR that we cannot comply with the demands being made on us with regard to Civil Engineering issues, nor can we comply with the requirement that all repairs to locomotives be placed under their control and be subjected to inspections.
One should appreciate that there are enormous costs which accompany each and every one of these regulations which are currently being promulgated quicker than we can deal with them.
We have worked hard for many years to accommodate the Rail Safety Regulator’s long list of demands but we have reached the stage where it is unsustainable for a railway that operates at slow speeds like ours.
We have forwarded copies of the British Heritage Rail specifications to the authorities with a strong recommendation that they implement something similar in South Africa.
The rumours that are going around regarding the disposal of Heritage assets etc. are entirely incorrect. We are simply in a state of limbo while we negotiate with the authorities to take a more realistic view of operations like ours.
January has seen good rainfall at Sandstone and the mealies are growing. At the same time the 1915 built NG10 locomotive stretched its legs for a private charter. The muddy road is indicative of the rainfall.
The rain had another positive in that staff were generally confined inside and were able to do a huge tidy up of the exhibits in the Heritage sheds. Also trapped by the rain our 60 year old Fordson Major was repaired and was soon out cutting the newly grown grass! Sandstone is looking good!
Our Caterpillar collection has for too long been a quiet and fairly modest part of our overall Heritage programme.
We do not like to prioritise any one category of machinery as being better than another. Our Steam Heritage department is obviously well organised and well equipped. The same applies to the Agricultural machinery side, and of course we have an excellent cross-section of Military vehicles.
One of the unsung heroes though is our growing collection of Caterpillar machinery which comprises a very good cross-section of working Caterpillar tractors from the D2 right through to the D9 of various vintages. We will be featuring an article on the complete collection quite soon.
In the meantime, we are making great progress with regard to the restoration of the bigger machines. Our D7 and D8 are now fully restored and in working order and our D9 is running but is obviously in need of a cosmetic upgrade. The pictures below show the three machines being moved. Obviously the D9 is the biggest of the three.
As a result of a big re-organisation of the Sandstone Heritage Trust assets at Sandstone Estates, these machines have now been given their own bespoke area which is outside of the main complex due to the fact that with their heavy tracks they cannot be moved very easily, and as a result of this re-organisation they can now be sent directly to the field to remove alien tree populations etc.
Our HET (Heavy Equipment Transporter) has been out to play with the Cats to get them to their new home!
Again, very much part of the Sandstone philosophy ‘Don’t just create a thing of beauty but put it to work as well’.
The fully restored Cat D8 on the move!
The yet to be restored D9 climbs aboard the HET, it weighs nearly 40 tons!
As many of our readers know, NGG13 number 59 is at the Hempstead and Northern Rail Road in Texas where Robert Bucher set up the railway after visiting South Africa many times in the 1980s and documenting the narrow gauge, particularly Estcourt to Weenen.
Number 59 has been fitted with a most impressive USA style whistle, Garratt Bucher says it is a Chinese 6" 5 chime and is 99% sure it is a copy of an American whistle made by the Star Brass Company.
It certainly makes a glorious sound as this short video of number 59 is steam shows. Enjoy!
NG10 number 61 has seen limited use since Stars of Sandstone 2019 but had developed a couple of teething problems, namely a leaking regulator gland in the cab and a sticking vacuum brake cylinder on the tender. As there was little urgency on this other projects were pursued, however, the locomotive was scheduled for a wedding train in December so both items were attended to. Our picture gallery shows number 61 on test and in the loco depot awaiting the call of duty. The loco had to be stood down as the client doubled the size of the wedding party and the consequent weight of the train meant that NGG16 number 153 had to be substituted. Nevertheless the NG10 now waits her next call of duty.
As the restoration of NGG16A proceeds, the time has come to order the various number plates and builders plates for the loco. While this is in hand were pleased to receive a call from Charlie Lewis, one of the founders of the privatised Alfred County Railway from Port Shepstone to Harding, who created NGG16A number 155. Mr Lewis has kindly donated to Sandstone the only remaining original NGG16A number plate made for the locomotive in 1990. We shall be ordering a sister number plate as well as the others required but Sandstone would like to express its thanks to Mr Lewis for this very kind gesture.
The plate was collected by Sandstone supporter, Andy Selfe, from Mr Lewis in Cape Town. Our gallery shows the plate and the handover. Mr Lewis is in the blue shirt and shorts.
The Covid 19 Pandemic has changed the way we work and we have extended our report from the pure Steam Report to include all heritage activities at Sandstone. Enjoy the first edition for 2021 - Click here to read