Sandstone Heritage Trust - News

Harvest Time at Sandstone

The sound of steam welcomed in the New Year at Sandstone Estates as “Kalahari” Class NG15 No: 17 hauled a celebratory train from Hoekfontein to Grootdraai just before midnight, returning some two hours later in the early hours of 2005. This was certainly the first steam hauled train in South Africa for 2005 as night time running is not allowed on Spoornet metals for other operators. There was to be more steam action as the next few days progressed but this time not just on rail as Sandstone Heritage Trust ran its second Harvest Festival. Following on from a successful event in late 2003, the Harvest Festival took place on the 2nd and 3rd of January 2005. With a vast collection of veteran and vintage agricultural machinery Sandstone Heritage Trust fired up a number of steam traction engines and stationary engines to bring in the harvest, recreating days gone by. The vintage tractor collection was also brought into play with a great variety of these venerable machines hauling equally old ploughs and harvesting machines.
Names such as Fowler, Farmall, Lanz and Minneapolis Moline graced a specially retained wheat field for some old time action.
1907 Marshall Colonial traction engine

Guests were invited to participate in operating the vintage machinery under supervision, recreating scenes of many years ago.

This year the programme was a more formal one.
Day one started with a walking tour of the Sandstone Heritage Trust collection of agricultural machinery hosted by Chris Wilson, who gave a brief description of the items. It gave many enthusiasts an opportunity to see what was contained in some of the buildings that are normally not open to the public.

After the tour it was the turn of the old agricultural harvesting machines to show their capabilities. Demonstrations were given by a McCormick Deering Reaper dating back to pre-1900. This was followed by a tractor drawn Minneapolis Moline Combine Harvester which produces a bagged output. An Australian made Sunshine Harvester of similar vintage followed and then the venerable old John Deere 55 Self-Propelled Combine Harvester was put through its paces. All worked admirably.

While this was happening Jan Fouche and his assistants worked with tradition and concentrated on tracked agricultural Crawler tractors. Two Fowler VF Crawlers were put into the lands with offset disc harrows, together with the Trust’s ever reliable and powerful Fordson County Crawler, which is the tracked version of a Fordson Major tractor – a legend in its own right.

It must be said though that some of the “new” farmers battled to keep a straight furrow!
A Ransomes Sims & Jefferies Threshing machine

After lunch it was time to do some steam threshing. A Ransomes Sims & Jefferies Threshing machine, which has been overhauled by the Sandstone Heritage Trust, was put to work threshing wheat which had been collected during the course of the day and which of course came from the output of the McCormick Reaper.

Anybody who happened to be lingering in the area of the steam threshing operation was volunteered to feed the machine. As the trailers were emptied so the magnificent 1907 Marshall Colonial traction engine would pull into sight hauling another load of wheat sheaves for the threshing machine.  In the main field experienced vintage tractor specialists were showing aspirant farmers the art of ploughing with a number of vintage implements.

As the old time harvesting machines brought in the wheat, the field was ploughed in grand style for next year’s planting.
The day ended with a train trip to the end of the line behind NGG 16, No. 153, one of the company’s three 2-ft narrow gauge Garratts. The train was comprehensively equipped with carriages, freight wagons and a Guards Van that had been temporarily converted into a mobile bar so drinks were available at the end of the line. Of course if you happened to be travelling in the Guards Van then the drinks were permanently on tap.
The following day saw a similar programme but it was decided to use all the harvesting machines simultaneously under the theme “100 Years of Harvesting”. The Reaper set out first followed by the Minneapolis, the Sunshine and the old John Deere Self-Propelled combine, but just to show how far mechanisation had developed a late model John Deere STS 96 combine harvester came along to tidy up the land.
The late afternoon train ride on the second day saw the company’s three Garratts triple headed in spectacular fashion as far as Vailima and back. NGG 16, No. 153, No. 113 and NGG 13, No. 49 worked magnificently and were skilfully driven by Shaun Ackerman, Gert Jubileus and Pat Ackerman. (Shown above and below).
This event was very much in line with Sandstone’s philosophy, i.e. it is not worth having these machines if they are not made to work. Public events inevitably focus on utilizing them in the most realistic way possible. The photographs clearly show that this was achieved. For anyone out in the wheat lands with the old McCormick Deering Reaper being pulled by a steel-wheeled McCormick 12-20 tractor, they would not know that this was even taking place in 2005.

A special thanks to Chris Wilson, Hannes Weilbach, Whitty Boast, John Usher, Sagrys Cellier, Rob Stockl, Gavin Orr, Nick Smallwood, Terry Reilly, Karel Senekal and many, many others who dived in to whatever was happening in order to get as grubby as possible. At the end of the day collapsing exhausted with a cold beer after tying bags of wheat on a platform of a machine that has no concept of fatigue is what it is all about.

While Sandstone Estates is a very progressive and modern commercial farming operation entrenched in the 21st century it was exciting to see all our visitors stepping back into a time when everything took that little bit longer.