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RN 97 - The Weekly Steam Shed Report - 16th - 23rd September 2005


This week saw a very busy week at the Steam Shed. We are trying to catch up with the backlog of work still to be done. Each and everyone made a huge effort to make a remarkable progress. The previous report was taken to last Monday, and all in this report was done in four days only.

Derrick started with the modifying of fire bars for the Kalahari on Monday and was finished on Friday. The Kalahari will now have brand new shaker bars that will work more easily when cleaning fires. In these days of modern technology there is no time and by speeding up the time to clean fires, minimizes delays during operating days. This however does not end here, and a number of smaller locomotives with no shaker or drop rates will be modified to make it easier to clean fires. With modern Diesel locomotives, there are no delays to service stops, and by minimizing service stops with steam locomotives, we could actually place Steam in a better light under the more sceptic Railway enthusiasts. We also await quotes for a “better than A grade coal” for all the smaller locomotives. By using this very rare coal that is actually just for export purposes, we would be possible to operate little locomotives without any fire cleaning necessary. This coal actually just burns away and forms no clinker at all. It is very rich on oils and makes real black smoke without using a lot of coal at one time.
Here is Derrick busy with the modifications to the Kalahari’s fire bars!

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Des fitted two new non-return valves to the Barclay. The old non-return valves were taken of and were faced again. The new ones were fitted halfway on the delivery pipes and will help to prevent blow back from the boiler if the original clack valves would stuck open again.
Above and left, Des is busy with the fitting of the new non-return valves to the Barclay's delivery pipes!

Des stripped of the slide valve covers and started with the measuring of all the motion components. We did found the problem and will be rectified.
Below, Des is busy with measuring and comparing left to the right sides!

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A complete under frame restoration was done to the flat wagon. All the brake gears and pull rods were sandblasted and painted with red oxide paint. Arno fitted the overhauled vacuum cylinder to the flat wagon and the brake gears were fitted over the put. A complete vacuum steel pipe was fitted and the brakes were adjusted. This wagon needs a few paint touch-ups to be completely restored. We have stencilled the remaining wooden crates that will be tied onto the new restored flat wagon.
Here are some photos of the new Flat wagon:

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B-WAGONS NUMBERS 1629, 2436, 1812:
This three B-wagons was completely sandblasted. New bearings were fitted and the vacuum cylinders were removed and overhauled by Arno.

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The overhaul of the vacuum cylinders includes, a new roll ring, new neck ring, Neck ring housing gasket and cylinder cover ring. New vacuum release valves were also fitted.

Ben spray-painted the B-wagons completely and they are now ready to go over the put. We only needs to fit back the three overhauled vacuum cylinders, and fit brake blocks. The brakes will then be adjusted and a vacuum brake test will be done. We then need to paint the handbrakes with yellow paint and will complete the restoration on three B-wagons. We shall have 13 B wagons restored after this three is completed.
It would look spectacular working a train up the Pandora embankment with 13B wagons with a brake van at the end.

3'6" WAGONS:

Six 3'6" wagons and three passenger coaches were roadworthy last Friday. Spoornet shunted them on Wednesday and they were moved to Vailima and Kommandonek respectively.


The three passenger coaches were left at Vailima and will be moved by road to be a part of the consists behind the Class 10Cr at the Hoekfontein Station.

The Mobile workshop was prepared to assist us with the movement of the three passenger coaches to Hoekfontein. This is a challenging and excited exercise that will take place in the next week.
Four 50 ton air jacks were loaded into the workshop and all the rest of the essential equipments and tools.

The Mobile workshop will be parked in the siding at Vailima Station and the full extend of the workshops ability's will be places into act to enable the movement of the almost 20 metre long, 37 tons coaches.



Henry just needs to finish the third softener house, almost completed. The other two are already spray painted in a green livery. Len will give the quotes to do the cement works at each water column.

As soon as this is done, we can mount the softener houses to the cement foundations and then we will be able to mount the softeners into the houses. The softeners will ease up the wash outs of boilers, for all the undesired elements will be trapped inside the softeners and will not enter the boilers anymore.

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Jacob started with the cosmetically upgrading of the three stationary boilers on display. He have started with the one at the admission blocks and will proceed to the two standing near the end of the polo field.

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Training is certainly one of the aspects that will never reach the end of the line. We are holding a safety meeting each Friday morning and then have a lecture on operating safety for the last half hour of the Friday shift.

Des Clark has attended the first aid coarse and have past the required examination to get his certificate in First aid.

Derrick van Zyl has past his fireman training and was issued with a fireman certificate by Spoornet.
Here is Derrick, smiling ear to ear, in front of the locomotive on which he has been passed as a fireman by the Locomotive inspector. This was done during the Avontuur Adventurer in the beginning of September.


The next step for him is to pass his exams on driving these magnificent machines.

1.) To move three coaches from Vailima to Hoekfontein.
2.) To spray weeds on railway line
3.) To finish three B wagons
4.) To fit fire bars to Kalahari.
5.) To finish third softener house
6.) To finish Barclay valve setting



Class 24 number 3635. This was the last Steam locomotive to run over the Theunissen to Winburg branch line in May 1988. The driver of the train was Errol Seaman and fireman John Makwena. This is one of the locomotives about to be cut up. This very day there were three passenger trains running from Theunissen to Winburg hauled by this locomotive. Late locomotive Inspector Mr Mossie Mostert accompanied the locomotive. The last train arrived in Winburg Station just before sundown. A "braai" was held on the station and Mr.Johan Uys, Regional Manager from Spoornet explained to all present how much they were about to safe by using diesel locomotives on this line. It seems not to work out that cheap, and the diesel depot at Theunissen was also closed. The line is now operated from Virginia and only sees traffic if the grain mills needs grain wagons. A speed restriction of 15Km/h is over the entire line due to no rail maintenance for years now.
Sad to see all the branch line to end on this tragic way.

Steam Greetings, Gert.



Sandstone Heritage Trust - Rail News

RN 96 - The Flying Kalahari

After having worked so hard since it arrived in Port Elizabeth the Kalahari was gently lowered onto the Sandstone low bed for its return trip to Sandstone which was completed satisfactorily.

Our thanks to everyone in the Port Elizabeth area and particularly the Spoornet engineering staff who assisted with the complex arrangements. As can be seen from the attached handling these locomotives is a nontrivial affair.


Sandstone Heritage Trust - Rail News - Private Rail in South Africa

RN 95 - The romance of the railways

Article from The Telegraph (UK) website - Opinions Section - To visit the site, Click here >>

World of books
By A. N. Wilson
(Filed: 19/09/2005)
The romance of the railways

Steam trains are still to be seen chugging through English and Welsh valleys, especially during the summer months, but there is something melancholy about them. The melancholy is not the sadness which Tolstoy evoked when he first introduces us to Anna Karenina sitting on a train and hearing the clinking of the couplings. The sadness is for the fact that these lovely old machines are now nothing more than toys for hobbyists and tourists.
The wheezing monsters which inspired Auden to write Night Train are no more, and mine is the last generation who read about Thomas the Tank Engine and friends and who had actually seen the Flying Scotsman whizz through the snow-flecked night.
"The guard blew his whistle and waved his flag - how weighted with ritual have the railways in their brief century become!" So begins one of my favourite Michael Innes mysteries, Appleby's End, the one in which Appleby meets, not his end, but his future wife.
The title refers not to his murder but to a station. As darkness falls in the second chapter, "the engine, while daylight lasted simply an obsolescent locomotive tugging grimy carriages across English ploughland, was now a creature alien and dragonish, panting on some vast and laboured quest".

There are many memorable railway scenes in Innes's oeuvre. Perhaps the very best is in the novel which itself takes its name from a railway poem, one of Thomas Hardy's The Journeying Boy. Particularly good is the train journey through Northern Ireland: "The train had slowed down and on the parapet of a stone bridge he could read the inscription prepare to meet thy god".
These passages in Innes would not be so interesting if the train in question were one of the present-day Virgin or Inter-City trains, where passengers are constantly harangued by loud-hailed admonitions to read the safety instructions, or invitations to sample the unappetising selection of hot and cold snacks in the buffet. How inevitable it was that the Hogwarts Express, for example, though apparently conveying Harry Potter and friends to school in our own day, should be an old-fashioned steam train.

These themes are explored in an excellent book by A F Garnett, who combines the qualities of the railway buff and the man of taste. Steel Wheels (Cannwood Press, £18.50) reminds us of many of the great railway moments in literature, from Dickens's Mugby Junction, to the ominous use of Willesden Junction in Trollope's The Prime Minister.

It recalls one of the finest novels of Zola, La Bete Humaine, which starts on a railway. "Zola, complete with pince-nez, and stiff collar, travelled on the footplate from Paris to Mantes as part of his research and the novel describes the happy comradeship between Jacques Lantier, the engine driver, Pecqueux, the fireman, and La Lison, their engine, as a menage à trois."
As well as being an evocation of the railways as they inspired the novelists, the poets, the songwriters and the painters, A F Garnett has also written a book which touches on the place of the railway in history, from Lenin's momentous arrival at the Finland Station, to the murderous use of railways by the Nazis to transport prisoners to the death camps. But the book is primarily a celebration, and its core is a first-rate history of the railways themselves.

I wish he had written it before I completed my book on the Victorians. Here is a man who is a first-rate engineer writing with authority about the evolution of railway technology. I am not a trainspotter by instinct but I read enthralled his chapters on the engineering heroes, Stephenson and Brunel, and on the spread of railroads over England from the 1840s onwards. His chapters on the spread of the railways across other parts of the globe, and especially in America, are also wonderfully exciting.

Garnett's book leaves the reader full of nostalgic anger - against Beeching for wrecking our national rail network, against those who pioneered motorways and encouraged the public to buy cars. But this sort of pointless fantasy-rant is absent from his good-humoured and well-informed pages. Rather, the book ends with an analysis of the sort of railways, and systems, which should be in use in the future.

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Sandstone Heritage Trust - Rail News - Private Rail in South Africa

RN 94 - The Avontuur Adventurer - Behind the scenes!


The guests arrived at Port Elizabeth on Monday 5th September and stayed over in the Kelway Hotel. This was the last day for us to clean and prepare the Kalahari for the train tour. The tender and extra water tank wagon was filled with water, while Manie coaled the locomotives.

TUESDAY 6 September 05
NGG 16 number 131 was specially steamed to haul the passenger train from Port Elizabeth to Chelsea. This train ran as train number 33504 to Chelsea and as 33505 back to Port Elizabeth.

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The train departed at 09h00 and the whistle sounded joyfully. With driver Hannes Nel and fireman Mark Ruddy we were sure that we were going to have a safe and unforgettable journey to Chelsea. At Chelsea the tables were taken out and it was time for some cake and tea. While everyone was enjoying them, the locomotive ran around the train and the driver and fireman prepared the locomotive for the return trip to Port Elizabeth.

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After the train arrived back in Port Elizabeth, the tour group was taken to the Scotia Game Reserve at Coega. The Garratt was stabled and we all went to rest for the trip to Avontuur after we had received a precautionary fire course by the local Fire department.


WEDNESDAY 7 September 05:
The Kalahari was steamed up for the ride during the early hours of this incredible day. The Sandstone team arrived at the Humewood Steam Shed at 06h00 and the Kalahari NGG15 number 17 was polished up, for this special lady really took my breath away.
The train departed at 08h30 from Port Elizabeth bound for Patensie. She ran as train number 33506 to Patensie again with driver Nel and firemen's Ruddy and Derrick van Zyl.

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Lunch was served at Loerie station and this gave us a perfect opportunity to service the locomotive without wasting precious time. We arrived at Patensie just before sundown. Dinner was served in a big tent on the station platform.

We wanted to assist the fireman's job for the next day, and loaded 10 tons of coal onto the tender of the Kalahari.

THURSDAY 8 September:
Driver Hannes Nel and fireman Mark Ruddy were on duty early this morning and they prepared the locomotive for the long run from Patensie to Assegaaibos.The train ran as train number 33508 to Assegaaibos Station and departed 08h30.

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The passengers enjoyed every second of the train ride. This was a once in a lifetime experience for all of us. Photo run pasts took place at only selected places alongside this beautiful countryside.
The train was accompanied by two Locomotive Inspectors.Mr. Hennie van Rooyen and Mr. Adre Steyn. We also had a special guest onboard the train on Thursday, the Steam Curator of Spoornet.

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We reached Assegaaibos Station just before sundown. Some of the local community awaited the train at the station. The passengers left for their Hotels and we had a wonderful "Railway party" on the station platform. With music in the background, and a fire in a old wheelbarrow, we all were back in a nostalgic era. These use to be how the old Railway people would enjoy a night and I would not change this for the world.

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FRIDAY 9 September 05:

The train departed at 08h15 as train number 33510 on the last section of this awesome narrow gauge railway line. According to all the local people, it was the first time in seven years for a Kalahari to go over this spectacular line to Avontuur.


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We also needed to take water despite the extra water tank wagon that was coupled to the Kalahari's tender.

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Driver Hannes Nel and Fireman Mark Ruddy reliving the past.
Magic moments were caught at the end of the day, near the end of the journey, a farewell to a great journey.

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We arrived in Avontuur just about sundown. The Station was crowded with people from the local community and Derrick and I had our hands full to keep them off the footplate during the night.


All the passengers on the train, for their support and kindliness.
The local community at each overnight station.
The Apple Express, you were great!
The Apple Express Tavern, Bruce and Sandra Strang. You were real lifesavers and an mobile oasis on this long journey.

We easily forget the people working on the background, which made an essential part of this successful journey. Without them, it could not be possible for us to reach the end safe and sound.


Mr. Brian van Niekerk (Loco Foreman Humewood Diesel Depot) who helped with offloading and loading of Kalahari
Mr. M.J. Olivier (Diesel Loco Fitter) who helped with offloading and loading of Kalahari
Mr. M. Meyer (Diesel loco Fitter) who helped with offloading and loading of Kalahari
Mr. A. van Hollstein who was responsible for the wagon maintenance and safe running of coaches.
Mr. A.C. Barnard (Diesel Loco Fitter) who helped with offloading and loading of Kalahari.
Mr. E Dobson (Diesel Loco Fitter) who helped with offloading and loading of Kalahari
Mr. A Herion who was responsible for the wagon maintenance and safe running of coaches.


Mr. W. Ferreira the Train Manager
Mr. Hannes Nel the Train Driver
Mr. Hennie van Rooyen the Loco Inspector.
Mrs. Lesley Lowe from the Apple Express.
Thanks are also due to:
Mr. Sydney Terreblanch (Steam Loco Fitter) Apple Express who helped with offloading and loading of Kalahari and also with preparation of the Kalahari and who we couldn't get him to stand still long enough to photograph!
Mr. Cliffe Nel who were responsible for the interior of the coaches who also managed to dodge the cameras!

Steam Greetings, Gert

Sandstone Heritage Trust - Rail News - Private Rail in South Africa

RN 93 - The Weekly Steam Shed Report - 29 August - 5 September 2005

After the trial run with the Kalahari at Port Elizabeth, we rushed back to Sandstone Estates to organise the special train trips prior to the Avontuur Adventurer.


Derrick and I washed out and prepared the boilers of the Decauville and Little Bess for the boiler inspector who visited the farm on Wednesday. These two locomotives were steamed and the safety valves were set at the working pressure of the boilers. The two boilers passed the boiler inspection and the expiry dates were stamped on the test plates.
Little Bess arrived on the farm last week and is really something I would rather park in my living room.

The Lawley got some special attention before she hauled the first train over the new section of the Vailima Halt line. She was steamed for very special guests, Mr. Peter Lemmey and Mr.& Mrs. Ralph Montagu who arrived on the farm on Wednesday.
Here are two photo's taken from the cab

Wednesday 31 August 2005 was to see the very first steam train to travel the new line from Vailima Halt to Pandora junction. While having a qualified train driver, Mrs. Ailsa Montagu with me, I thought that the first steam train over the line should be driven by a woman train driver. This was great and after she drove to Grootdraai and back again to Vailima, it seemed that she had full control and feeling of driving the Lawley.

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Above are two photos, one taken just before we went onto the new line and one after completion.


We steamed Garratt NGG13 number 49 for this special day. All the guests on this day were part of the Avontuur Adventurer.

Derrick and I came out 02h00 on Thursday morning to steam 49.

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Number 49 was standing at the station just before sunrise with myself as driver and Derrick van Zyl doing duty as fireman.
We first did some run pasts at Hoekfontein station and departed for Grootdraai at 07h30. On return to Hoekfontein, the photographers had some time for breakfast before taking on the very long and exhausting day to Vailima Halt. NGG13 also had a chance to ride on the new line with new photographical spots.
We returned to Hoekfontein to replenish the coal on the tender, while photographers had the chance to replenish their stomachs at lunchtime. We again departed for Vailima Halt but the other way around where every one had a perfect photographic opportunity with the locomotive near sunset. We returned to Hoekfontein and all of us enjoyed a "braai" at the old Waenhuis.

We steamed the Lawley again for this day. Driver Derrick van Zyl and fireman Des Clark manned the Lawley and worked this special train to Grootdraai and back to Hoekfontein again. She also performed some run pasts near Pandora. Her fire was dropped at 13h00 and Derrick and I rushed home to depart for Port Elizabeth early on Saturday morning.



Sandstone Heritage Trust - Rail News - Private Rail in South Africa

RN 92 - The Avontuur Adventurer 6-9 September 2005

After a 4 day safari, The Avontuur Adventurer tour train reached its destination of Avontuur at the end of a 283 kilometre journey from Port Elizabeth on Friday 9th September. Hauled by NG15 class locomotive, no: 17, one of the type that originally worked this line, the train traversed the longest 2ft narrow gauge railway in the world without any incident. This locomotive, which is normally based at the Sandstone Heritage Trust in the Eastern Free State, was taken by Sandstone's own road transport to Port Elizabeth especially for the trip. After the tour the locomotive will be returned to its home base.



Conceived by Sandstone Heritage Trust and run in conjunction with the world famous Apple Express in Port Elizabeth this was the first steam hauled passenger train to run the full distance of the line since 1996. The section from Assegaaibos to the terminus at Avontuur has also not seen regular traffic for over 20 years.



The line runs through the Gamtoos Valley and into the Langkloof before terminating at Avontuur.
With lines of this nature under threat of closure by Spoornet, the tour was run as a visible demonstration of the viability of running tourist trains the full length of the line. Throughout the event there was massive interest from towns and people along the route with the overall sentiment that the line must remain open for future generations to enjoy. Local communities by the lineside were encouraged to meet the train at its frequent stops and provided food and accommodation for the tour group in Patensie and Kareedouw as well as setting up informal markets for the passengers. Many local dignitaries also greeted the passengers.
Although tourism can provide impetus for the line, the transport of freight is critical to its long term survival. Many industries and farming operations straddling and close to the railway are very ken to put their goods back on rail. This in turn will reduce the pressure and impact of heavy road vehicles on the R62 road through the Langkloof.




30 overseas guests and a number of local passengers enjoyed the 4 day experience. Numerous stops were made en route to enable photographs to be taken and we expect wide media coverage in local and overseas rail magazines in the near future.
Local media interest was intense with both SABC TV news and Radio Algoa covering the trip. Paul Ash from the Sunday Times and Ivor Markman from the Herald in PE travelled on the train and will be doing feature articles on the tour.

The passengers arrived in Port Elizabeth on Monday 5th September and were hosted to a civic reception by the Nelson Mandela Metro. On Tuesday there was a short run to Chelsea behind the Apple Express NGG16 Garratt no: 131 and then guests were talken off to Coega Harbour for a tour and on to Schotia Game reserve for the evening.



Wednesday the 7th saw the tour start in earnest with a run to Patensie with lunch taken with a local community caterer at Loerie. After a tour of the citrus plant and a braai supper, guests stayed over in Patensie at the local B&B establishments. The next day the train moved on to Assegaaibos (Kareedouw). A light seafood lunch was enjoyed at the Humansdorp Cultural Centre where the townsfolk had laid on a short programme of entertainment to complement the lunch.
Leaving early on Friday the train moved on to Avontuur where there was a huge reception from the local population. Photographic opportunities were enjoyed along the way and the overall opinion from the passengers was that it was an excellent tour.


By running the train, Sandstone Heritage Trust and Apple Express have proved that it was possible and that the line's potential for tourism in the future, either on long trips such as this or in shorter sections, was extremely viable. The essential ingredient of freight needs to be brought back into the mix to ensure day to day viability but moves are already afoot in the local municipalities to ensure that the "Adventure Line", the longest 2ft narrow gauge railway in the world, will survive for future generations to enjoy and in a profitable and economic manner.


Sandstone Heritage Trust - Rail News - Private Rail in South Africa

RN 91 - New Era dawns as Sandstone's NG 15 No. 49 steams into Avontuur

A group of dedicated railway enthusiasts from Britain, the United States and Japan arrived at Avontuur at the end of the world renowned narrow gauge railway line which runs the whole length of the Langkloof in the Eastern Cape in South Africa.

The NG15 looking strong and confident steamed into Avontuur just as the sun slipped below the horizon on Friday evening 9 September 2005.

Thus ended a memorable 3-day rail experience which started at 9am in Port Elizabeth on Wednesday 7 September 2005. On the first day the NG15 with its ten unit consist worked its way up the line over the Van Staden's River Bridge and then up the Gamtoos Valley on the Patensie extension. While the engine night stopped at Patensie Station the visitors were disbursed to various local guest house accommodation for the night. New friends were made around the campfires under starlit skies.

On the following morning the train travelled down the Gamtoos Valley, through Hankey and joined the mainline heading for Assegaaibos. This excellent central depot on the Avontuur line had all the facilities to host the locomotive and her crews for the second night while the guests travelled a short distance to the Tsitsikamma Lodge on the international renowned Garden Route for a pleasant evening at a top class establishment.


The next morning saw the train depart at a leisurely 9am for arguably the most exciting section of the line, namely the Joubertina "Louterwater" Avontuur section. The locomotive seemed to get better and better, pulling its rake of carriages, many of which worked over 100 years ago. Numerous stops were made to allow the photographers to capture special sections of the line. Due to the slow water delivery at Louterwater, the train was delayed for an hour and a half which delayed the ultimate arrival into Avontuur that evening, but it made no difference to the visitors. The ever-present NG15 was there to be photographed and to provide the reassuring thought that this train's final destination was in Avontuur come what may.

Through the co-operation of Spoornet, the Apple Express and the Sandstone Heritage Trust who trucked their NG15 and tender some 800 kilometres from its base in the Eastern Free State this trip was made possible. International visitors were quick to realise the potential and acknowledge the historic significance of this trip and indeed every aspect of the 3-day experience.

Many words will be written about this and thousands of photographs captured and published.
In the words of one visitor, Peter Lemmey "we travelled the distance from Waterloo to Exeter behind the same 2ft gauge locomotive – undoubtedly the Port Elizabeth to Avontuur journey was the narrow gauge event of the year world-wide"

A very special experience put together through close co-operation by many people, staffed by a highly competent and dedicated crew from both the Apple Express and the Sandstone Heritage Trust.

Sandstone Heritage Trust - Rail News

RN 89 - Private Rail in South Africa

Sandstone Heritage Trust - Rail News

RN 90 - Avontuur Adventurer Update

The Avontuur Adventurer tour train reached Assegaaibos last evening after a 2-day trip from Port Elizabeth. The international guests enjoyed numerous photographic opportunities over the two days and are now looking forward to the last section from Assegaaibos to Avontuur. The first night of the tour was spent at Patensie and last night was spent at the Tsitskanna Lodge near Storms River.

Sandstone's NG15 locomotive No.17 has performed faultlessly throughout the tour and will now go into new territory where a steam train has not been seen for over a decade.

The train is expected to reach Avontuur at 16h30 and a further report will be entered onto the site shortly.
(Below) - The tour locomotive at work at Sandstone.
Sandstone Heritage Trust - Rail News

RN 88 - Safari train steams forward once again - Volksblad article - 20 August 2005


English translation:

Safari train steams forward once again:
This Locomotive from the Free State arrived in The Bay to help the renowned Apple Express gather steam again. A unique steam locomotive from Sandstone Estates in Ficksburg, in the Eastern Free State arrived in Port Elizabeth to help pull the Apple Express Train on an Eastern Cape four day safari.

The old Class NG15 2-8-2 steam locomotive No. 17, similar to the original locomotives used on the narrow gauge line, was offloaded at the Humewood Apple Express depot. Yesterday, Mr. Baas de Bruin and other workers were hard at work to ensure that the offloading process went according to plan.