Railway Heritage

Permanent Way and Wagon News

Wouter Jubileus submitted a recent report on work carried out by his division.

Click here to view the report - 185KB PDF


Southern African Rail Steam Tours to visit Stars of Sandstone 2014

SAR Steam Tours have advised they will be embarking on a tour in April 2014 which will take in our Stars of Sandstone event.

Image1 Click here for further particulars - 867KB PDF



A Winter Winter Special Mini-Gala visit to the Sandstone Heritage Trust

An account of a visit made to the Sandstone Heritage Trust by Kim & Sylvia Winter on Wednesday 21st August 2013

My wife Sylvia and I have been making annual visits to South Africa ever since 2009 when our son went out to South Africa and married his girlfriend Kate who is from Howick, Kwa-Zulu Natal.

In 2010, 2011 & 2012 I managed to persuade Sylvia that the best way to get to Howick from Oliver Tambo international airport at Johannesburg was via Ficksberg and the best time to visit Kate and Tom would coincide with the Sandstone Galas for those years.

However, 2013 was different for a very special reason: we decided to visit Tom and Kate in August to meet our first grandson, Jack Noah Winter, who had been born on 7th June 2013. We decided to meet him for the first time and make our visit to see the new Winter family for two and a half weeks in August.

The Sandstone Heritage Trust's 2013 Gala the 'Stars of Sandstone' had been held in May 2013 so we missed it.

However, I had been in regular contact with Wilf Mole and the Trust since the 2012 gala as I had helped the Trust in arranging some loco drawings and archive films.

At Howick we were near (in South African terms) to the Sandstone Estates at Ficksburg - about 230 miles/370kms away. St Albans in the UK where we live is 8,362miles/13,457km. I wanted to go and visit the Heitage collection as we were now so close.

I got in contact with the Trust and enquired as to whether it was hosting any visiting groups - schools, or enthusiast groups that Sylvia and I could have joined. We received some good news & bad news.

The bad news was that they weren't any planned visits while we were in South Africa. We had just missed one that was held on Friday 9th August celebrated South Africa's Women's day. .We flew in on Monday 12th August!

The good news was that because we had been to the galas from 2010 to 2012 and our reason for missing the 2013 was totally understandable, the Trust very kindly offered, as a 'one-off,' to arrange a 'Special Mini Gala day' for Sylvia and me!

The date was fixed for Wednesday 21st August. We were to arrive at Sandstone 10:00am and depart at 4:00pm

We decided to travel to Sandstone from Howick on the Tuesday afternoon before and return on Thursday morning after. We booked our overnight accommodation at ''Moolsmanhoek Private Game Reserve which is 30km away from the Trust. It's a great place to stay with its luxury accommodation and game drives. The journey from Howick took us 4 hours + an hour diversion caused by our satnav taking us to the rear and locked entrance to Moolsmanhoek but that's another story!

The next morning was bright and sunny, slightly windy but 12° C - quite a pleasant temperature for us Brits but viewed as 'cold' by South Africans – it is after all their winter in August.

From Moolsmanhoek the satnav took us direct to the Trust's main entrance and to the car park and reception (3 kilometres down its own drive.). We arrived on time and as previously arranged Leigh Sanders, Sandstone's Office Manager, was there to greet us

After signing in she took us round to Hoekfontein Station where our own 2013 'Star of Sandstone' was waiting for us - the newly restored Arne Young works 0-4-2T no 847 built in 1905 - along with its driver & fireman – Leon & Isak - and our own special train of two open carriages and four skip wagons which carried sacks of spare coal and other bits and pieces.

Below is the photo "Gazengo" in the condition the Trust found it at Bom Jesus' in Angola.



Herr it is in its restored condition with its crew –fireman Isak and driver Leon


Leigh waved goodbye and took a photo at the start of our first ride.

Our first journey (of three) took us around the Grootdraai balloon loop in our special train with views like this:

And this:


I had a video camera with me and the crew were more than happy to arrange run pasts for me.

After several of these it was time to head back to Hoekfontein station but not without incident. On our way back we had to stop and Leon and Isak had to get out of the cab with fire extinguishers to put out a line side fire that the engine had started on the stubble on the way out!



The had two way radio so were able to call the 'cavalry' and were soon joined by Sandstone's own fire truck which is on 24/7 standby in the dry winter season and all was extinguished and made safe before returning to Hoekfontein station.


The train was then shunted backwards into the Carriage shed. Leon acted as shunter; Isak drove the engine which left room for me on the footplate for me!


Although Gazengo and its train were now put away, our mini gala was not over yet.

There were two more train journeys to experience but this time using two very different internal combustion powered vehicles from the Sandstone collection.

The first internal combustion powered trip was when Wouter, one of Sandston's employees based at the Estate and who regularly appears in the news sections of the web-site, drove the 'BSA' out of the Shed:


The vehicle is what is believed to be a Motor Trolley from South West Africa It has one set driving wheels and a four wheel leading bogie. Many of these trolleys were fitted with car bodies for use by senior rail officials. Sandstones has a 1913 BSA 4-seater car body, unique in itself, has been fitted on the chassis. A reconditioned Toyota engine & gearbox has been fitted.

Sylvia and I had seen this on some of our previous galas but never managed to ride in it.

We did on the 21st August and what an experience!

Sylvia and her 'chauffeur'

We went around the Grootdraai loop and but with views from the front passenger seat like this:


Again we stopped on the loop for photo opportunities like this:


Again we returned to Hoekfontein station but this time to find the vehicle for our second internal combustion trip of the day – the Wickham Trolley:

This is Sandstone archive photo

Sandstone's 2ft gauge 20 mile 25km railway can be divides into three distinct sections:

Hoekfontein - Grootdraai loop
Hoekfontein - Mooihoek
Mooihoek – Vailima loop

The gradients on the Hoekfontein - Grootdraai loop and Hoekfontein – Mooihoek sections aren't very steep but they are on the Mooihoek – Vailima loop section. After some severe rains in 2010/2011 parts of this section were washed out before the 2011 gala but to avoid this happening again drainage works which included new culverts and the like were undertaken before the 2012 gala. While these works were being done the opportunity was taken to re-survey and re-lay the line to ease the steepest of the gradients but some challenging gradients for engines and their crews still remain.

The trust is very careful of what trains are allowed on the Mooihoek – Vailima loop - only locomotives, carriages and wagons with vacuum braking are allowed.

Gazengo, the Arne Yung industrial loco steamed for our visit, is equipped with hand braking but not vacuum braking equipment and so that was why our first train ride went around the Grootdraai loop. As can be seen from my previous photos and others on the web-site there are still magnificent 'open vista' views to be had from this section.

The Wickham Trolley was to be our vehicle for our trip around the Hoekfontein – Mooihoek section then around the Vailima loop and return to Mooihoek and Hoekfontein.

The Wickham Trolley doesn't have vacuum braking but its braking system could handle the gradients and there was no train behind it.

I had seen the Wickham trolley and had some short rides in it but not around the whole Vailima loop with its curves, gradients & vistas. My video camera's batteries had run down so I only had my still camera for this trp. I have been around the loop on previous memorable occasions in trains hauled by the NG4 Kerr Stuart 2-6-4T and NG16 2-6-2 + 2-6-2 Garratts but was not prepared for our experience of sitting in the front of the Wickham Trolley and the different perspective it gives to you travelling on this part of the railway.


Isak, our Driver for the trip






Yes, just like North Wales there was a sheep on the line!





This rock formation always reminds me of an old television set, so I always look out for it.



At Mooihoek we stopped for some more photographs.

We returned to Hoekfontein where we thanked Isak for driving us on our third trip and Leon and Wouter for driving on our first two trips. We said farewell to Isak and Leon who were returning to Bloemfontein. Wouter then put away the Arne Yung and its train, the, BSA and the Wickham Trolley.


Sylvia & I then went and had our packed lunch in the Cape Gauge Dining Car. This is located behind the 'winehaus which is a large building close to Hoekfontein Station. The winehaus is the building used for catering and acts as the hub of activities during the Galas.

After lunch the weather was sunny enough for Sylvia to relax outside the Winehaus and catch up on her reading while I went for walk and some of the buildings that store the other parts of the Trust's Heritage Collections and finally the railway storage buildings and sidings.

The collections are so widespread that I could not see them all in the remainder of the time available on this visit so decided to save for another visit the sheds & buildings holding the vast collections of restored & unrestored vintage agricultural and road vehicles.

However, I did find the shed that housed some of the military collection which includes:

A Katyusha rocket launcher - a remnant the so called 'Cold War'

An ex WW2r 25lb field artillery gun

An ex WW2 3.7inch anti aircraft gun

All these items were on display at May 2013 gala in May and will feature in a new DVD of the event which will include some archive film. I'm sure they will be on display for the 2014 gala.

I then went back to explore the railway collections. I decided to view 'awaiting restoration shed' first:

On my way to it, I saw for myself the work in progress on the large 150-metre long shed that has recently been moved from the old locomotive shed at Ficksburg onto the farm for storing the Cape gauge wooden bodied vehicles.


As it says on the web-site:

"Unfortunately because we are a 2-ft Narrow Gauge railway line we have no clear idea of where these coaches might ultimately end up but we believe that it is a worthwhile exercise to save them."

I was very pleased to see these coaches undercover and protected from the Free State's large temperature variations & summer rains.

I found the 'awaiting restoration shed' that is used to keep the unrestored two foot steam locos.

These included a number of NG16s


An NG 15


The tender to the NG10 (the loco is at Bloemfontein)


And my greatest surprise another NG11!


I know there is one at Bloemfontein currently under restoration, which I hope may become one of the Stars of the 2014 gala, but I was unaware the Trust had saved a second one for future restoration!

From this shed I wandered down to a new area that either hadn't been set up when I last visited in April 2012 or it has just grown from a smaller one.The Trust has rescued from the scrap merchants more and more two foot gauge rolling stock and track from the old Port Elisabeth – Avontuur line down in the Eastern Cape.


To the untrained eye it could be viewed as 'scrap' but it is far from it. Look closer and you find piles of railway equipment awaiting to be re-cycled and re-used somewhere, whether in South Africa or elsewhere in the world:

For example:




I'm not sure what locomotive this is - possibly a Peckett ex Sena Sugar, but Bloemfontein has restored many locos to "as new" from locos in a similar condition!

By now I was running out of time and saved the best two sheds to last: These stored the restored two foot gauge rolling stock & locomotives. This is what the Trust is so good at: restoring and recreating South Africa's two foot railway heritage. Of course it also has Cape Gauge heritage railways and rolling stock in store and other South African industrial and agricultural heritage but I believe the 2 ft railway heritage that is now its forte.

The 'Rolling Stock Shed' keeps under cover the heritage and new-build rolling stock. I'm sure that for the 2014 Gala the recently completed Lounge Car will be on show along with the existing Dining Car.


However, I kept, in my opinion, the best shed till last. This is the combined engine shed and work shop which is used to maintain and store the restored working locomotives.

Sandstone has, I believe, s the largest collection of 2 ft steam locomotives in its care in the world. It also has a large collection of diesels. From information contained in the Sandstone's book 'The Sandstone Railroad – the First Ten Years' and from the Sandstone web-site it has at least forty-two and there are probably more. Virtually all the 2ft gauge restored locos and all those awaiting restoration are located at Sandstone Estates; any locos undergoing restoration in one form or another are in the Bloemfontein Works. There are a few stored at other locations.

Before I went out to SA this year, to help me work out exactly how big the collection is, I drafted for my own use, a spreadsheet listing all its 2ft steam locomotives using the Trust's web-site's various lists and articles going back over the last few years.

It is so large, I have had to it into three groups and I show below some examples from each group to that I found in the 'workshop/engine shed on our visit.

The smallest group, of one loco (can you have a group of one?) is what I term the "miniature collection.


Here is the diminutive 2-6-2 Tender engine that was built for 15" gauge Ratnga Miniature railway by James Brown in Durban. Sandstone rescued this locomotive and has now converted to 2 ft gauge and is now restored.

The second of group (20) are what I call the "industrial collection." These are locomotives that were originally purchased for work in the mining and agricultural industries of primarily South Africa but also from Angola & Mozambique.


Two of the "Industrial" collection: a Peckett and the Barclay.

Other makes of steam locos include from the UK: Avonside, John Fowler, and Kerr Stuart; from France: Decauville and from Germany: Arne Yung (Gazengo) Henschel & the largest number – eight - O & K . Two O & Ks are at Bloemfontein under restoration. These may also be ready to become 2014 Gala stars.

The third and largest group (now 23 after discovering the second NG11) are what I call the 'SAR locomotives.' These were the locos used on the narrow gauge lines run by South African Railways (SAR). These locos were prefixed 'NG' and were grouped into the various types of locomotives.

Examples include:


NG13 Garratt No 49 and behind it, NG16 No 88. There were two other restored NG16s in the shed: Nos. 113 & 153. All were built by different builders: Hanomag, Henshel, Beyer Peacock and Hunslet Taylor.


Sandstone's restored NG 15 No 17.


Lastly my favourite Sandstone loco: Lawley NG6 No 106 which started its life on the short lived Beira Railway in 1895 before finding its way onto South African Railways.

The three collections make a grand total of 44 2ft gauge steam locomotives. I will review my list from the web-site and may find there are still one or two I have missed!

By now it was getting close to 4:00pm and we had to say a final farewell and say thank you to Leigh and her team that had made such a memorable day for us.

What a collection of South African 2ft railway heritage. What a day for us.

PS: We have just booked our flights for Easter 2014 to see our family in Howick to see how much our grandson has grown!

Just by coincidence, this which will include the first two days of the gala. I'm also looking forward to seeing what the new 'Stars' are going to be for the Sandstone's 2014 Gala.

SAR Steam Tours to visit Sandstone in November.

Southern African Rail Steam Tours have confirmed the Reefreestate Xplorer 2013 tour will be going ahead.  

The tour will comprise a visit to Sandstone.

For further details clock here:  http://www.sarsteamtours.com/Steam%20Tours%20description-e.html.


Sandstone starts to move its valuable 3’6” coaches under cover

The erection of a 150-metre long carriage and wagon shed has enabled us to start using our valuable 3’6” coaches under cover.

These wooden bodied coaches which comprise pillared dining cars, kitchen cars, lounge cars, and sleepers are very susceptible to the extreme temperature changes in the Eastern Free State. Although it is a very dry climate and it is very kind to metal it is less kind to wood. It is important therefore that these be put under cover to protect them from weather and from the UV that they are subjected to.

This is a major operation involving all our own manpower and resources.

The photographs tell the story.

CR W01

CR W02

CR W03

CR W04

CR W05

CR W06


Loco Pit

Wouter and his team have been carrying out a massive cosmetic exercise on the running shed.

These pictures show the pristine state of the loco pit.



Restoration project continues for DZ's

We have always preferred the DZ's to all the other freight wagons due to their versatility. We have four unrestored units photographed below which will be restored during the next 12-months or so.





Coal sieve

Our engineering chaps have built and commissioned a Coal sieve which will come in useful trying
to keep our coal relatively dust free.

Coal sieve


Running Shed

Wouter Jubileus and his team have been very creative recently in making the Running Shed at Hoekfontein a more pleasant place to work.

These initiatives were entirely self-motivated by the team in the workshops.

RS 03

Wouter Jubileus with his creative idea of mounting a non-standard Coco pan as a display.

RS 01

Two more passenger coaches are under construction which will be specifically designed to operate with Little Bess and our Decauville locomotive. Each of these carries about
10 people and it makes for a very relaxing trip through the African savannah.

RS 02

Note the neatly painted floors in the background. Again, thanks to Wouter and his team.

An authentic dining experience

It is possible to dine in an original 1920’s South African Railway pillared dining car during our annual Sandstone event. Notwithstanding the fact that this wonderful old dining coach is stationary it still has enormous ambience.

Dining experience