Railway Heritage

Hand Operated Crane

On one of our farms is a very interesting hand operated crane, obviously designed for lifting sandstone blocks onto railway trucks at the siding nearby.

It is in almost perfect condition and probably hasn’t been used for 50-years or more.  It is currently being relocated to the main complex, together with its magnificent sandstone blocks.

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Angolan O&K - Feldbahn Museum

Saturday was one of three open days at the Feldbahnmuseum 500 e.V., located in a rural suburb south of Nüremberg. I had to walk 10 minutes from the bus stop to get there and was surprised to find lots of cars parked outside the place. CFF 764.376 (Resita 1957, ex Viseu de Sus) is plinthed at the gate together with the body of a DR covered wagon from Radebeul. I was later told that the Romanian loco had been acquired from CFI Criscior to be exchanged against the little Krauss that was back then part of the Marxzell collection/scrapheap. As the owner of the stuff at Marxzell didn’t want to sell the Krauss, the idea was to exchange it against another steam loco. After the Resita had been acquired he however changed his mind and sold the Krauss, the Resita stayed in the hands of the FM500. Inside, behind the brand-new storage building/museum hall, I was surprised to find that the whole railway is in fact built on a steep slope, with a steeply-graded line connecting the lower section and private garden railway with the upper loop. See http://www.feldbahn500.de/gleisplan_frameset.htm for a map of the railway. As everything is in the forest, only the plinthed Resita at the entrance can be seen on Google Earth. The big blue building at the bottom left is a museum and not (yet) connected to the railway. The roundhouse and two more sheds are in the garden of a private house and not accessible to visitors. The green and yellow buildings are temporary structures to eventually be replaced by permanent ones. A lot of space is needed to house the large collection of locos, which next to the two steam locos includes a compressed air loco, an electric loco, a petrol loco, 16 battery locos, 44 diesel locos, 2 monorail diesel locos and 408 wagons. After being welcomed by the lady who had taken my reservation on the phone, I made my way up the hill to the operating loop, where I could hear the Angolan O&K make it’s rounds.

Compania do Assucar de Angola (CAA) O&K 0-6-0T 12493/1934 (30 PS, 6.5t) used to operate at Tentativa sugar mill in Caixito, c. 60 km NE of Luanda. In the late 60s the mill had three of the 0-6-0Ts and nine diesels operational. No. 12493 together with another two locos of the same type (11112/1925 & 12140/1930) and a smaller 0-4-0T (10311/1922, 10 PS) were bought by Sandstone and shipped to South Africa. They were all in very poor condition, but have or are currently being restored to working order by Lukas Nel at Bloemfontein, with none of the drawings available to him. No. 10311, regauged to 24-in., was put back into service in April 2011, while No. 12493 was rebuilt and sold to the FM500 via Rüdiger Fach. The two other locos have also been regauged and are nearing completion.

The steam loco, hauling three purposedly-built passenger cars, was doing 2-3x 3 rounds on the upper loop before being taken out for water and servicing. During those times a Diema diesel was used with a rake of five small open cars. Before the completion of the passenger cars, three underground miner’s cars were used behind the steam loco.

I befriended whom I thought was one of the members of the FM500 Society, a Macedonian from Greece who was acting as a crossing keeper. He was keen to show me locos and equipment in the cordoned-off parts of the railway and when I asked him how many members the society had, he told me six. “Six, then it’s a very small society?” –“No, six full time employees”. It turns out the railway was started in 1976 by Karl Heinz Rohrwild, owner of the Dorfner Group, a 225 Million Euro company founded in 1949 and active in building cleaning, building management and catering. The group currently has over 10,000 active employees in Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic and Poland. KH’s passion were 500mm gauge underground mining railways and as a result the major part of the loco collection comes from that area, from Germany, the Czech Rep. and Switzerland. Karl Heinz did all work on his railway by himself and in 2005 one of the locos he saved from certain death at the hands of the scrapman, a 6-ton beast, turned against him and run him over on the steeply-graded track left of the museum building. The Killer loco is still on site, next to the track and covered by a tarp. His sons decided to keep the railway and now employ six people permanently for trackwork, repairs and restoration of the rolling stock and to remove leaves and snow from the premises during the winter (for the snow they have an rotary snowplow – pics. 6709/6713).

The little inside-framed MÜNCHEN (Krauss No. 5745/1908, 20 PS, 4.9t) formerly operated at the Ludovici tile works near Mannheim. After the tile works were closed it spent years at Marxzell. KH had for a long time dreamed of acquiring it, but it was only after his that his son was able to buy it have it restored. It has been operational since 2009.

I got to talk to his son Karl Heinz’s son, Karlheinz Rohrwild, who now heads both FM500 and the Dorfner Group. He showed me all the locos I was interested to see. He lives in the 2nd house to the left of the museum compound (the one with the roundhouse in the garden), while Karl Heinz’s widow lives in the house to the far right. The house to the left is also owned by the family, but has been rented out. At the top of the slope the family has acquired some more land onto which they hope to extend the railway, but still need the permission from the local authorities. No locos can operate on the steeply-graded track connecting the bottom and top sections, when locos need to be taken up or down they are hauled via a cable by battery loco at the top.

As it runs mostly through the forest, photography is challenging and the settings on my camera must have been wrong as most of my non-sunny pictures were washy. There is a small pond along the track, a small bridge and luckily at the far right side of the loop, where the line runs on a gradient, there is a large clearing which allows sunny shots in the afternoon.

My new Greek friend told me that FM500 operates charter trains for small groups. Sadly, the large wagon collection does not include any cane wagons, but I guess a long rake of tipper wagons behind the O&K would also do

Clck here to read more: http://www.feldbahn500.de/index.htm.

Article by: Thomas Kautzor


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"Sandstone Estates : The Sandstone Heritage Trust - a pictorial souvenir"























Today's new book!

Very different from the large landscape format 'The Sandstone Steam Railway' that was published a year ago, this is an album that covers everything STEAM (& a few other things besides) at Sandstone.

So, locomotives obviously (including the little ones), but also traction engines, showmans engines, steam road cranes, .... it is showcased here. Even oxen and a BSA railcar and a diesel shunter (heaven forbid!).

This is all colour and a full 120 pages.

The good news is, that by utilising an 18cm square format, the price per copy of this print on demand book is under $30. ie about Rand 230 for those in South Africa.

Full details, preview, ordering etc, simply go to http://www.blurb.com/search/site_search?search=Dennis+Moore+steam

Dennis Moore

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

+27 (0) 11 764 5425  

2013 Boiler Certifications

As required by the Department of Labour in South Africa all boilers need to undergo inspection and testing on an annual basis, at Sandstone this is carried out every February. The Steam Team with the assistance of the Sandstone Bloemfontein Steam Workshops started preparing the boilers last November and worked tirelessly to ensure that all 27 boilers, which required inspection, were ready.

The contractor used by Sandstone to do the boiler certifications, Indserve, has had a long working relationship with Sandstone and have an intimate knowledge of all of the Sandstone steam assets. The excellent work carried out by Sandstone personnel ensured that all the boilers passed the required tests and the certificates were issued on the 10th of March.

This means that the locomotives including the recently completed Arn Jung and other assets selected to be operational at the Stars Of Sandston per the list below, are all A-Okay and ready to roll.

McLaren – Traction Engine

Decauville – (Bathala)

Little Bess – Kerr Stuart No.4301

O&K No.2

NGG16 - No.153

NG4 - No.16 ( Kerr Stuart)

O&K – No.4102

NGG15-  No.17

Feldbahn - Sena No. 2

Little locomotive ex Ratanga No. 262

Fowler Roller

NGG16 - No.88

O&K - No.11 (Hayley)

Kerr Stuart – No. 1344 (Tamara)

NGG6 - No.96 (Lawley)

NGG13 - No.49

Arn Jung

Peckett – (Marromeu)


Fowler (Sandy)

Sentinel No.9178

Avonside No.2 (Sezela)

Fowler Steam Crane

Marshall Colonial Steam Tractor

NG6 – No.106 (Lawley)

Marshall Roller

To see the certificates please click here (7.79 MB)

The Sandstone Heritage Trust continues to accumulate critical spares.

The fact that Sandstone Estates was recently able to assist Sappi in Natal with 19D spares for their operational industrial 19D programme highlights the fact that Sandstone's consistent attempts over the years to work with the reclamation industry and with owners of locomotives that were being scrapped or disposed of is paying dividends.

While we cannot claim to be all things to all people we are at least able to supply our own Bloemfontein locomotive rebuild facility with much needed and valuable spares as required.

Should you have any enquiries regarding steam locomotive spare parts please contact Mike Myers at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.




Press Release

The Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railway in North Wales has taken delivery of six more B Wagons, originally used on the Port Shepstone-Harding line in Natal, which have been fully refurbished by Sandstone Heritage Trust’s wagon shop.

They were loaded at Durban on December 15th and arrived at Immingham Docks earlier this month, being delivered to Dinas yard on Thursday January 24th. Their purchase was funded by a specific donation from a supporter through the FR Trust.

The F&WHR already owns eight similar B Wagons, which are in daily use on both the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland lines for transporting coal, ballast, ash and brash from lineside clearance work. The six new wagons will be put to work as soon as F&WHR engineers fit them with their standard chopper couplings.

The Welsh Highland Railway and the Sandstone Heritage Trust in the Eastern Free State have enjoyed a relationship which goes almost as far back as the inception of Sandstone’s 2-ft Narrow Gauge railway in the Eastern Free State of South Africa which was constructed in the late 1990s.

"The Welsh Highland Railway already makes extensive use of railway technology sourced from South Africa, including its NG/G16 Garratt locomotives, as well as freight rolling stock," says Sandstone's Wilf Mole. 

"Our guys put an inordinate amount of work into it. We asked them to do a good job and they took it seriously. We had an independent railway professional come in and check them for flaws before they went out and he was very happy with them."

South Africa had a rich heritage of 2-ft Narrow Gauge railways which formed the backbone of the rural lines in Natal and the Eastern Cape in particular. Iconic names like the Banana Express in Natal and the Apple Express in Port Elizabeth caught the attention of Narrow Gauge enthusiasts for many years and were popular photographic destinations for railway enthusiasts. 

Some years ago the Banana Express closed and the Apple Express has been inoperative as a railway for some time due to political issues, lack of finance, and disruption to the line through weather related activities.

By contrast, the Sandstone Heritage Trust, which operates a 26-km 2-ft Narrow Gauge railway on a private agricultural estate in a fairly remote part of South Africa adjacent to the Lesotho border, had continued to grow and to expand. 

The South African National Railway authority, Transnet, has been issuing tenders over a number of years relating to the disposal of narrow gauge assets. Sandstone, in order to build its own collection of the iconic South African narrow gauge rolling stock, bid on many of these tenders and was successful. 

Sandstone also reached agreement with South Africa’s largest reclamation company, Reclam, to acquire wagons and spares parts for items that they have purchased from the railways. The result is a very large collection of freight wagons, arguably far too many to ever be used by Sandstone itself. 

"The logistics of getting them to Durban was not easy," adds Wilf. "We transported the wagons ourselves using our Freightliner and my own personal Kenworth, which our General Manager drove to Durban and back twice. 

"We believe these wagons will make a very useful contribution to Welsh Highland Railway’s operational efficiency and will provide an added attraction for the many supporters and followers who enjoy visiting this world class railway in North Wales."

The WHR now has the potential to run a Garratt-hauled recreation of a full length train of SAR bogie freight stock, together with the newly-restored SAR brake van – a piece of South African railway history in the mountains of Snowdonia.

For further details contact Joanne West at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. +44 1766 516072


















Our wonderful old Victorian railway station which was originally erected at Kommandonek in 1907 has just  received a new coat of paint on its ancient corrugated iron roof. 

Our thanks go to Keith Rose, our architect, for thinking of such an innovative colour.


Sandstone’s 2-ft Narrow Gauge infrastructure continues to expand.

Below are a number of aerial photographs taken of the main Sandstone Estates complex. We have focussed on railway related activities in these pictures.

Photo 1 caption:
This is the huge 150 metre long locomotive storage shed that was moved from Ficksburg and was used for many years to store our collection of 3’6” locomotives. We still have the floor to complete but it is in use. There is room for at least two more storage lines so in theory everything we own can go under cover now.

Photo 2 caption:
This is an excellent photo showing the three main Heritage buildings at Sandstone. The one on the left contains traction engines and classic agricultural machinery. The middle one is the Running shed, and the one to the right contains our coaches and valuable items of rolling stock.  Unrestored locomotives which were previously restored here have already been moved to the big new ex Ficksburg shed.

Photo 3 caption:
This gives an idea of the marshalling yard on the Vailima side of the complex.

Hunslet No. 6355.

The Hunslet’s Gardner 6LW engine has now been replaced with one that has been overhauled. This should make this invaluable locomotive perform to specification and go back to work within the fleet. It is our primary engine for shunting jetty’s.



However, our little Funkey, being a re-engineered Mine locomotive, has been invaluable in the interim. The photograph below shows the Funkey arriving back from spraying the line as part of our on-going weed prevention and maintenance programme.


Sleeper car project - Coach No 29. Built 1907

One of the benefits of having attempted where possible to save Narrow Gauge assets over the last 20-years is the fact we have accumulated items of considerable interest, much of which tends to go unnoticed and very often unappreciated. 

The Sandstone Heritage Trust has a very interesting and historic compartment carriage which may well have been used for overnight accommodation. It is particularly long for a 2-ft Narrow Gauge wagon/carriage, coming in at 9.2 metres. The pictures below clearly indicate that it has obviously been badly treated in its life but can be rebuilt. 










Diagram published with kind permission from Phil Girdlestone

An enthusiastic visitor to the farm recently pointed out that in his opinion this coach was of significance, and so it turned out to be through the excellent support of Leith Paxton in particular, as well as Phil Girdlestone, we were able to identify, within 24-hours, what it is that we had in stock. 

It is No. 29, an NG N-6, which was built in 1907. This particular series of extended length coaches came in a number of configurations, all of which appear in various drawings below.  However, we have a drawing of No. 29 itself, which will form the basis of our restoration project.  In the gallery of photos below are pictures of the coach as it is now followed by photographs supplied by Leith Paxton of a number of variants of coaches from that particular production run. 








Author unknown - Leith Paxton collection

The configuration of this coach lends itself to a combined sleeping (en suite) and dining/lounge facility. 

Inadvertently we appear to be able to create a mini Rovos Rail or Orient Express on the 2-ft
Narrow Gauge. 

Although overnight trains are rare at the Sandstone Heritage Trust we are always in need of accommodation and this wagon could be used for that purpose. 

Work should commence on this wagon after our Stars of Sandstone event in May this year.