2ft Narrow Gauge

NGG16A Second Steam Test

Newly restored NGG16A No. 155 was given a second static steam test this week to check some various issues with leaks and piping issues highlighted in the first test. It is expected to conduct a light load trial soon.

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NGG16A number 155 steams for the first time since 2000.

NGG16A number 155 has undergone its first steam test at Sandstone after an 18 month restoration process that began in January 2020 with the boiler being sent to Wonder Steam in Pretoria. On the return of the boiler in June 2020, Gert Jubileus and his team at Sandstone began the restoration. Using the modified engine units donated by the owners of the other NGG16A, number 141, Phil Mortimer senior and Phil Mortimer junior the locomotive has been assembled over the last twelve months. Most parts were sourced from the spares that Sandstone has acquired over the years but with the special nature of 155, many pieces had to be made up. This was particularly difficult with the very different copper piping required for the modified 155 but on 11th June 2021, number 155 steamed for the first time in 21 years. This was a test for the integrity of the boiler tubes and stays which all passed inspection. Now the brick arch will be assembled and fitted into the firebox ready for a road test on the Sandstone Steam Railway. This is the first locomotive rebuilt at Sandstone since the closure of the Bloemfontein Works facility in 2019 and only the third locomotive rebuilt at Sandstone’s Hoekfontein Workshop since Lawley BR7 and Fowler number 14316 in April 2002 and the 30th steam locomotive restored by Sandstone. A major milestone for the Sandstone Steam Railway!

Our gallery shows the test with the locomotive now fitted with its number plates.

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NG4 SAR number NG16

This small tank locomotive is a favourite at Sandstone having been acquired from Port Shepstone in 2003 where it had been abandoned in the bush. It started its life at Port Shepstone in 1916 and then worked on the Estcourt to Weenen Branch. It ended its SAR days as yard shunter at Port Shepstone and was sold to Rustenburg Platinum Mines (RPM) It was bought back from the Mine for preservation by South African Railways when the two foot gauge sytem at RPM was closed around 1967. From then on the locomotive did an extensive tour of South Africa. It was first stored at De Aar depot and then moved to Milner Park in Johannesburg and subsequently to the District Engineers Office in Langlaagte. With the opening of the Humewood Road Narrow Gauge Museum in Port Elizabeth, number 16 was moved there as an exhibit before finally returning to its original operating line at the privately owned Alfred County Railway in Port Shepstone where it was abandoned.

Mark Ruddy, a steam driver, from Port Elizabeth (now Gqeberha ) sent us this picture of the NG4 arriving at Humewood Road Depot on a 3’6”gauge DZ wagon for display at the recently opened museum in the mid-80s. Two other pictures show it in the display shed at Humewood Road and hard at work at Sandstone. Our thanks to Mark for permission to use this rare photograph of the NG4.

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NGG16A heads towards the finish line.

With its first steaming expected by the end of May, the return to service of NGG16A number 155 is well on track. Recently we received the various plates, including the number plates, for the locomotive which will be fitted shortly. The number plate shows Alfred County Railway as it was this operator who classified number 155 as NGG16A after its extensive modifications in 1990.

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The Top 10 Consists.

With the running of trains at Sandstone seriously limited by Covid 19 we thought our readers would enjoy some pictures of the varied consists we can assemble at Sandstone. Our gallery shows NGG16s numbers 88 (in green livery) and 153 hauling a variety of loads. All photography by Rod Hering.

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A spectacular repaint for NGG16A number 155.

As the final mechanical work proceeds on 155 the locomotive has been sprayed in the colour, Mexican Red, which Shaun McMahon, who was at ACR and involved in the conversion of 155, has advised is the correct colour. The locomotive was prepared for spray painting by David Mpholo at Sandstone and sprayed initially in grey primer. For the final coat, Janki Palmer took over and our pictures show the spectacular and exciting finish on the loco. Some mechanical work, mainly piping, is ongoing.


Our gallery shows 155 in primer and then the finished article with Janki Palmer inspecting his work. The paint work below the running plate is still to be completed.

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Steaming into 2021

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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!


Some updates to the NG10

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.

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A number plate for NG16a number 155

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Railway Preservation, what will 2021 bring?

Railway Preservation

A recent post on this web site on November 4th 2020 reflected on a 1997 document, “Where to private rail use in SA?”, that discussed the potential private rail use in South Africa and was effectively the launch template for Sandstone’s original rail industry plans for commercial and tourism operations which, as we know, were not realised. However this  ultimately led to the development of the2ft gauge Sandstone Steam Railway that is now world famous. Wilfred Mole, the driving force behind the railway, now reflects on the position of the 2ft gauge Sandstone Steam Railway in the larger picture of Railway Preservation in South Africa today. Click here to read more

Steam Festivals in 2021

Steam Festival2020

As well as our Summer Steam Festival in February 2021 we shall be holding an Easter Steam Festival from the 2ndto the 5th April 2021. Come and join us for some steamy fun!
Full details are on the PDF

NGG16A number 155 under restoration. Update number 11. November 2020.

Work continues on number 155 with the fitment of the ex 3’6’ gauge GMA/M mechanical lubricator. Our pictures show the lubricator in position and the external operating linkage awaiting connection. Good progress is being made towards a steam test early in 2021.

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NGG16A number 155 under restoration. Update number 10. October 2020.

Work has continued on NGG16A since our last report with the cab fittings installed and the water tank fitted to the front engine unit. The chimney has also been fitted as number 155 begins to look like a full locomotive. Our photo gallery shows the work to date. No definite date has been set for the completion of 155 but early in 2021 is looking likely.

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A new book on the Port Elizabeth to Avontuur 2ft Narrow Gauge

New Book

A new book on the Port Elizabeth to Avontuur 2ft narrow gauge line will be published in October. The book is the first to be taken from the material published on the excellent Soul Of A Railway website hosted by Charlie Lewis and Les Pivnic. The book is co-authored by the late David Payling who visited Sandstone many times over the last few years.

Click here to read more

NGG16A number 155 under restoration. Update number 9. July 2020

After the return of the boiler from Wonder Steam in Pretoria the locomotive has been re assembled with the boiler unit placed on to the  modified engine units, originally from NGG16A number 141. Work has begun on the boiler cladding and making up patterns for the numerous pipes and fitting required for the locomotive. Our pictures show the initial cladding in place as well as the backhead of the boiler and the steam generator.

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