A glimpse of life in the Eastern Free State
6th November 2007
Spring rains at Sandstone Estates have been excellent and both the farm and the railway seem to have flourished as a result. We thought we would do a snapshot of a day in the life of the Sandstone Heritage Trust and give these overseas visitors who have not been to see us an opportunity to see what life is like on the ground in the Eastern Free State in South Africa.
2008 will provide a great number of opportunities for people to visit us, and we will be publishing a full schedule of train trips and excursions shortly. Please do not forget however that we are open for specialised trips by groups and please note that we can design a programme to suit small and large groups. Bring your family and your friends and spend a day on the railway. You can even nominate which locomotive you would like to see in steam.
Our book "The Sandstone Steam Railroad - The First Ten Years" contains details of many of the locos that we have in our possession but of course quite a number have been added since then. A walk around the estate will tell its own story.
As you approach the railway workshops one stumbles across this Narrow Gauge wagon which is actually in good order and simply needs to be reunited with its bogies in order to take up duties on the estate. Since this photograph was taken 10-days ago this item has already been sandblasted and is well on its way to joining the fleet.
3'6" Barclay Tank Engine, No. 976/1903, was sitting on the estate patiently waiting for its transport to Cape Town. By the time this feature appears on our web site this locomotive will have been uploaded and moved to Century City in Cape Town as part of a collaborative exercise between the Sandstone Heritage Trust and the owners of this major shopping, commercial and residential development.
Wherever you go you will see buildings. However these are not buildings without a purpose - they are buildings full of items. We would need a complete web site just to detail what is in this particular open storage barn.
Our 10CR, No. 771, proudly heads a major consist of rare passenger vehicles on the estate. In the short-term it is going nowhere but our dynamic restoration programme ensured that it reaches the restoration workshop in due course and then finds it way into the national steam programme as a result of our collaboration with Steam in Action.
[view web page for 10CR 771]
As they say in preservation, the organisation with the best lorries wins. We have a formidable fleet of trucks and trailers which are capable of moving heavy items long distances. Here is a picture of one of our custom built triaxle trailers which has recently been refurbished by our workshops. All our equipment is maintained continuously and upgraded when necessary.
Our philosophy is preservation before restoration. Before you can restore something and bring it back to life you have to firstly save it. Between saving it and restoring it it has to go into storage. These photos give you a glimpse of the many hundreds of items which have escaped the scrap dealer's cutting torch and which patiently wait their turn in the workshop.
It is not all about steel - it is also about biological activity, micro organisms and biomass. Remember that the Sandstone Heritage Trust is based on a farm and farm life goes on. These pictures clearly show the work that is being done in ensuring that our biological farming model is enhanced and that we do everything possible to improve the natural fertility of our land. We have a severe problem with fires in the Eastern Free State and every attempt is made to cut, bale and store material which can be turned into compost before it is consumed by fire.
The farm cat. A formidable character in his own right. Don't talk about 9 lives, rather talk about 29 lives in this case.
Trees must represent one of the great treasures of nature and in many ways they probably hold the key to life on this planet. We have a concentrate programme of planting indigenous trees continuously. The harsh cold climate of the Eastern Free State is not necessarily conducive to the development of indigenous trees but we are getting there.
When we came to this site there were virtually no trees. Slowly but surely nature is establishing its authority.
On this particular day a Senior Citizen group happens to be enjoying a special train ride and excursion.
We popped into one of the many workshops where Desmond Clarke happened to be working on the BSA Rail Car.
Remember this is a commercial farming operation - the silos, weighbridge and laboratory are the engine room of the commercial farming enterprises.
It looks like we have hit a snag with this vintage tractor. What now? Perhaps we will phone Jannie du Toit in Cape Town, an internationally accepted expert on International Harvester products, to see if he can help us.
A glimpse of the extensive facilities, most of which are devoted to commercial agriculture.
A glimpse inside the wagon shed. The problem is someone has left some rubbish lying around which is not our style. Disciplinary action will have to be taken!
It is evening now and a storm is breaking. The wonderful Free State light is at its best. However the storm is building and soon it is pouring with rain. What more can a farm ask for.