There are many preservation sites in the country which are not in the sphere
of activity covered by this site. The Sappi Saiccor paper mill operation is the
last 100% working steam in the country although arguably at harvest time the
Sandstone operation is 'real' too.
Trevor Heath found this one for me, the Sandstone Railway - http://www.sandstone-estates.com/
- big plans for
the conservation of steam locomotive workings in South Africa, I understand (10th June
2001) that they are now using their internal narrow gauge system for hauling crops, a
brand new industrial steam railway! I now have a report on this from Geoff
Pethick with a picture of their Lawley 4-4-0 at work (12th January 2003).
Sandstone hold regular open days for 2ft gauge steam enthusiasts, watch out for
news of such events on their web site. The existing 12km route (see report
below) is to be extended to 14km to offer a large loop at the north-west end
with spectacular new views and so obviate the need to turn or turn round
locomotives (8th June 2005). Click
here for a map to show the extension. The railway has a full programme of
special events through the year and you should
check with their website for more current information.
Sandstone are now restoring one of the 600mm gauge Feldbahn 0-8-0T from the
Sena sugar plantation in Mocambique - a locomotive that has been exported twice
to Africa. Click here for the
full story and pictures (10th May 2005).
Geoff Pethick has posted further news (29th
September 2003). Dennis Moore has now sent me (2nd August
stocklist of the railway, an absolutely astonishing private collection of
classic railway equipment. Further, Dennis adds: "The new extension of 3 km or so is now operational and NGG11 55 reached the new terminus on a trial run
early in July, and again with a more substantial load on the morning of 24 July. (Open wagon with tractors,
another loaded with timber, fruit van, coach, compo brake). The O&K tank loco and one of the NGG16s was also in use on 24 July.
A lengthy mixed train behind the NGG11 and NGG16 operated in perfect evening light later that day.
The extension is even more scenic than the existing 13 km. The NGG11 will be transferred to the Paton Railway based on
Ixopo, Natal in the near future.
Earlier in the year (observed during February), the railway was significantly used in conveying wheat and
possibly other produce from the fields to the silos. This can (depending on from where harvesting is taking place) involve some quite lengthy runs.
All sorts of locos have seen use on harvest haulage in the past 3 years: NGG16, NG15, NG6,
Sezela, Sandy (Fowler tank), possibly others I don't know about."
The news from the Alfred County Railway could not be worse despite the
optimism expressed below. Trevor Heath tells me (15th June
2004) that Spoornet have forced closure of the railway over the
non-payment of debts. I have since heard that the whole railway including the
locomotives was being put up for auction in mid-September 2005 (16th
September 2005), very sad.... Since writing this, things took a definite change
for the better when (as Paul Ash reports, 6th April 2006)
"Julian Perreira (of Paton Country Narrow Gauge Railway) has been granted a temporary
'permit' (I don't know what else to call it) to operate the Banana Express from Port Shepstone to Izotsha (Km14).
Anyway Julian has grand plans including operating trains with a tank loco in the spectacular Wilsons
Cutting section near the top of the line. But, they had a rollover with NGG16 151 two weekends
back when the train ploughed into a landslip, resulting in serious dents to the loco. No injuries,
thankfully, but not the kind of incident one needs at this fragile time in private SA steam operations.
Right now two locos (151 and 127) are in service, plus a UVE 2 (ex-sugar estate 0-4-0T)."
Earlier it was reported that the Alfred County Railway was about to completely return to steam according to Charlie
Lewis via Trevor Heath (29th September 2003) "We are proud to report that steam in
the shape of NGG16 #127 returned to service on ACR today. As soon as cosmetic work on #127
has been completed we shall turn our attention to #156. As this has been an emotional time
for us perhaps we can be forgiven a little hyperbole. We shall soon be sending Spoornet's
diesel back to them, whereupon - as far as we know - ACR and the Harding line will once
again be Africa's only all-steam common carrier railway" Further news comes from the
same sources (5th May 2004) - "With joy we announce that
the ACR is once again a multiple steam-engine company. For the first time in more than six
years we now have two engines in steam - #127 and #151 - the latter running under her own
power for the first time in 13 years. Roelf van Wyngaardt, our Master Mechanic in every
sense, says she is in excellent condition mechanically. After completion of running-in
adjustments and cosmetic work (among which is a new cab roof) she will go into revenue
service within the next two weeks. After record-breaking Summer and Easter holiday seasons
for the Banana Express we shall need a third engine soon. It has already been decided that
this will be #116, one of the 1939 series NGG16s, as we have permission from her
Sappi Saiccor paper mill at Umkomaas
Paul Ash tells me (25th January 2003) that diesels are now working freights on the
George - Knysna line, which leaves the following operation as the only regular non-tourist
steam experience in the country. "The Sappi Saiccor paper mill at Umkomaas on the
KwaZulu-Natal South coast owns three 19D 4-8-2's, nos. 1 (ex-Spoornet 2697, Borsig
14748/38), 2 (ex-Spoornet 2633, Skoda 928/38) and 3 (ex-Spoornet 2767, Robert Stephenson
Hawthorn 7280/47). All the locos are in clean, blue livery, and include one of the
country's two operable domeless-boiler 19D's. One loco is in steam daily, hauling timber
and stores on a 3km branch from the Spoornet exchange sidings at Umkomaas to the mill.
With the end of steam on the daily George-Knysna freights, Saiccor's 19D's have the
bittersweet honour of hauling the last regular steam-hauled freight trains in South
Africa. Photographic possibilities are limited by a pipeline which runs alongside the
line, but there is a good high angle shot from the N2 road bridge which crosses the line a
little way up from the mill. But the drivers are friendly, apparently. Visitors need a
permit from Sappi to take photos inside the mill complex. Thanks to Railways of
Southern Africa Locomotive Guide for loco information." Alan Sewell has
sent me an
illustrated report of this operation which dates mainly from November 2005
but confirms things were largely unchanged in July/August 2006 (30th