Ffestiniog Travel is delighted to offer an escorted tour to South Africa in March 2017 that combines our expertise as a holiday provider and rail travel specialist – a tour that guarantees scenery, safari and steam! The tourist attractions along South Africa’s southern tip are well-documented and this tour includes visits to Cape Town’s famous landmarks, journeys along the Cape Peninsula and the chance to observe wonderful wildlife at first hand. But is the railway content as good as the tourist appeal? Tour leader Dave Kent, who will be escorting travellers to South Africa, gives a taste of what the rail enthusiast can expect from this tour, having travelled the same route previously and enjoyed the country’s many railway gems.
To the railway aficionados who may be thinking of joining us on our South African Adventure, here are a few railway highlights that may make your decision just a little bit easier.
- Our plan to take a Cape Gauge main line trip to Simonstown looks as if it is unable to take place due to engineering and other difficulties. So we have decided to look at two possible alternatives - a journey to the Apple and Wine growing area around Ceres, which will be hauled by a 4-8-2, Class 19B or 19D, (if you haven’t been to South Africa before you will find that on the 3’6” gauge, these are very impressive locos indeed) or, a trip to Stellenbosch using either 2-8-4 Class 24 or 4-6-2 Class 16DA. We will confirm which rail journey will be available nearer the time.
- Both trains will be made up of period carriages and they offer us a great experience as well as an extremely good vantage point to see some of the best countryside around the Cape Town area.
- We will get another opportunity to travel on the 3’6” gauge when we take the Outeniqua Power Van, this unusual vehicle, a cross between a line inspection carriage and diesel railcar, allows us to experience and marvel at the engineering excellence of these southern hemisphere rail lines that travelled inwards from the coast to the interior of the country, their construction is quite unlike anything we have in the UK!
- The highlight of our tour will of course be a visit to the Sandstone Heritage Trust and its extensive collection of 2’ gauge railway stock. Our visit will coincide with the famous Stars of Sandstone Heritage Steam Festival when you will get to see many working gems on the, far from flat, 25km line around Sandstone.
- The loco list is endless but here are just a few of the engines you can expect to see and experience - a pair of Lawley 4-4-0’s, originally built for the Beira Railway in 1895 & 1897; an NG15, similar to those on the Welsh Highland Railway in Wales; both NG13 and NG16 Garratt types , four of which should be in steam.
- The star of the show will be the launch into traffic of the Garratt NG11, No 52 a slide valve non superheated model which has been brought back into service after many years of inactivity; she was last steamed around 1970. This loco shows the development and transition of the Garratt idea from the K1 type that went out to Tasmania, through to the large NG 13/16’s which did such enormous amounts of work on the narrow gauge railways in Southern Africa.
- Sandstone is not only a railway heaven, but also home to an enormous amount of vintage vehicles and agricultural equipment including over 300 Tractors, Traction Engines, Buses, Cars and many stationary engines.
- All this, plus aircraft and military equipment will be on display and you may even have the chance to be a passenger in a Sherman Tank!
- The Sandstone Estate is still a working, modern farm using best practice whilst preserving its farming heritage as it tries to work with nature and the weather in South Africa’s agricultural heartland. Seeing how this wonderful farm works is a real eye opener. Here is a link to a recently filmed German documentary which will give you an insight of what you can expect - http://www.ardmediathek.de/tv/Eisenbahn-Romantik/Stars-of-Sandstone/SWR-Fernsehen/Video?bcastId=1100776&documentId=38039790
- Members of our party who have already booked on this trip have been invited by the Sandstone Heritage Trust to enjoy a truly “Hands on” experience and not just taking photos and enjoying the action as it passes by. “Hands on” simply means that, you may well have the opportunity to fulfil that once in a lifetime dream, so come with us, join this holiday and we’ll let you become one of the privileged few, for whom, their dream really did come true.
We encourage you to join us on this trip which we hope has something to interest and please everyone, the rail enthusiast and partners alike. It offers a wonderful glimpse of such a very varied country but will be an unforgettable “South African Adventure”.