Open Days at The Cherry Festival. Friday 16th and Saturday 17th November 2018.
November is Cherry Festival time in Ficksburg . To celebrate The Cherry Festival Sandstone will be holding Open Days on Friday 16th November and Saturday 17th November coinciding with this classic event.
Sandstone Heritage Trust has an ongoing dialogue with this famous narrow gauge railway in Wales. Nominally referred to as 2ft gauge (610mm as in Sandstone’s case) it is in fact 1ft 11 3/4in (603mm). It was the last steam operated portion of British Rail before being privatised in 1989. We were sad to hear of the passing of one of the original owners recently, Peter Rampton. A somewhat controversial character in preservation circles, he built up a massive collection of narrow gauge locomotives and equipment over the years, much of which was never open to the public. In this collection was a South African connection in the form of NGG13 number 60 and two Lawley locomotives, BR27 and BR28, sisters to the two similar locomotives at Sandstone. Both were acquired from Buzi Sugar in Mozambique. The Vale of Rheidol has produced a magnificent newsletter as a trubute to Peter Rampton for you to enjoy. Click here to read.
Held one week later than usual in November 2019, the annual Cherry Festival in Ficksburg was a great success. Sandstone joined the event by running a train service on Friday 22nd and Saturday 23rd for visitors. Two private charters were also run on Thursday 21st for two school groups and a Senior Citizens Tour group. Visitor numbers over the three days totalled almost 1000 boosted by groups from JB Tours and Savannah Tours.
NGG16 Garratts numbers 88 and 153 provided the motive power for the duration with visiting driver Andries Keyser from the Winelands Light Railway joining Sandstone’s Gert Jubileus at the regulator. Trains ran between Hoekfontein, Grootdraai and Mooihoek for a 50 minute round trip between 10h00 and 16h00 on each day. Sandstone also displayed some of its heritage collection and the famous Sandstone oxen were on hand to give Ox Wagon rides. Our photo gallery shows a good time was had by all our visitors!
The Stars of Sandstone 2019 video is now available on You Tube on the link below. Ron Nell of Frameline Productions has put together a magnificent production of the 2019 event. We hope you enjoy the spectacle.
Garratt Bucher from the Hempstead & Northern Railroad in Hempstead, Texas, has put together an intriguing article on the very interesting story behind the number plates of the SAR NGG13 Garratts. Garratt’s father, Robert L Bucher, owns the railway and paid many visits to South Africa in the sixties and seventies, having a great interest in the 2ft narrow gauge lines, particularly the Estcourt to Weenen branch which closed in 1983. Such was his enthusiasm that he imported one of the last locomotives to run on the line, NGG13 number 50 which is now in working order on the railroad. South African driver, Billy Bester, who drove on the line, became a close friend of Robert and spent a lot of time in the Texas with number 50.
An interesting contention in the article is Sandstone’s NGG13 number 49 may well actually be number 50 and in the USA, number 50 may well be 49! Any views or information on this will be welcome.
Fouriesburg Country Tours made their second visit to Sandstone in 2019. The tour company caters for Senior Citizens offering them guided tours over the whole of Southern Africa and they always include Sandstone in their tours.
1897 built Lawley No 97 was steamed up for a trip to Grootdraai while 24 oxen were in-spanned alongside the trip to Grootdraai. The tour concluded with an extensive trip through the display areas to view the Sandstone Heritage Collection.
A good time was had by all judging by the comments from the Visitors Book.
“Highlight of the tour”
“Fantastic Experience, will be back!”
In September 2015 the last steam locomotive in full commercial service in South Africa, 19D Saaicor No 3, dropped its fire for the last time and ended 155 years of steam operation in South Africa. Click here to read more
3688 was acquired by the Sandstone Heritage Trust in 2016 after it was removed from the Transnet National Collection and earmarked for disposal. As the locomotive was at Bloemfontein and in good condition it made good sense to acquire her to avoid the locomotive being scrapped. - Click here to read more