Questions relating to the security of the Sandstone Heritage Trust’s locomotive assets.
The collection of assets at Sandstone Estates is very securely housed, maintained and operated where necessary. At present we are involved in a high level dialogue with the Rail Safety Regulator concerning the need to adopt a Heritage Railway specification in South Africa, more specifically for 2-ft Narrow Gauge railways that are ring-fenced or isolated from any other railway network.
The Rail Safety Regulator has only one specification in South Africa and we are being treated as a Main Line railway and therefore we are having various restrictions placed on our operations and we are having to upgrade parts of our infrastructure at enormous costs to levels that we believe are entirely unnecessary for the axle loading and speed of operation of our railway.
Our current Rail Safety Regulator permit expires at the end of 2019 but going beyond that we have advised the RSR that we cannot comply with the demands being made on us with regard to Civil Engineering issues, nor can we comply with the requirement that all repairs to locomotives be placed under their control and be subjected to inspections.
One should appreciate that there are enormous costs which accompany each and every one of these regulations which are currently being promulgated quicker than we can deal with them.
We have worked hard for many years to accommodate the Rail Safety Regulator’s long list of demands but we have reached the stage where it is unsustainable for a railway that operates at slow speeds like ours.
We have forwarded copies of the British Heritage Rail specifications to the authorities with a strong recommendation that they implement something similar in South Africa.
The rumours that are going around regarding the disposal of Heritage assets etc. are entirely incorrect. We are simply in a state of limbo while we negotiate with the authorities to take a more realistic view of operations like ours.
British Heritage Journalist, John Titlow, was an enthusiastic visitor to Stars of Sandstone 2019 and has written a number of articles for the British Heritage press. The February 2020 edition of Buses magazine has a story on Sandstone’s ex Welkom Bristol bus with some interesting new facts on the vehicle. Click the links to Read More: Busses 1 & Busses 2
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