Following on from last years successful visit to Sandstone, the Railway Touring Touring Company again chartered Rovos rail for another steam tour of South Africa. In 2006 the tour was plagued by problems with Rovos’ oil burning 25NC 3484 but this did not deter the organisers from putting on a more ambitious programme to run from Port Elizabeth to Victoria Falls. Sadly disaster was looming and a few days before departure of the “positioning” train to PE the tour was suddenly “cancelled” by Spoornet. More correctly the use of steam in South Africa was disallowed. This followed the sudden departure from Spoornet of the Steam Curator and an emergency meeting between the steam operators, HRASA and Spoornet to discuss “the future” of steam in South Africa. Although this process is still ongoing at the time of writing, the RTC tour did run from PE to Sandstone with electric and diesel traction proceeding on to Pretoria where oil burning 25NC 3484 and coal burning 25NC 3442 headed north with the train to Zimbabwe albeit towed in light steam behind electric and diesel traction.
NG4 No. 16
Two half day programmes were planned at Sandstone with the newly outshopped NG4 No. 16 hauling a train to Grootdraai after the visitors had taken refreshments and visited the workshops at Hoekfontein. The next morning was a full tour of the system starting at sunrise behind NGG16 No. 153.
NGG16 No. 153
It was a very gloomy looking group who arrived at Hoekfontein on Sunday 22nd April with many guests suffering from severe steam deprivation. After a short tour of the workshops and a welcome cup of tea, the guests boarded the train for the run to Grootdraai behind the NG4. NGG16 #153 was also parked in Hoekfontein and the sight of these two narrow gauge locos seemed to have an uplifting effect on all the guests. A number of runpasts were done to add greater value and at the return to Hoekfontein there was a definite lift in the mood of the party. A traditional South African braai and a few drinks helped keep the smiles going.

On Monday morning 153 was ready to run at 06h00, well before, sunrise and nearly 20 runpasts were achieved as the train traversed the whole railway, including the little used Vailima loop. After a further wander around the Sandstone collection, Lawley BR7 ran a trip to Grootdraai to conclude what had been the highlight of the tour so far. Judging from the smiles and thankyous Sandstone had given all the guests exactly what they wanted, steam.

Hopefully the steam access issue will be resolved and South Africa will be able to host similar tours in the future.