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Steam & Excursion > New South African Steam Series

Date: 07/11/19 02:51
New South African Steam Series
Author: andersonb109

South Africa, along with China was one of the last great destinations for main line steam. Steam ended relatively late there, in part due to South Africa's huge coal reserves. Even after the end of regular steam, numerous steam safaris were run by the South African government under the Transnet Heritage Foundation moniker as well as many other by private individuals and tour companies. That all came to an end when the last proper steam tour was run by David Rodgers in 2007. The South African government had over time instituted draconian regulations such as not being able to run after dark and limiting lines where steam could be used. Necessary facilities such as for coaling and water were gradually eliminated making running steam even more difficult.  Locomotives that were suppose to be preserved as part of the National Collection were scrapped. Branch lines closed, and the once great "Union Limited" hotel tour train left to be vandalized. Sadly, the South African ANC government didn't see the value in steam tourism and viewed steam as a white man's toy, and a remnant of the previous apartheid government (a view held by most of my S. African steam friends). They didn't take into account the thousands if not millions of  dollars the attraction of steam brought into the country including flights on SAA, hotels, car hires, meals, and of course for the Germans...beer....lots of beer. 

Now all that has begun to change. A new company, Ceres Rail purchased and re-rehabilitated the branch line to Prince Alfred Hamlet. They have a 20 year operating agreement with Transnet. They also have trackage rights on two other lines. Currently, they have four serviceable steam locomotives including the recently restored Class 26 "Red Devil," arguably as famous as the recently restored "Big Boy" and "Flying Scotsman."  So given this turn of events, Bernd Siler of FarRail Tours undertook the task of running the first true photographers steam tour in June of this year. Forty participants from 10 different countries (and once again, only one from the U.S.)  turned up to participate in the event. While not an easy task, almost everything went off as planned with good weather excepting for one day. Truly an amazing result given the poor state tof he once great SAR and lack of steam infrastructure. (if you think Amtrak  has problems, you can spend hours reading about the horrors of S.Africa's once great passenger services). 

For the next few days, I'll be posting three of my better photos from this event. Before someone asks, track is "Cape Gauge" or equal to the U.S. 3' 6" narrow gauge but with a much larger loading gauge.  While there is one serviceable Cape Gauge Garratt in the country, it is located in Natal and thus was not part of this tour. Perhaps next year? 

First photo is Cape Town at sunrise. One of the most beautiful settings for a city in the world.  Second is the first "locomotive" seen on the tour. A tour tram that runs around the Victoria and Alfred waterfront shopping area.  But don't worry, better ones are to follow. Third is a preview of what's to come. The Class 26 ready for action at Cere's Rails Unity facility at the Cape Town Yacht Club where the tour began. More tomorrow.

Date: 07/11/19 09:37
Re: New South African Steam Series
Author: gregscholl

Is that 4 hot steam engines in that last shot?  While I am not a fan of the Red Devil (a perfectly good 4-8-4 gave up its life that thing), as it looks ugly to me!
Nonetheless good to see some South Africa material.  My folks were in Capetown in 1976 during some of the riots.  The windsheild of their car was smashed.

Date: 07/11/19 09:40
Re: New South African Steam Series
Author: boejoe

Looking forward to photos.  #1 is terrific.  For those unaware, I believe that's Table Mountain in background.

Date: 07/11/19 10:56
Re: New South African Steam Series
Author: andersonb109

Yes, all four locos we used were in that shot. I'll advise as to the other's heritage as photos are posted.  And yes, that's Table Mountain, without it's afternoon "table cloth." 

Date: 07/13/19 04:56
Re: New South African Steam Series
Author: DrawingroomA

andersonb109 Wrote:
> Yes, all four locos we used were in that shot.
> I'll advise as to the other's heritage as photos
> are posted.  And yes, that's Table Mountain,
> without it's afternoon "table cloth." 

Thanks for posting these great shots. The view of Table Mountain reminds me of the first time I saw it - in 1977 from the deck of the RMS Windsor Castle. The "tablecloth" was down that time. It is nice to see it on such a clear day.

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