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Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
See also John Raby's blogs at www.rabylee.uk/linesidingindex.html


Thursday, May 27, 2010

Monday 24 May Sandstone Estates Day 1

We drove from Johannesburg to Sandstone Estates today, and made the town of Fouriesburg our base. Sandstone is a commercial farm in the Free State close to the border with Lesotho (once known as Basutoland). Here Wilfred Mole has created a 2ft gauge paradise with a fascinating variety of locomotives and rolling stock in working order.

On the first afternoon, the Heeresfeldbahn locomotive was in use. This was built for the German Army in the Great War and was later used on a Mozambique sugar estate.

Railway photography and video making is the main interest of the participants and so there are many opportunities arranged for run-pasts, which of course are rigorously regimented by those taking part.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Saturday 23 May. Wild Life

A pleasant Sunday afternoon drive in the Hluhluwe / iMfolozi game reserve (the equivalent of a national park) led to some interesting close encounters with various animals. Here is a small sample to whet the appetite.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Friday - Saturday 21-22 May. Umfolosi Sugar Planters

The Umfolosi Sugar Mill is situated at River View, just outside Mtubatuba in KwaZulu-Natal.

The cane growing area is a flood plain between two rivers, subject to periodic inundation. The mill company is separate from the company that operates the rail sysyetm and maintains all the drains, floodways and roads.

The cane railway is 2ft 6ins gauge and is efficiently operated. The cane is all whole stick, loaded longitudinally into four-wheel trucks by grab loaders. Much of the field labour comes from Mozambique on a seasonal basis, and there are quite a few women involved. The crushing season runs for at least nine months beginning in April.

The locos are somewhat bland 6wDH Hunslet derivatives but they are lovingly cared for. There is talk of the mill's 3ft 6ins gauge Hunslet Taylor being obtained and converted to 2ft 6ins gauge.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Thursday 20 May. Bulawayo - Johannesburg - Richards Bay

Where else in the world would an early morning visit to a locomotive running shed reveal this scene?

National Railways of Zimbabwe, Bulawayo.

Wednesday 19 August - Shurugwi

The main purpose for the trip to Zimbabwe was to visit what was once known as the Selukwe and Peak Light Railway. This is situated a 2-hour drive from Bulawayo and Chas drove me there. The very scenic 2ft gauge line was built in 1916 and links the railhead at Shurugwi (Selukwe) with the Peak chrome mine, as well as performing a number of other key mining operations at Shurugwi.

The main line diesel power includes a Funkey bogie diesel, the same as the ones on the Festiniog and Welsh Highland Railways. We were told that the FR tried to buy it. Instead it will shortly be refurbished.

The two other mainline locos were built by Prof in Zimbabwe and are similar to NYLETA on the South Johnstone Mill tramway in Queensland. 

One of them hauled the free passenger train we rode on.

The smaller locos here are also all Prof products. This appeared to be a very well-run mining operation, and the ongoing refurbishment of main-line locomotives suggests that it will continue operating for some years to come.

A very interesting and worthwhile day.

Tuesday 18 May. Singapore – Johannesburg – Bulawayo

I arrived in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, after a 30 hour journey somewhat jetlagged.

I didn’t come for this, but within a few hours, courtesy of my kind host Chas, I was having a cab ride in a Zimbabwe National Railways Beyer-Garratt locomotive at the local steam depot, following a visit to the National Railway Museum.

Zimbabwe has obviously been through some tough times and times are still hard. Following the collapse of the local currency, they now use the US dollar.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Monday 17 – Tuesday 18 May. Singapore.

Changi International Airport has a profusion of real orchids. Everywhere. 

And a fern garden.

And a Skytrain to get between the three terminals. They are driverless rubber-tyred guided track thingies – running on five different routes. And there are shops. Of course. Still open at 1am.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Brisbane International Airport Monday 17 May p.m.

“The Travellers” - Stephen Killick

No one hangs around international airports unless waiting for a plane – to get on or to disgorge its cargo of passengers. So what does this piece of art tell us? Part of a larger work scattered through the airport, these figures are characterised as “shoppers” thereby reminding us that a key function of international airports is to separate travellers from their money in the guise of shopping. All normal concepts of value and price begin to be lost as soon as we enter the journey to foreign parts.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Southern African itinerary

For the majority of the trip I will be part of Geoff Cooke's tour. You can find details of this here: http://www.geoffs-trains.com/SouthAfrica/Steam2010.html
However, as soon as I arrive in South Africa on 18 May I will fly to Bulawayo in Zimbabwe as I have an invitation to visit the 2ft gauge chrome mine railway at Shurugwi. This has bogie diesels similar to those used in the Queensland sugar industry.
From May 21 to 23 I will be in Mtubatuba in KwaZulu-Natal to visit the sole surviving narrow gauge sugar cane railway system in South Africa, at the Umfolozi Sugar Mill. This is a 2ft 6ins (762mm) gauge line with locally-built diesels.
I join Geoff's tour on the evening of 23 May in Johannesburg and on 25 May will arrive at Sandstone Estates, with its magnificent collection of preserved 2ft gauge steam, for a three day stay. 28 May will see us at the 2ft gauge Paton Country Narrow Gauge Railway. 1 June to 4 June will be spent travelling on the 'Apple Express' on the South African Railways 2ft gauge Avontuur line with preserved steam locomotives.
Interspersed among these activities will be some 3ft 6ins gauge steam experiences, which will be a relaxing bonus as far as I am concerned.
Currently, I am still trying to get things tied up at work, and with just over a week to go, there is a lot to do. The blogging will begin in earnest after then.

South Africa May-June 2010

On hearing of my proposed trip to South Africa, Wilfred Mole of Sandstone made the suggestion that I might like to make a blog of my trip, so here goes.
It will be my first trip to Africa and I am looking forward to it very much. There are increasing numbers of South Africans living in this part of Australia now so it will be enjoyable to visit their homeland and learn about this new nation at first hand.