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


Sunday, April 8, 2012

Sandstone Steam Gala Sunday 1 April 2012

The last morning saw a return to the beautiful clear weather that had been hoped for. The farmers shouldn't be begrudged the rain, I suppose.

We left the hotel for the last time and headed across to Sandstone.

Highland Hotel, Ficksburg

Just the one locomotove was in steam for the last day - the Sena Sugar Estates Peckett and it did one last run for the benefit of the visiting Germans.

At Hoekfontein

On the Grootvraai loop.

Many people had left or were about to leave but there were still a few left sunning themselves in front of the Waenhuis in the Hoekfontein farm complex.

There was just time for a couple of shots around Hoekfontein Station before we departed on our drive back to the airport at Bloemfontein.

The Gala was a great event that I would recommend to any 2ft gauge steam enthusiast. And there is much of interest besides in all kinds of road transport, agricultural and military equipment. The scenery and the wildlife are an added bonus. If you get the chance to go to a Sandstone Gala, take it!

The whole thing is an enormous tribute to Wilfrid Mole and the work he has done, almost single-handedly, to preserve so much of the narrow gauge railway equipment of southern Africa. Wilf is an unassuming character who goes to great pains to make sure that his guests enjoy their visit to Sandstone. Hopefully his efforts will be better appreciated within South Africa over time.

Wilf Mole with helper

Sandstone Steam Gala Saturday 31 March 2012

The last full day saw me in the morning down at the sheds.

Garratts slumbering after yesterday's exertions

Disappointingly, the Fowler 0-4-2T SANDY could not be steamed because of tube problems.
John Fowler SANDY

This miniscule locomotive could have been steamed but it wasn't. It was built in Durban as a 15 inch gauge locomotive in 1948 and was later converted to 2ft gauge.
Janes Brown 2-6-2 of 1948

Wilf Mole has a couple of private 2ft gauge vehicles for his own use including a dining car.

Inside Wilf Mole's 2ft gauge dining car.

A real gem is this 1930 Avonside bogie diesel locomotive built for canefield use.
Ellingham Estates 1930 bogie diesel

The two Lawley 4-4-0 locomotives were in use again. My favourite is the one in South African Railways guise as Class NG6.
Falcon Beira Railway 4-4-0 NG6 97

Because of the very heavy rain of the day before, the only satisfactory of getting photographs by road was in the "Casspir"  armoured troop carrier. It carried a good additional weight of caked mud by the end of the day.

The Andrew Barclay 0-4-2T was also out and about.
Barclay on train at Hoekfontein

John and John - taking a break from driving massive trains on Rio Tinto's Pilbara iron ore railway

After a hail storm, the Lawleys double-headed to Grootvraai. After we got out of the train to take photographs we had another hail storm.
Nice steam effects in the hail storm.

Sunshine again at Hoekfontein

Down at the sheds, the Hunslet Taylor diesel and steam locomotives being readied for tomorrow.

Among the many locomotives awaiting restoration in the storage shed is 136, the last NG15 built by Anglo-Franco-Belge.

I took the train for the customary afternoon circuit of the line with Garratt 153.

Watering at Vailima Siding

Sandstone Steam Gala Friday 30 March 2012

This was to be the day that the feat of a quintuple headed train was planned.

NGG16 153 went around the whole line in the morning, once again proving that it was well capable of handling the heavy gradients of the Vailima circuit.

158 makes light of the climb at Vailima (again)

Dave Rollins posing with a mug of tea on 113.

Following this, back at Hoekfontein the mammoth train was marshalled, headed by NG15 17 followed in order by Garratts 49, 153, 113 and 88. The accompanying messing around allowed for plenty of time to wander around.

The massive Emerson Brantingham Big 4-30 of 1913.

The Sandstone rail depot

The logistics of organising five big locomotives to be ready to leave at the one time are major ones. It took a lot of time and effort but eventually the train set off for Grootdraai.

There was a lot more messing around while a range of other vintage equipment was organised to appear alongside the cavalcade at the airstrip.

The experience of a Voortrekker oxcart ride with an 11-wagon steam-hauled road train in the distance

After returning to Hoekfontein and reducing the train length, the train set off for the Vailima Loop.
The cavalcade climbs Pandora Bank.

I thought it might be nice to ride the train from Vailima Siding around the loop. This turned out to be a bad decision. Torrential rain intervened. The road vehicles made a hasty retreat. The rail passengers were left on the train at Vailima Loop as the weather deteriorated and memories of horror journeys on Brtisth Rail in the 1960s were revived. It was too wet and cold to be taking photographs and it soon became too dark. After about 2 hours sitting on the train as it was shunted and divided, we eventually limped back to Hoekfontein. No complaints - all JGF and a reminder that nothing goes right all the time as far as railways are concerned..

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Sandstone Steam Gala Thursday 29 March 2012

Today there were four Garratts in steam.

Initially, green NGG16 88 set off for a run around the line but couldn't make it up the hill to Vailima and had to back down to Vailima Siding to run around its train and return to Hoekfontein.

88 on Pandora Bank

Then there were two double-headed trains. NGG16s 113 and 153 were on a train of vans.
NGG13 49 and 88 were on a mixed train.
They posed togather at Grootvraai Loop.
There was an 11-wagon road train.
The Feldbahn locomotive was out and about for the remainder of the day. 
498 with Hannes Palling

In the evening a little night photography was tried.
NGG13 number 49

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Sandstone Steam Gala Wednesday 28 March 2012

This was the day for a trip to Bloemfontein to see the maintenance depot where Lukas Nel carries out restoration work on Sandstone locomotives.
Before departing, there was time for a quick look at the Andrew Barclay 0-4-2T that was to be used during the day.

Andrew Barclay rebuilt and lengthened by Sandstone

It took 2½ hours each way to Bloemfontein. The Sandstone depot is inside the Transnet complex and Lukas used to be in charge of the Transnet diesel depot.
Some interesting restoration projects were under way including the NG10 Baldwin Pacific, the NGG11 Garrett, and a German Arn Jung 0-4-2T rescued from Angola.

Baldwin Pacific in need of major boiler work
NG11 52

Arn Jung 0-4-2T. The boiler is at Sandstone ready to be fitted.

Outside is a collection of ex-South African Railways steam locomotives, many of which were reserved for the “national collection”.

Bloemfontein was once the largest steam depot in the world and is now a diesel depot with running locomotives on shed and some more decrepit ones too.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Sandstone Steam Gala Tuesday 27 March 2012

The day began with “Kalahari” number 17 performing at dawn and during the early session.

NG15 at Grootdraai

Then two interesting smaller locomotives were on show – a German World War I “Feldbahn” 0-8-0T and a sugar cane locomotive, SEZELA No.3 built by Avonside.
Feldbahn 498


The Funkey diesel was used for shunting at Hoekfontein. This was rebuilt from an underground mining locomotive.

Later in the morning, the Kalahari went to Vailima Siding, requiring three goes at the bank to get there.
NG13 having difficulty on Pandora bank

In the afternoon, Garratt 153 was again out, hauling a train to Vailima Siding with ease, where two bogie wagons were loaded with hay bales for return to the farm after traversing the Vailima Loop.
Loading hay near Vailima Siding

Climbing the bank to Vailima