OFFICIAL NEWSLETTER OF THE PORT ELIZABETH APPLE EXPRESS
Postnet Suite 124, Private Bag 13130, Humewood, Port
ON THE RAILS
More than a quarter of the year 2009 has already passed
and the busy summer season is now but a distant memory.
Usually, once the holiday season has come to an end,
passenger numbers drop off dramatically but this year,
so far, things have been different. There is the usual
fewer number of scheduled train trips than during the
holiday season but each time the train has gone out,
passenger numbers are near capacity. A good trend for
the year ahead.
The summer holiday season from the 1st December until
14th January saw sixteen fully booked trains take to the
rails. In total more than two thousand eight hundred
passengers travelled on the Apple Express over this
It was a very busy time for all those involved with the
running of the train. Appreciation for a job well done
go to the train crew, booking staff and volunteers.
Passengers alighting at Loerie Station
Theft and vandalism is still an ongoing problem on the
narrow gauge line. The latest being the theft of many
fishplates from the tracks on the Patensie branch line.
With the loss of all freight working on this section, it
seems that the criminal has seen fit to start plundering
the line for scrap (?) metal. The news of the damage
came as a shock to the Apple Express Company especially
in view of the fact that the up-coming Geoff Cook Tour
for steam enthusiasts is due to take place next week.
The Company was worried that the railway authorities
would not be prepared to invest money in repairing the
line due to the fact that the branch does not generate
any income. Recent reports seem to indicate though, that
the authorities will be replacing the fishplates.
Hopefully this will be seen to before the Geoff Cook
Tour Steam Tour takes place.
Another victim of vandalism and decay is the Humewood
Road Station complex. The area is becoming a real
eyesore and almost an embarrassment to the Apple Express
staff. Because of this it has been suggested that the
“Baakens River” area near the P.E. Harbour entrance be
used as a departure point. The area is grassed, has
secure parking for vehicles and has some restaurants
close by for the benefit of passengers. There is however
the usual problem with officialdom that has to be sorted
out first before the scheme can be implemented.
A recent positive change that the AE Company has
introduced is a dedicated train ticket and booking
office. Previously this was done at the tourist
information office where the staff there had to do train
bookings as an extra to their normal office duties. This
was never a satisfactory arrangement which, on few
occasions, resulted in booking problems that had to be
sorted out at the last minute before the train departed.
New booking office
The rebuild of coach No.50 is now complete and the
coach is once again plying its way along the track.
Originally built as a third class passenger coach it
has been redesigned as a first class lounge car. The
coach builders under the guidance of Clive Nell have
done a marvellous job with the rebuild and the
lounge car is attracting much attention from
passengers. It can seat 18 passengers at six tables
with two chairs per table and one bench seat.
All the tables and chairs were individually made by
Clive Nell. A magnificent job.
To fit everything in nicely, it was found that a
small space was left into which only a small table
could be fitted. A bowl of flowers is placed on this
table to complete the luxury effect. The small bar
counter at the one end is fitted with a gas fired
fridge and a small antique wash basin. The coach is
also fitted with a toilet for the convenience of
Because the Apple Express consist is made up of
individual non walk through coaches, the lounge car
has been connected between two balcony coaches thus
making it easier to serve drinks to the adjoining
The year 2008 was a very busy year for the coach
building crew. In total eight coaches were attended
to, ranging from major overhauls, to just a new coat
of paint. Coach No.58 received a major overhaul
while her sisters Nos. 57 and 59 received a welcome
Other coaches that received attention during the
year were Nos. 105, 73, 78 and 94 (Apple Tavern)
each having had a new coat of paint. Besides the
paint job, the Apple Tavern also had a few internal
modifications done. Coach No. 2813 (the wheel chair
friendly ex goods/guards van) has had a colour
change from apple green to the old SAR brown livery
in preparation for the up coming Geoff Cook Steam
Most recent is the complete rebuild of ex third
class passenger coach No. 85. Complaints were often
received from passengers who rode in this coach that
the seating arrangement was very cramped and
uncomfortable. Our expert coach builder stripped the
interior and completely redesigned the seating from
traditional suburban coach type seating into bench
type seating making for more legroom. One of the
original two toilets was also removed making for
extra seating capacity.
Next on the job list for the coach building crew is
the repair and rebuild of passenger coaches No. 82
and 113 which are in a sorry state at the moment.
The recently rebuilt Kalahari NG15 No. 119, has,
understandably, been plagued by numerous minor
faults. These have now been finally sorted out and
she just waiting for the final test of a long
distance run. Unfortunately the weather has not
played along in recent weeks, with dry, windy
conditions putting paid to any steam hauled train to
Loerie. The authorities will not allow a steam
locomotive to be used if there is any possibility of
sparks starting veld fires. The locomotive has been
taken on short runs to Chelsea Junction and now
seems to be free of the niggling problems that have
been troubling her.
Next on the list of locomotive restoration is the
rebuild of another Kalahari, NG15 No. 124. This loco
and NG 15 No. 117 were both looked at to see which
of the two were in the better condition. After the
boilers of the two locomotives were inspected it was
found that the boiler on 124 was in a better
condition than the one on 117. It was then decided
to scrap 117 and use her parts in the rebuild of
No. 124 is currently in the workshop being prepared
for its rebuild.