OFFICIAL NEWSLETTER OF THE PORT ELIZABETH APPLE EXPRESS
Postnet Suite 124, Private Bag 13130, Humewood, Port
National Rail Safety Regulator (RSR) recently subjected
the Apple Express to a two day intensive audit,
comprising Safety Management Systems, documentation,
safety reporting and safety management.
The audit was conducted by two senior officials from the
RSR and was done both at the office premises and on site
at the narrow gauge depot.
Mr. Chris Loedollf of the RSR contacted me
telephonically earlier this week and congratulated The
Port Elizabeth Apple Express Company on receiving a
clear audit report.
Both he and his colleague are impressed with
the high standard achieved and maintained and stated
that they view The Port Elizabeth Apple Express Company
as a role model for the other operators and permit
holders under their jurisdiction.
My thanks to all concerned who assisted in reaching this
(Report – Bobby Louw)
flushed with the success of the above RSR report, Bobby
Louw, who has been a kingpin in the success of the Apple
Express train, has been transferred to Kenya to help
resurrect that country’s rail system.
Bobby who many years ago took early retirement from
Spoornet (Metro Rail) was asked by the Apple Express to
assist the struggling company to volunteer his knowledge
and help bring the Company up to standard with rail
safety regulations. He would also help with rail related
problems that arose between the Apple Express and
At the time Sheltam Rail had a keen interest in the
narrow gauge line so Bobby was given a desk in the
Sheltam Rail offices from where he could work.
It wasn’t long before Roy Puffitt of Sheltam Rail saw
his potential as an asset to his own Company and Bobby
was soon given a permanent position with the Company.
Sheltam which was quickly making inroads into the
restructuring of the derelict railways of various
African countries started to realise his ability as
someone who through his railway knowledge could help
Sheltam make things happen in these countries.
Soon he was a regular visitor to these countries as the
Sheltam representative and has now been appointed as
General Manager (Operations)(Kenya and Uganda) in Kenya.
Bobby we of the Apple Express will sorely miss you and
the friendly way you do business and we all wish you
well in your new venture in Kenya
END OF SEASON FUNCTION
On Saturday 20 January about forty volunteers, NG
employees, Spoornet employees and other “behind the
scenes” people got together for a braai at the home
of Bobby Louw and his wife Rosemary to mark both the
end of the 2006/2007 season and Bobby’s retirement
from involvement with the Apple as he shortly moves
to Kenya for a five-year contract with the national
The weather was glorious and there was more than
enough food and drink to ensure that everyone had a
Bobby was presented with an appropriate reminder of
his association with the Apple Express.
While the band, which included Bobby on guitar,
played softly in the background groups of people
chatted happily and many railway tales were told,
long into the evening. A thoroughly enjoyable
(Report – Roger Dykes)
Bobby Louw accepting his award.
The Band in full swing.
A group of “Railwaymen” enjoying a chat.
|BIRTH OF A VOLUNTEER
As regular annual visitors to P.E., to escape from
the winter in the UK, back in December 2004, Sue and
I booked a trip on the Apple Express – the first
time we had travelled on it. We had been told by
several of our ex-pat English friends here that it
would be a wonderful experience. They were certainly
right but perhaps not only for the reasons they
The journey went off well for the first hour or so,
until we reached the Van Stadens engine stop (we
were steam hauled), by which time it had begun to
rain. We crossed the bridge on the train in ever
increasing heavy rain until, by the time we reached
Thornhill; it was as we say in the UK ‘tipping it
down’ (that’s the polite version). In fact, in order
to make the hotel and the awaiting lunch, we had to
wade through a newly formed river running through
the hotel grounds. We sat down to lunch and half-way
through the meal, realising that my feet were
getting wet, I looked down to see that the hotel
dining room was under about 50mm of water, with more
dripping from the ceiling – diluting our soup
The rain continued unabated throughout the remainder
of the meal, as we moved our table to escape a large
area of ceiling which looked about to drop onto us.
Lunch over, we waded back outside to a sight like we
had never seen before anywhere in the world – a
torrent of water rushing past the hotel entrance and
the rain still lashing down.
We waded in 150mm of water back to the train,
completely soaked through, to be told that because
of the state of the track, the train could not
return to P.E. and that buses had been sent for. We
eventually journeyed back, perhaps sailed would be
more appropriate, via an N2 highway under water in
parts, to arrive wet and cold at Humewood.
Undeterred, some might say foolishly, we
decided to make the trip again in January. This time
the weather was glorious for the whole day and we
picnicked in the Thornhill Hotel grounds and had a
wonderful day out. We chatted to Lesley at Thornhill
and understood that the Apple Express was always in
need of volunteers in different capacities and so it
was that when I returned to P.E. in December 2005, I
decided that I would like to join the merry band of
volunteers and travel on the train as one. I was
pleased to be awarded my official Apple Express
shirt and after purchasing the official baseball
cap, felt a fully-fledged member of the team.
I made four trips to Thornhill and one on the
half-day excursion to Chelsea in 2005/6 and
thoroughly enjoyed each one.
Sue and I came back in early December 2006 and so
far I have made two trips to Thornhill.
Apart from the friendly volunteers I have met and
worked with on the train, it has to me, as a
foreigner, been a most enjoyable experience to meet
the passengers on each trip. Most of them are
Afrikaans speaking, so chatting to them has been
most delightful and has enriched my knowledge of
both the culture and friendliness of South African
people. As for the Apple Express itself, I hope that
money will be made available to ensure the continued
operation of this unique N.G. railway. There are a
lot of steam railways in the UK but most are run on
disused main lines, i.e. not narrow gauge and do not
travel such a long distance as the Apple, so it is
no wonder that many British enthusiasts come to
South Africa to travel on it.
(Report – Roger Dykes)
A hundred years old but still going strong. That is
the bogie system that carries the coaches safely on
the road of steel and the success of the unfailing
system is all due to regular maintenance.
Note in the picture on the right the “drum” on the
wheel axle which was once used as a belt drive to
charge the coach interior lighting batteries.
Together with regular maintenance, major
refurbishment will soon have to be done to some of
the coaching stock which is showing weather
As mentioned in the last newsletter, coach NG 58 has
just been returned to service in spectacular
condition after a great deal of tender loving care
by our coach builder Clive Nel. Clive will be off to
hospital next month for an operation and here we
wish him the very best and a speedy recovery.
On-going bogie maintenance
After earlier discussions, it has been agreed that
work will be speeded up on the restoration of NG 15
No. 119 (Henschel 1938). As mentioned in the last
newsletter, we await a firm quotation from the steam
tube manufacturer for the set of boiler tubes. Once
these are obtained, they will have to be ‘swaged’
and where necessary bent, this may be done in
Johannesburg or can be undertaken at the Railway
‘shops in Mossel Bay.
Then the next best NG 15 to be tackled will be
No.124, “Granny Smith” (Anglo Franco Belge 1949)
here needing a new smoke box and also a set of
tubes. The smoke box can possibly be rolled here in
P.E. Then the tube order would be doubled once a
favourable quotation has been received.
It will then have to be decided what colour
she will carry, having been changed from standard
black to green, together with NG 15 No.122 which was
changed to red and named “Star King” after the two
main apple varieties coming from the Langkloof. At
the time apples were one of the main seasonal
traffic volumes being brought down to the Port
The baby of this line NGG 11 No.54 (Beyer Peacock
1925) is the oldest N.G. Garratt still in original
condition and waiting in the wings to be tackled for
refurbishment. Basically all that it needs are new
‘Dam Tubes’, a few outer copper tubes, that have in
recent years been stolen and a good check over and a
(Report – Peter Burton)
We have recently had a request from the UK for any
information about NG 15 No. 120 (Anglo Franco Belge
1950) which we gather will be changing hands very
The buyer is looking for photographs of 120 while
working on the Avontuur line or even possibly in
South West Africa (Namibia) before she was
transferred to the Avontuur line.
Any info can be forwarded to Peter Burton at
There have recently been three requests for possible
lengthy trips for the train.
1) Firstly there has been a tentative request from
Dave Rogers for a tour in early June 2007. He would
like his group to be picked up in Loerie for a run
to Patensie. Here the possibility exists for a sub
excursion of passengers from P.E. to Loerie and
again on the third day for another group taking the
train from Loerie to P.E.
2) Then during September ‘07, Geoff Cook is looking
at taking about 40 enthusiasts from Louterwater to
P.E. via Patensie. Here again the train would run
empty to Louterwater which could mean a one way
group booking from P.E. to Louterwater. (Return by
3) Khokha Moya Tours from the Cape are looking at a
P.E. – Loerie – Patensie – Humansdorp trip for May
2008 for 40-60 passengers. We are still awaiting
clarification re. the exact number of passengers and
if they wish to overnight in Patensie or to return
to P.E. excluding the Humansdorp section.
Thanks to all those who submitted articles for this
issue of the NG Express and also to Sue Mewis and Clive
Fife who supplied the photographs.