The Port Elizabeth Apple Express - NG Express Bi-monthly Newsletter - January 2008
The Port Elizabeth
Apple Express

NG Express Newsletter


NG Express

Postnet Suite 124, Private Bag 13130, Humewood, Port Elizabeth

January 2008


The 2007/2008 holiday season which has now drawn to a close, has seen a great demand for the train with both Corporate year end functions and holiday makers clamouring for tickets.

The demand for trips this year in particular has been unusually outstanding and has put quite a bit of strain on the limited volunteer staff who man the train. Once again our grateful thanks go to all the willing helpers who give of their time to keep the train running.
It is just unfortunate that there is no working steam locomotive in operation at the moment but even with diesel loco power up front the day trips have been well supported by the ticket buying public. One or two steam enthusiasts were a bit disappointed but on the whole everyone who took the day trip to Thornhill thoroughly enjoyed themselves, and our train is becoming known as the fun train.
During this past summer holiday season fourteen trains carrying 2104 paying passengers travelled to Thornhill and back.


As part of the Apple Express’s ongoing community service program a large number of wheel chair bound residents from the local Cheshire Home were treated to a day out on the train. The following is a report received from the residents.

“Eighteen of us residents of Cheshire Home Summerstrand were treated to a unique opportunity and invited to a day’s outing on the renowned “Apple Express”. The Apple Express has specially adapted a coach with a ramp and disabled toilet to accommodate persons with disabilities and so can accommodate 5 or 6 wheelchairs at a time. Most of us residents had never travelled on this famous train and thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to share this occasion with locals and tourists. We were all ecstatic about the trip and picnic lunch at Thornhill.
We extend a big thank you to Lesley Lowe and all the other volunteers who are responsible for managing and organising the train service and so making the day a memorable one. Not to be forgotten were the many passengers on the train who joined in and assisted the volunteers unload us and get us down from the Thornhill station platform, across the rough ground to the Hotel, and the picnic lunch.
It is obvious that this year the Apple Express has enjoyed bumper crowds on the train which is now becoming known as the “Fun Train”. We certainly had fun.
We encourage those wanting to share this experience to contact Lesley Lowe at 083 577 9708 for further information”
Residents of Cheshire Home Summerstrand.



The recent flooding along the Southern Cape coast has also affected the upper Langkloof region with damage to the narrow gauge line in the area. As a result the line has been closed westward from Humansdorp although we are told the line as far as Louterwater is ok. Transnet are busy assessing the damage and we should know within the next week whether they are going to repair the storm damage after Louterwater. This has put a bit of a damper on the up coming Geoff Cook rail tour due to take place during May 2008.
See for more details of the tour.

Storm damaged track



With the recent death of our steam fitter, work on the restoration of NG 15 No. 119 had come to a stop until a replacement fitter was found. This has happened with the appointment of Rolf van Wyngaardt who will commence duties on 1st February. Rolf having previously worked for the Alfred County Railway and Rovos Rail is well qualified for the job.
As previously reported the steam tubes for the Kalahari that were sent to the Transnet workshops in Voorbaai for swaging, have been collected and the private company that has been appointed to do all the boiler work is very busy at it.
A surprise was in store for our recently appointed Operations Co-ordinator, Willem Ferreira during a rolling stock inspection with Peter Burton. A set of new boiler tubes was found “hiding” away in a B bogie. Many years ago a set of tubes was obtained through a deal with another preservation group for fitment to Garratt NG 11 No.54. For one reason or other it could never be established what had happened to the tubes. It seems that maybe the tubes have finally been found. Further inspection of the tubes will reveal if they are meant for No.54.
On the subject of Garratt 54, it seems that restoration work on this loco could begin sooner than expected. A resident from Cape Town who is moving to Port Elizabeth has shown keen interest in restoring the Hunslet Diesel loco standing at the Humewood Road steam depot. But because it has unfortunately been badly vandalised, the gentleman was persuaded to rather put his efforts and finance into the NG 11 Garratt. Confirmation of his decision is eagerly awaited.


In the meantime our expert coach builder has been very busy repairing and restoring various passenger coaches in our fleet. Clive Nel (known to us as Cliffie) has not been well lately but presses on regardless. He is presently restoring coach 59 known as a Victorian Coach. It was in a terrible condition after having been used in the Langkloof to commute workers to the farms.
During a recent inspection of wagons lying around at the loco depots, two very strange flat wagons were found. They had no markings or visible numbers except for part of a number and a date – 1903. This discovery was mentioned to David Payling in the UK who has done extensive research on the narrow gauge lines of South Africa and South West Africa. According to him these wagons could have been built for the Swakop to Karibib – Windhoek line and then moved to the Otavi line. After its conversion to Cape Gauge the wagons, like most of the Apple Express stock, was sent on to Port Elizabeth. These flats are short have no couplers and a centre buffer. It appears that they were coupled with two chains on either side of the chassis. What is more, they do not have a braking system.


With the restructuring of the Apple Express Company we welcome the following new appointments to the firm.
Willem Ferreira – Operations Co-0rdinator and Train Manager. Willem has already taken a lot of pressure off the volunteers like Fred, Lesley and Peter. His presence around the depot has already made a big difference.
Willie Schaap – Carriage and Wagon inspector (undercarriage maintenance).
Peter Muller – Train Manager
Rolf Van Wyngaardt – Steam Fitter
Coach Controllers – Andrew Drake
(Volunteers) - Theo Drinkwater, Michelle Hendricks and Owen Tarr
Welcome everyone, nice to have you on board. With your dedication the Apple Express can only move forward. It is a pleasure to see the younger generation getting involved in the train. We are sill looking for a trainee steam fitter and coach builder.


The disgraceful condition of the Humewood Road Station due to extreme vandalism has not been a pretty sight for the holiday visitors. One small mercy was that the ticket office building did get a fresh coat of paint just before the summer season started. Also the two small rusted sign boards on either side of the station building were replaced but a lot more work has to be done to make the place more presentable. At least one of the wrecked toilets will have to be rebuilt from the ground up. Work on this will begin once an extra strong security gate has been fitted to the entrance. At this stage it has not been decided whether to lay on new electric cables to the ticket office or not. Its dark interior has been the subject of many sarcastic comments by passengers whilst buying their tickets. Maybe it would be more authentic if some sort of period style portable paraffin or gas lamps could be used to lighten the interior. These would have to be removed by the staff on the departure of the train.
Also looking a bit drab is the weather beaten station name board. Made from wood it is amazing how long it has withstood the ravages of the sea air. Once all these basic items have been attended to, the station should once again be a presentable place from which passengers can start their journey.
A final decision on the future of Humewood Road will depend on the authorities.
In the meantime Lesley Lowe has attended a number of meetings with consultants who were appointed to prepare a Rail Tourism Plan for the Eastern Cape.

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