OFFICIAL NEWSLETTER OF THE PORT ELIZABETH APPLE EXPRESS
Postnet Suite 124, Private Bag 13130, Humewood, Port
|R10 MILLION FOR THE NARROW GAUGE
After many years of uncertainty it now appears that
Government has recognised the importance of the
Langkloof narrow gauge line as a tourist attraction.
The Department of Transport has committed itself to an
amount of R10million for the upgrade of the line and
selected Stations. This is indeed good news for the
Apple Express, that has for many years teetered on the
brink of extinction. At a recent feed back meeting a
feasibility study of the line and business plan entitled
“Taking the Apple Express to 2010 and Beyond” was
presented to the representatives of the Department of
Transport and the four Municipalities through which the
railway line runs.
The R62 Langkloof Tourism Association is the driving
force behind the establishment of a regular tourist
passenger train service in the Langkloof. It envisages
four trains running simultaneously on the Langkloof
The Apple Express would operate a steam hauled service
between Port Elizabeth and Humansdorp, including the
branch line to Patensie. Other trains in the Langkloof
would be hauled by diesel locomotives until restored
steam locos become available for steam safaris.
Because of the scale of the operation the Apple Express
Company as it now stands will have to be restructured
from being a virtual volunteer run organisation to a
more professional one. Funding to achieve this has been
included in the budget. Volunteers, though, will still
play an important role as at present.
Once funding has been obtained the plan is to accelerate
restoration of passenger wagons and locomotives to bring
enough rolling stock into service to initially have at
least two train sets operating by mid 2008. Thus the
importance of employing more skilled coach builders and
steam locomotive personel.
It all sounds very exciting and after so many past
disappointments, let us hope that this new venture will
|END OF AN ERA
In contrast to
the above article, Spoornet have decided to demolish
nearly all of the buildings and workshops at the
Humewood Road steam depot.
This was deemed necessary because of the extreme
vandalism that is taking place. These buildings have
long been vacated by the Apple Express who have moved
workshop operations to the safer Humewood Diesel Depot.
It is sad that it has come to this but even with the
installation of armed response security equipment the
slow destruction of the area could not be prevented.
The Humewood Road station buildings will be saved as
well as the male and female toilets – although these
have also been vandalised. The buildings will be
refurbished and a much improved security system will be
put in place. At the moment the station garden and
grassed parking area is being kept in good shape by
member Fred Pennels. We are truly thankful for all his
One small plus to all this vandalism is that the AE
Company is now receiving more revenue from the
advertising board on the rail over road bridge at
Humewood. A portion of the income from the advertisement
went to pay rates and taxes on the buildings that we had
occupied at the Depot, now with our reduced occupation,
more money will come to the Company.
Recently The Transnet Heritage Foundation who own all
the narrow gauge rolling stock had an on site meeting at
the Humewood Depot to look at all the old and derelict
locomotives and workshop equipment lying around the
depot. It was decided that most of the rusting
locomotives could never be resurrected and tenders would
be called for, to cut up and dispose of all the rusting
hulks. The Apple Express was asked to mark with paint
anything that the Company thought it could make use of
in the future. Everything else in the area would be cut
up and scrapped.
Although all the required
boiler tubes for the two Kalahari locomotives No.
119 and 124 have arrived, work has come to a
temporary halt on the restoration of the locos due
to the recent sad death of our stalwart fitter and
steam enthusiast Sydney Terblanche. Sydney had been
with the Apple Express for as many years as I can
remember and his expertise in maintaining and
repairing our locomotives will be sorely missed. He
was well liked not only by the Apple Express staff
but also by the Spoornet personnel that he regularly
came in contact with. Many years ago he had a heart
by-pass operation which enabled him to return to
work on his beloved steam locomotives with renewed
vigour. Recently though he once again started to
suffer from chest pains. He nevertheless continued
to work on restoring the Kalahari No. 119 right up
until his death.
Because the boiler tubes have to be swaged which
can only be done at The Heritage Foundation steam
Sydney Terblanche (In white shirt)
shops at Voorbaai these tubes will have to be sent
to the workshops in the near future.
THE PATENSIE WANDERER
Geoff Cooke of “Geoff’s Trains” UK, booked the train
for a group of UK tourists, diesel hauled accepted,
for a two day run from Port Elizabeth to Patensie
return. Here is a report of the trip by Peter
Sunday 23rd – Two passenger coaches, the
historically original first class coach No.58 and
the “open” coach No. 99, were selected for the trip.
Making up the set were the two guards vans No. 73
and No. 78 and the ‘Apple Tavern’. The motive power
was diesel unit N.G. 91-007. The train departed
Humewood Road at 9.30am on a cloudy overcast day.
The first stop was Chelsea junction for morning tea.
It was then on to Van Stadens and included a number
of run-by’s for the benefit of the photographers
amongst the passengers. The next stop was Thornhill
Station for lunch at the Hotel.
After lunch it was on to Summit siding for a brief
stop to take in the magnificent view over what is
locally known as the East Cape’s “Valley of a
Thousand Hills”. The train then wound its way slowly
down the 12km of bends to the small town of Loerie
in the valley. Time was taken to show our guests the
first of three turntables to be found on the
Avontuur line. This one being the Cowan Sheldon
turntable built in Carlisle UK in 1883. After
inspection, it was felt that this turntable had been
adapted for this line from a possible ‘Cape Gauge’
table from another section, as it pre dated the
construction of the P.E.- Avontuur line by at least
At Gamtoos Junction, the train branched northwards
for the run up to Patensie. Here the line takes us
along the scenic section which skirts the Gamtoos
river bank passing the ‘Red Cliffs’ and on to Hankey
for afternoon tea. Just after leaving Hankey the
train was brought to a sudden stop. A mud slide lay
across the track blocking our path. It appeared that
the slide was caused by a burst water pipe high up
on the bank. It was then a matter of all available
hands at work to try and remove the mud and bush
from the track. Luckily a short while later some
locals appeared and armed with spades they managed
to clear the obstruction away in no time at all.
Clearing the mub slide.
Photo: P. Burton
It was then on to Centerton and the Lion Farm where
a number of possible photo run-by sites were noted.
We finally arrived in Patensie slightly late due to
the unforeseen mud slide. Patensie station and
surrounds is still neat and well cared for despite
there being no more citrus traffic on the line. This
year saw a brief return to fruit on the rail from
the packing shed at Patensie but it did not last
long before road transport took over once again.
On arrival our hosts for the overnight stay in
Patensie were on hand to greet the passengers.
Everyone then departed to a local restaurant for the
evening meal and then to their respective
accommodation in nearby B&B’s with the train crew
retiring to the local Hotel for the night.
The next morning saw us checking the second Cowan
Sheldon turntable, this one dated 1897. Here NG
91-007 had to be turned for the run home. Not a
difficult task as there were many willing hands to
assist while the rest of the passengers
photographically recorded the exercise.
Monday 24th – Today with a 9.00am start the
weather once again did not look good, being overcast
with the odd rain shower. The run back to Gamtoos
was uneventful. The Ganger and his staff were in
attendance to check on the mud slide at Hankey. At
Gamtoos junction we had our first refreshment stop
of the day after which we pushed back onto the
‘three part’ Gamtoos River Bridge for a run-by. It
was then on to Loerie and up the 12km
climb to Summit and through to Thornhill for lunch
at the local restaurant, the “Lazy Lizard”. More
rain fell on the run to Chelsea Junction for the
last stop before arriving back in Port Elizabeth. On
arriving back at Humewood we pushed back directly
into the Diesel Depot where we took our guests on a
tour of the Diesel Workshops where the Kahalari NG
15 No 119 and coach NG 143 are being refurbished.
|MAY 2008 TOUR
has reserved the train for a four day trip from Port
Elizabeth to Avontuur during May 2008.
The suggested schedule for the trip is as follows:-
Day 1. May 17th Port Elizabeth – Patensie
Day 2 May 18th Patensie – Assegaaibos
Day 3 May 19th Assegaaibos – Joubertina
Day 4 May 20th Joubertina – Avontuur
The up trip passengers would disembark at Avontuur
and continue on to other destinations.
Day 5 May 21st Avontuur – Assegaaibos
Day 6 May 22nd Assegaaibos – Patensie
Day 7 May 23rd Patensie – Port Elizabeth
|24 INCHES APART
only a few copies left of this popular and
informative book on the history of the narrow gauge
rail system in Southern Africa.
The cost of the book is :-
South Africa – R260.00 incl. Post and Packing
Overseas – R320.00 incl. Airmail Post and Packing
For further information contact Peter Burton email –
email@example.com or write to P.O. Box
203, Addo, 6105, South Africa.
|TWO UNUSUAL IDEAS
Overheard on a recent trip were two ideas concerning
the Apple Express that bear mentioning. The first
one was rather bizarre. The person wondered why a
diesel engine could not be fitted inside a boiler of
a steam locomotive that had had all its tubes
removed. This would solve the problem of running
steam during dry weather conditions. To the man in
the street it would still look like a steam
locomotive with moving connecting rods and all. Dry
ice for simulated steam?
The other idea is perhaps not so way out. One of the
Spoornet staff of the day asked if the AE Company
could not request from Spoornet to set aside a
diesel locomotive for the specific use of the Apple
Express. This locomotive could then be painted green
to fit in with the Apple Express colours. Maybe not
a bad idea and would probably look better, at the
head of the train, than the bright orange locos that
are used at present.
We have great
pleasure in welcoming new members Andrew Drake and
Theo Drinkrow who have joined the merry band of
helpers who work so diligently on the train giving
up so much of their time. To Peter Burton, Fred
Pennels, John Peace, Rob Lewis and Clive Fife our
grateful thanks. In addition, we are still trying to
get Clive Fife and Kobus Geyser certificated as
Train Managers. The wheels within Transnet Training
Department seem to be churning very slow these days
since the sudden death of Andre Steyn. To Fred
Pennels who has taken over the organisation of the
Tavern once again our grateful thanks.
Have you heard
of the South Western Railway Company Ltd? See the
next issue of the NG Express newsletter for more
about this now long gone 2ft gauge South African