Port Elizabeth to Avontuur Narrow Gauge Line
Link to Photos from the Port Elizabeth to Avontuur Line
PE to Avontuur Map - Bruno Martin
Gif (211kbs) PDF (144kbs)
1944 Port Elizabeth - Humansdorp - Avontuur - Patensie Time Table - Bruno Martin
Although the toot-toot of the Narrow Gauge trains, not far from where we once stayed, used to normally send the kids and I rushing outside and to the corner to watch it go past, I was never really that interested in them, it was a wonderful sight to see, but then so was an old V8. However in recent years V8's became less of a sight to look at and more of an actual hobby, and since I got involved with the satransport group and now the SAT site, I have found that my interest in trains, specially the Narrow Gauge ones has increased, spurred on by Marcus in Wales who wanted me to take pictures of NG wagons, which resulted in me spending quite a bit of time at both the Humewood Road Station and the Humewood Diesel Depot taking photo's of everything that had a NG written on it.
The friendly and helpful folks working at both the places was a definite plus as well. Having met Bob and Gilbert [sar-list and satransport list] at a car show and listening to how enthusiastic and knowledgeable they are about the trains, and meeting Bob down at the depot to take photo's made me even more interested in finding out all about them.
The PE - Avontuur NG Line
The story of the narrow gauge line began in 1894 at a special general meeting of the Port Elizabeth Chamber of Commerce. The proposal was made to build a narrow gauge line from PE through the Langkloof to Avontuur. Mr J C Mackay, a long time advocate of light railways in areas that were not transversed by the main railways was invited to speak at this meeting. His book "Light Railways" was published two years later. The lively meeting ended with the Chamber authorising its committee to promote, forward and agitate if necessary for the scheme submitted to them by Mr J C Mackay. The Chamber made strong representations over the next few years on the necessity for this line to the Government, but it was not until 1898 when a petition, with 400 signatures was sent to Parliament, that plans were set in motion for the laying of the line. Government Act No. 40 of 1899 saw the beginning of the building of the small railway. The Parliament allocated the amount of £445 000 for the laying of a line from "a place in or near Port Elizabeth " to "a place by or near Avontuur".
In May 1902 the groundwork began, and by the end of that year there were 3 'sytenklokomotiewe' [side tank locomotives?] available to transport - after completion of each stage - goods at owners risk in wagons that were coupled up to the 'engineers department' trains. When they actually ran that is.
During December 1903 the line was open up to Gedultzrivier [Geduldrivier] and passengers were now conveyed, although this was limited to inspection tours on Saturdays and Sundays. The progress of the line was as follows:-
1st March 1906 - Two Streams
15th June 1906 - Assegaaibosch [Assegaaibos]
3rd September 1906 - Heights
1st October1906 - Krakeel [Krakeelrivier]
1st December 1906 - Misgund.
The big moment was on the 1st January 1907 when the final stage of the line was reached, Avontuur.
On a normal freight run the train [GE 91 diesel electric] would travel past Loerie to a small junction, where one line branches off north to Patensie [mostly produce] and the other line carries on west, over the Gamtoos River, through Humansdorp and on to the Langkloof. After loading up at Avontuur it would return back to PE. In the days of steam the train would stop at Humansdorp to fill up with water, I believe the water tower has since 'disappeared'. The freight train runs weekly, how often per week depends on demand, it carries all sorts of freight, obviously produce of various sorts, and also general freight, I remember years back working for a company that use to regularly rail machinery up to Kareedouw, I gather this machinery would have gone up on the NG.
[Information on the Narrow Gauge line taken from a SAR Apple Express Booklet and a book about commerce in Port Elizabeth]
Other snippets that I have gleamed from different sources, the PE to Avontuur line is the longest remaining narrow gauge line in South Africa, the only other narrow gauge line is in KwaZulu Natal, from Port Shepstone to Harding and is 122kms long.
On a recent trip [Oct 04] up to Natal we drove alongside the KZN NG line, it looks like it is a beautiful route, the line winds around mountains through fantastic scenery - we would have loved to have stopped and tried to find the little stations and maybe get some pictures, but after a good few hours driving through the former Transkei in heavy mist, a carload of irritable kids, and a general feeling of "when are we going to get there" we decided it would not be a pleasant experience. A good thing we did not stop as it later turned out, the clutch packed up as we got into Pinetown, the Good Lord was looking after us, as it packed up within metres of a workshop. Just once I would like to take a trip without something packing up on a car.
Class NG 15 [Kalahari F] steam engines that are currently in PE although no longer running are No's 117, 119, 124, 132, 144, 145 and 148.
Garratts that are currently in PE are NGG11 No 54, NGG13 No 79, NGG16 No 131and NGG16 No 154.
#131 is the only one running.
More information and photos on the Apple Express Pages