|THE Apple Express may
already be a narrow-gauge relic from the age of steam, but it is
still pulling its weight as the country's oddest tourist attraction
Hundreds of steam locomotive enthusiasts flock to Port Elizabeth each year to re-live the steam age and to take a one-day excursion 70km up the line through some of the Eastern Cape Province's most picturesque scenery. You pass through stations
|with such descriptive
names as Bog Farm, Thornhill and Kwaaibrand (Bad Fire), and cross
the world's highest narrow-gauge bridge.
Beyond Loerie lies the rich citrus valley of Hankey, and the apple orchards, whence the train derives its name.
The line was born out of the then Cape Colony's poverty. The standard gauge would have been too expensive, so Parliament agreed to the building of
(two feet) narrow-gauge.
During the week trains run daily, transporting fruit and vegetables to Port Elizabeth, but the weekends are reserved for the enthusiasts of steam.
And it is really the old "Puffing Billy" hauling its quaint, but spick and-span little carriages that they want to see. '
Like children with a new toy, they swarm over the engine and train, and the Railways' staff enter into the spirit of the occasion.