South Africa. September 2005

A "Tour de Force" on the world's longest 2ft narrow gauge railway

In September 2005 the Sandstone Heritage Trust and Apple Express operated a steam train tour from Port Elizabeth to Avontuur.
The tour was called the Avontuur Adventurer

As a prelude to the main tour,
an optional pre-tour was organised that included the remaining working 2 foot gauge railways in South

Geoff Cooke was involved as the overseas booking agent and consultant for the Avontuur Adventurer, and as host for the pre-tour
option. It was a privilege to have been associated with this important tour and he wishes Sandstone and the Apple Express many
more successes in the future.
This report and
photographs are
Copyright to Geoff
The Locomotive

The class NG15 2-8-2 locomotives
were originally built for the 2ft gauge
lines in South West Africa (Namibia),
hence their nickname of "Kalahari". A
total of 21 were built between 1931
and 1958. When the lines were
converted to Cape Gauge in 1961 the
NG15s were transferred to Port

Number 17 was built by Henschel in
Germany in 1931 as the first of the
class. Transferred to Port Elizabeth, it
remained in service until the
mid-1980's. As the first in the class it
was earmarked for preservation and
for many years quietly dissappeared
into the undergrowth at Springs
locomotive depot.

Rescued by Sandstone Heritage Trust
in the late 1990's, number 17 was
restored by Lucas Nel and his team.
It was moved to the Sandstone Steam
Railroad where it has been the star
attraction on many open days.

Number 17 was moved by road to
Port Elizabeth for this tour.

The Line

At 285 kilometres this is the longest
2ft gauge railway in the world.
Constructed between 1899 and 1906,
it was built to connect the Langkloof
fruit growing industry with the port
at Port Elizabeth.

Traffic was general freight, fruit in
season and passengers.

Scheduled passenger trains were
discontinued in the 1940s although
limited accommodation was offered
on freight workings until the

Known as the Adventure Line, it is
home to the highest narrow gauge
railway bridge in the World at Van
Staaden's Gorge.

Best known for its tourist train, the
Apple Express, which has operated
since 1965 between Port Elizabeth
and Laurie, and more recently as far
as Thornhill or Van Stadens.

As a line scheduled as "low density"
by Spoornet, it has always had the
threat of closure hanging over it. The
Avontuur Adventurer was part of a
process to secure the line for years to
come both economically and as  a
tourist attraction.

The Avontuur
Adventurer Tour

For the pre-tour report,
click here

September 6th

The first day of the Avontuur
Adventurer saw an Apple Express
NGG16 # 131 working the train from
Humewood Road to Chelsea and

This was followed by a visit to Port
Elizabeth's new harbour
development, and an evening game

September 7th

Number 17 performed well on the
110 kilometre run from Humewood
Road to Patensie.

This included a runpast over the
famous Van Staadens Bridge.

September 8th

Today we steamed from Patensie to
Assegaaibos. The scenery down the
Gamtoos River valley was
outstanding, as was the view of the
Indian Ocean as the train passed
Jeffreys Bay.

September 9th

The last part of the journey was from
Assegaaibos to Avontuur, a distance
of 120 kilometres.

Arrival at Avontuur was somewhat
late, and after dark. This resulted
from an extended civic lunch and a
few difficulties with water columns.

However, # 17 arrived in fine fettle,
having performed perfectly on all
three days. The locomotive, train and
tour were all a credit to the
NGG16 storms through the suburbs of Port Elizabeth
on September 6th
A game drive and bush dinner was included on the
evening of September 6th
September 7th saw NG15 # 17 leaving Humewood
Road at the start of her epic journey
Leaving Port Elizabeth behind, the train climbed
steadily through the surrounding farmlands
Crossing Van Staadens Bridge
The local school turned out to watch the departure
from Patensie. The first steam locomotive some of
them had seen
Running down the Gamtoos River Valley
Running down the Gamtoos River Valley
After the morning service stop, the train crossed the
Gamtoos River and continued to Assegaaibos
A class 91 Diesel Electric at Assegaaibos.
Waiting to take the train back to Humewood Road
In the Langkloof
Leaving Assegaaibos
Leaving Joubertina, lunch stop on September 9th
Arriving at Heights
All photographs
copyright: Geoff
Running late into the sunset
Avontuur at last
Geoffs trains tours