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Sandstone Estates Steam Trains

An unfortunate turn of events, a passion for steam and a great sense of history have turned one estate into the largest private collection of narrow-gauge steam locomotives in the world. One of South Africas greatest privately owned heritage assets is the Sandstone Estates steam train collection near Ficksburg in the Eastern Free State.

It all began when the Midmar Museum which was a joint venture between the Kwa-Zulu Natal Parks Department and the Heritage section of the National Railways was dissolved by mutual agreement in 1997 and a selection of Narrow Gauge assets and the railway line came on the market. This event would give new direction to the Sandstone Heritage program. These assets were put up for auction which Sandstone put in a bid for and being the successful bidder Sandstone was suddenly the owner of enough components to create a small Narrow Gauge railway. It was decided to lay some track and to bring one of the NGG16 Garratts back into steam.

Now as you are driving on the R26 along South Africas border with Lesotho, look east and you will see the magnificent Maluti Mountains catching the morning sunlight. But more than this, you might catch a glimpse of a narrow-gauge steam locomotive chugging past in the distance, twin plumes of black smoke and white-coloured steam trailing in the air. And if he sees you, the driver might just toot in greeting.

South Africa was once a world leader in steam and Sandstone Estates wants to re-establish it as the Number 1 steam railway destination in the world. They are an integral part of the Steam In Action movement to preserve and rehabilitate many of the great old locomotives that once ran all over the country. The other two big players in South African steam preservation are Reef Steamers and Friends of the Rail.

Sandstone Estates understands the tourism value of this nostalgic form of rail travel, and as such they have built up a faithful following of overseas steam train enthusiasts who come out to South Africa to attend the various functions laid on throughout the year. But there is also great local support for the trains and every November at the Ficksburg Cherry Festival, Sandstone Estates gets involved and offers a daily schedule of steam runs for visitors. They then get the chance to poke around the many sheds at Sandstone and marvel at the wide range of preserved farm machinery, classic cars and military vehicles on show.

Its events like the Ficksburg Cherry Festival and the Narrow Gauge Steam Gala that bring world-class train photographers, steam clubs and true trainspotters from all over the world to Sandstone Estates.

Sandstone Estates, by way of clarification, state that they are not a museum; they are simply a private collection of Heritage items on a commercial farm and the staff do their best to keep everything in tip-top condition and to show visitors around as appropriate.

For more information, please contact:
Marisa Viljoen at Sandstone Estates

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