Narrow Gauge Railways in South Africa is also on the endangered list. I’m only aware of Three Narrow Gauge Railway lines still in operation in South Africa. If I’m wrong, please correct me.

The Paton Mini Express in Ixopo occasionally runs a 2ft Gauge tourist Steam Train between Ixopo and Carisbrooke. The train itself is a bit dilapidated but the ride is fun. Julian informed me that they have laid the track about 3Km beyond Ncalu Siding but at the time the train still only travelled to Carrisbrooke. If you are in the area don’t miss it, it's fun. I asked Julian several times for a timetable but didn't even get a response. It is very difficult to get information on when, or if, the train is still running and I gave up trying to ride on it again. As far as I can establish the train ran occasionally up to 2018 using a diesel locomotive that takes all the fun out of the train ride. Their website is hopelessly outdated and they don't respond to e-mails. Have a look at this website about narrow gauge in Natal.   https://ondermynende.wordpress.com/2013/09/21/narrow-gauge-railways-of-kwazulu-natal/

Sandstone in the Freestate also has a 26km narrow gauge track. They have a collection of 2Ft gauge steam loco's and every two years they have an public open day running several 2ft Loco's. Its worth while the travel there to see the old locos in action.

The only "working” narrow gauge line in South Africa is the 2Ft 6" line at the Umfolozi Sugar Mill near Richardsbay. As far as I know, no other sugar cane railway survived.

The 2Ft Narrow Gauge Apple Express in PE stopped operating in 2011 after the track was damaged but thanks to the volunteers it started running again in 2107 for a while on a short piece of track up to a point near the Airport.

The Port Shepstone Harding line, once owned by the  Alfred County Railway that carried the famous Banana Express is also no longer operational. However in 2014 the Clarson family managed to get some of the track restored and started running a 2ft narrow gauge train using a small diesel loco between Classens Siding at Paddock and Plains, calling it the "Hamba Wehilie". The service is aimed at tourists and bookings can be made at the Gorgez View Restaurant. Hopefully one day someone will do something similar running from Port Shepstone using a small steam loco.

 Can anyone remember the 18" gauge railway that ran in Kimberly at the mine? The Bagnall Locos are on display at the mine museum in Kimberly. For more information go to:    http://steam-locomotives-south-africa.blogspot.com/search/label/*%20Kimberly%20-%20Mine%20Museum

Who knows what happened to the little 2 Ft gauge loco and train that ran at Bon Accord dam? The railway was built with 20Lb track and in 1922 a small second hand loco was purchased for the construction of the dam. After completion of the dam in 1925 the loco and was used to give rides to the public  The original coco-pan type wagons were modified and used as carriages for the passengers.

During the construction of Hartebeespoort Dam a 2"Ft gauge Railway line was built from Brits West Railway siding to the dam. It was in use between 1918 and 1925. What happened to the two 2Ft Gauge Wren class locos that the war department lent to the department of Waterworks for this project?  It was common practice during the first half of the previous century to build narrow gauge Railway lines when constructing large projects like dam walls, for example the 2ft lines at Hartebeespoort Dam, Bon accord dam, Lake Mentz and Midmar Dams. Even during the construction of the reservoir on top of Table Mountain a 2Ft 6 inch gauge 0-4-0T Andrew Barclay loco was used.  As this was non permanent lines they were not all documented and therefore soon forgotten. The loco's were often borrowed by the department of water works from the war department.

During 1897 a 2ft gauge light railway was built at the top of Table mountain for the construction of the reservoir on Table Mountain. The locomotive was dismantled and hoisted to the top via a cable way that was constructed from Victoria Road above Camp Bay to Kasteelspoort over 660 meters above. The steam locomotive, named Steward, is still on display at the waterworks museum on Table Mountain in Capetown. Unfortunately the steam driven crane is left rusting away outside in the elements on the mountain. 

The little 2Ft gauge loco that's currently plinthed in the children's play area in Centenary Park, Bulawayo was one of two derelict type F4 Lawley locos recovered from the Igusi Sawmills in 1961. They were unused since 1955. I think it was first used on the 2Ft Beira line and later sold to South African Railways and then later sold again to the owners of  “Zambesi Teak” (now Igusi Sawmills). If anyone has photos or more information , please let us know

In July 1983 the mayor of Uitenhage, Mr. N Claassen officially opened a 2FT narrow gauge oval steam railway at the Willow Dam. The locomotive was named "Little Bess" and coaches built by the round table with the purpose of giving rides to the public. Little Bess, a 0-4-0 ST Kerr Stuart loco, was the locomotive used for the construction of Lake Mentz Dam on the Sundays River between 1919 and 1922. After the dam was completed she was abandoned and then fell into disrepair until 1974 when she was acquired by the LIONS CLUB of PE and restored. During 1983 she was moved to  a 300 Meter oval track at the Willow Dam in Uitenhage.  Les Joubert and Aubry Marals was the people responsible for operating and maintaining the little train.  The little train must have been out of service for a while as the Burger newspaper of 10 October 1994 reported she has been repaired again after being non functional for a while and will resume her duties to give rides to the public on specified days. The service stopped in the late 90's and due to vandalism some parts was stolen. Mr Roy Mitchell again started restoring her. He he sadly died in 2003. Little Bess was then acquired on loan by the 2Ft Preservation trust and sent to Sandstone Estates where she was once again refurbished and can be seen in action during the Stars of Sandstone Festival open days.

October 2013 was a sad day for narrow gauge rail in South Africa as Three of the Diesel loco's from the old Apple express was put up for sale in a newspaper. That is the end of the Apple express diesel locos. Luckily one survived and is kept at Sandston Estates.

                                                  For more interesting information on Narrow Gauge in South Africa visit this website 



                                                             Even Ronny Biggs liked Miniature Trains. ....as well as large ones to rob

                                 Here is a photo of him on a mini loco whilst in hiding from the UK police for the great UK train Robbery in 1963

                                               Some news regarding some forgotten Railway Lines in Benoni 

Thanks to Mr. Keith Gardiner I finally found out more about the railway lines that ran past CR Swart Park, Morehill, Rynfield and through the Bunny Park parking lot in Benoni. The Witbank / Dayveton line crossed where the N12 is now into Morehill and then ran where Landau Avenue and Libra Ave is now and then in between Nova and Aquarious  avenue then back over where the freeway is joining up with the van Rijn Line. Thats why the Landau Road is in the shape of a curve. It was known as the"Morehill loop".  The loop was removed in the 50's to shorten the line by one and a quarter mile between Northmead and Cloverdene stations for the electrification of the line to provide a passenger service. 

The piece of railway line that crossed Pretoria road near the Davidson Rd. intersection in Benoni up to the 60’s or 70's was the remainder of a Van Rijn line that ran from Northmead, near the Mall in 5th Avenue, up Barbara Rd, then Howe Street, crossing Pretoria Rd near Davidson St, then up Struben St, and Hill Rd to the brickworks where the Bulfrog dam is now.  It also connected to the main Benoni Witbank line. In the 50's the piece of railway line left in the tarmac in Pretoria rd  was often used by motorcycle riders, especially the Rothman brothers as a starting point for their unofficial motorcycle street drag races down Pretoria Rd until the traffic department discovered that the brothers "shared" one learners licence between them and put a stop to their racing for a while. The cost of a motorcycle Learners license was a full 50 Cents at the time. 

 The Loco, named Old Ben, that is now plinthed  in front of the Benoni Museum was originally plinthed in CR Swart  Park next to Van Rooyen street.  Some reports indicates that it was at first plinthed deeper into the park, closer to Landau st. ( perhaps on a piece of the original Morehill loop line) It was the loco used to pull the coal train from the Range view siding near Witbank to the Van Rijn mine power station that was located near the dam close where Pioneer rd is now . 


I'm aware of only Three "Tramways" operating in Southern Africa. They are all tourist orientated and is of normal "Cape Railway gauge" instead of the traditional tram gauge of 4' 8 1/2" once used  by Tram operators in South Africa. It seems they all operate on old abandoned SAR railway lines.

In Kimberly there is a Tram operating from the Big hole museum but don't bargain on seeing it in operation. It seems to be out of order more often than running. After more than seven visits to Kimberley I was lucky to catch in operation late in 2017. It no longer operates around the Big Hole and through town, but instead it runs for a short trip along the outside perimeter of the Big Hole Museum and back. The Tram itself is electrically driven and is popular with tourists (whenever it runs) but the local municipality responsible for operating and maintaining  it is useless and should get their act together. The tram is almost always "out of order" and obtaining information about it is not easy. If they are not capable of running it, hand it over to the private sector, I'm sure they can do it better. Cant the tourist board help?

Franschoek Wine Trams runs through the Franschoek Valley stopping off at several wine estates. There are several different colour coded tram routes to choose from. The tram routes are complimented by a Wine tour bus service where rail is not available. One type of the Tram is a single Decker diesel powered, similar in design to the open-sided "Brill Trams" of the late 19'th century.  It seats 32 passengers on eight benches, with six of the benches having flip-over, tram-style seat-backs that allow passengers to enjoy the view in both directions. There is also Double Decker type Trams, but I have no further information about those Trams. 

 The Victoria Falls Tram with its Bridge Tour is a remarkable historic journey aboard the 19th century style tram onto the 108 year old Victoria Falls Bridge, a man-made masterpiece suspended 111 metres above the Zambezi River which straddles the line dividing Zimbabwe and Zambia. The morning and sunset options begin with a stroll down the red carpet path which links the iconic Victoria Falls Hotel to the train platform. The vintage tram gently meanders through the vibrant town of Victoria Falls, loops through classic African bush often habituated by wildlife and past the Victoria Falls Rainforest until its final destination right in the middle of the Bridge. Once on the Bridge passengers will be treated to a theatrical performance packed with humour, drama and plenty of facts about the construction of this extraordinary feat of Victorian engineering. Morning tours will include an informative guided walk under Bridge while the sunset option ends the day with a glass of chilled Champagne as you watch the sun sink amidst the spray and rainbows of the Batoka Gorge. A fine journey into the adventure and romance of a bygone age.


This is my view of how to throw the last lifeline to the Tourist steam trains we used to have in towns like PE, Knysna and Port Shepstone.

Ive seen the same thing on almost all the steam train trips i've gone on, The operators like F.O.T.R, Reefsteamers, Umgeni and Atlantic Rail all think big, big Loco’s with 10 or 11 coaches full of passengers and two or three hour train rides. That is nice, but most of the people I’ve met and spoken to do not need those long expensive trips with large 15F locos where you have to book days in advance to enjoy a steam train ride. They mostly go to see the train and is happy with a photo session and a short ride, especially if they have children. The children as well as most adults get bored if the trip last longer than about 20 or 30 minutes. My opinion on rescuing some of the heritage train rides and lines is to change the whole concept and offer short inexpensive trips using small locos like Mine / colliery type  locos or Shunters that is cheap to maintain and run.

In the immediate future, replace the Outaniqua Tjoe tjoo idea and rather run short trips, say 10 Km, or so up the line and back using smaller wood burning locos that’s cheaper to operate and maintain. Lease a loco if necessary. This can then offer frequent and affordable rides to the public and will also halt the deterioration and hopefully theft of the track that now seems to be abandoned. This also provides opportunities to run several similar smaller trains from more of the coastal towns along that line, like Plettenbeg bay, Sedfield , George, Hartenbos, Mossel Bay etc. Other popular towns like Saldana bay on the west coast or Port Alfred and even Port Shepstone on the Natal South Coast can do a similar thing utilising the unused or underused old railway lines. Imagine a 2ft Steam train between Port Shepstone and Shelly Beach or even between Shelly Beach and Izotsha using a small sugar cane loco that's cheap to run. In addition to Atlantic rail in Cape Town, what if someone can run a small steam train between Milnerton and Atlantis on weekends or even between Paarden Island and Milnerton, or from Strand up to Sir Lowry's pass. In the Low veld, what about between Graskop and Sabie or White River and Nelspruit even just half way to rocky Drift will do....or maybe a short return trip on the old  Barberton line? A steam train will draw loads of tourists. What about one near or inside Kruger Park? Part of the old Selati track can be restored. There is a market for short steam train rides out there. This can clearly be seen at the miniature steamers clubs. They sometimes handle over a thousand steam train rides on a single Sunday. These clubs are not commercially orientated and don’t even market the train rides, yet they have such a huge demand for steam train rides. Get the Model engineering clubs involved, If they can run and maintain miniature locos, they can do it with bigger locos as well. These enterprising techniques can be implemented by the private sector or non profit organisations and even local Municipalities. It can also create job opportunities for local people. What about re-building part of the old 2ft Umlaas Road / Midlands track to the old Tala Railway Station near the Tala reserve...The old track bed and bridge is still there. The same can be done for the old Escourt to Weenen line that ran through the Weenen  game reserve. This will be a big attraction for tourists. Use a Diesel loco in the dry season to prevent veldt fires. Steam loco's can also be modified to run on LPG gas.

Is there any progress with HASRA running the planned steam train between the old Hilton Station & Howick? I know they had a loco in running condition, but I suspect red tape from the authorities is busy sinking the project. I visited HASRA at the Old Hilton Station in 2016 and it looked like there isn't too much hope for getting anything going there soon. There were squatters and vagrants living in some of the couches and the locos was stripped of anything valuable. Forget about running to Hilton for now. Crossing the Joburg Durban main line will be a problem. To start off run  short steam return trips with open carriages on the unused 5 Km line between Hilton and Cedara. Disconnect the line from the main line at Cedara Station if necessary. Run the train in reverse back from Cedara to Hilton to save time or if the side line is not available or too short to  shunt the loco round to the front. This is what the Apple Express is doing currently. Maybe one day the entire line to Howick can be utilized if the obstacle of joining the main line at Cedara can be overcome. In Europe the heritage trains join and cross main lines, although it is a different type of authorities they deal with, it can be done here. These short 5Km trips makes steam train rides more affordable  to the general public and can help to raise funds and keep the project alive and preserve the infrastructure. Long trip are in any case boring, especially for children. Where is the Maritzburg & Hilton business community, local municipalities and tourism  board??? Why don't they help? What about running a miniature steam train for a few hundred meters in the southern direction where the old railway line was /is. This will at least keep the project and idea alive and help with fundraising.

I don't know if a 10 to 15Km piece of track can be re-built at Hartebeespoort dam, Im sure a short open coach sight seeing steam train ride will prove popular, once again a 5 to 10Km ride is long enough. What about a short trip from Magaliesburg past lovers rock to Elberta and back. Leave the long trips for F.O.T.R or Reefsteamers. Downscale on gauge if necessary.

Regarding the revival of the old 2ft Apple Express train. I agree it more practical to run a small train, more often, from Kings Beach through Humewood Station to Baywest Mall and an occasionally trip up to the van Stadens River bridge and back. This will create another opportunity to run a similar train, using small locos from Thorn Hill or any other venue along the line. Jeffery’s bay can then also do something similar even if it means to re-build some track. I’m sure the local municipalities and Tourist departments can get involved if the private sector need assistance with leasing the land from Transnet or provide alternative land to lay a track or create a turn round point. I also think it may not be too late to re institute steam on the south coast of Natal, a tourist train somewhere between Pennington and Port Shepstone will only be something to dream of. I don’t know what the state of the 2Ft line south of Port Shepstone is like. Maybe it is not impossible to re-lay a 10 km section of track on the existing bed like the PCNR guys did in Ixopo. Once again run a small sugar cane loco on weekends. If PCNR could do it, someone else can. If you cant get hold of a steam locomotive run a diesel shunter or even a "TRAM" to preserve old unused railway lines.

There is currently a 2ft Diesel train called the Humba Weheli Express that occasionally runs the 20Km trip from the Gorgez View Restaurant near Paddock  to Harding station using part of the old Banana Express line.  The train belongs to a Mr. Classens and the cost per trip is about R100 PP but booking is essential. See this website for more details   http://southernexplorer.co.za/place/gorgez-view-restaurant-functions/   Maybe they should team up with Julian from the "Paton Express" and use his sugarcane loco in holiday season. Steam will draw more people than diesel.








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