Note that all photographs on these pages are Copyright © Trevor Staats 2002 and may only be used for personal viewing. They may not be used for any other purpose without my express permission.
Union Limited Hantam II Photos and Report
Apple Express: Loerie to Assegaaibos – 3rd August 2002
|Warwick Falconer and I drove down overnight from Johannesburg to
PE, stopping there for petrol before heading on to Loerie. On
arrival there (around 5:00am) we were very happy to find NGG16 131
simmering under the column with a mixed train waiting at the
platform. Other gricers from Johannesburg had also made the trip a
couple of days previously to ride the train from PE up to Loerie.
I took a few night shots and we then caught a couple of hours’ sleep in the car before the train was due to depart. At around 8:00 breakfast was being served, cooked outside the “Apple Tavern” coach on the train – delicious! Whilst chatting to the Apple Express Society people there I found out that this was likely to be the penultimate steam run on this line, as Spoornet intend to shut down the AES operations after the Great Train Race on August 31st. We made a quick visit to the Loerie Bottle Store for refreshments before heading back to the station. The lady there said that the Train Race weekend was one of their trading highlights of the year, so we advised her to stock up on more Savanna as we had purchased the last three bottles…
The water tanks were topped off and the loco backed onto the train, the sun still shining nicely by this stage. Of course by the time the Hantam passengers arrived a little later the cloud had moved in… A run past in the station was organized before everyone climbed aboard. The first runpast was near Melon, which luckily took place in sun. A nice reflection shot was had on the nearby bridge afterwards, and I think more runpasts were done near the junction at Gamtoos, perhaps on the Gamtoos river bridge.
We waited a little further up near Mondplaas on a nice curve that was a fair walk from the car. The little Garratt duly arrived, hauling the mixed train which consisted of two water tanks (one black, one oxide), a clinker cream van, an NGB, an NGDZ and 6 passenger coaches. 131 certainly didn’t mess about on the climb and seemed to walk away with the load, around the curves through Mondplaas and beyond.
The weather was most strange, alternately sun, then pouring rain, then sun again! Near Jeffrey’s Bay another runpast was held, while we sought shelter of the local bottle store and stocked up on more Savanna! When the train arrived at our chosen spot the weather was in the “rain” cycle, but a few other grab shots en route to Humansdorp were very nice.
A service stop at Humansdorp, and it seems like there is a reasonable amount of traffic to and from this station. Timber wagons were being loaded on the sidings, and a container wagon was at the goods shed. After fire cleaning and watering, they set off again and we waited at a lovely curve near Kruisfontein. The train arrived in sun but the cloud came back in for the runpast, and cleared halfway through! The line crosses under the N2 before descending to the river at Howley. We tried a looong shot from the R62 down over Howley, but the rain and cold made this less than pleasant. It can’t have been much better for the poor passengers who got out for the runpast… We met up with Peter from the UK who was also linesiding, and would be staying on for the RTC trip later in August.
By the time the train arrived at the R62 underpass near Salilaagte a few kilometres further along, we were ready to bail out and head for somewhere warm and dry… The thick black smoke and great sound of the hardworking NGG16 encouraged us to stay on, and the sun beaming through the cloud a little further on convinced us! At Essenbos and near Majoorskraal we got lovely shots, with rainbows in them as well! A final shot of the train passing under the road just near Assegaaibos, then we drove into the station for a look.
Assegaaibos is a lovely station. Well kept and maintained, with the steam shed, pits, coal stage and columns there as though steam had never stopped! Class 91 diesels 91-002. 91-003 and 91-017 were in attendance.
The Hantam passengers boarded a cold bus for the trek back to PE and the luxury of the Union Limited train, and the remaining local passengers prepared themselves for a party. We drove on to Uniondale to stay for the night. We lodged at the Townhouse Guesthouse, which was lovely, as was the food at the restaurant next door.
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