The Port Elizabeth Apple Express - NG Express Bi-monthly Newsletter - June 2007
The Port Elizabeth
Apple Express

NG Express Newsletter


NG Express

Postnet Suite 124, Private Bag 13130, Humewood, Port Elizabeth

June 2007


The following is an extract from the “The South Western Gazette” of June 1st 1893.
The origin of the railway whistle is somewhat peculiar. In the beginning of the year 1833, the engine ‘Samson’ running on the railway between Leicester and Swanington* came into collision with a cart and horse. The cart was loaded with beetroot and eggs for the Leicester market. The engine driver could only use the horn he held in his hand as a means of warning and the consequence was the cart overturned.
The accident caused some confusion and Mr.Ashlett Bagster, the director of the railway, went the very same day to Alton Grange where George Stephenson resided to consult with him. Bagster asked whether a whistle could not be placed on the engine which would let off the steam.
Stephenson replied that the idea was a good one and worth trying. The first whistle was made by a musical instrument manufacturer and gave such good results that the Board of Directors decided to establish similar whistles on all the company engines. As the company had to pay for the horse and cart, 50 lbs of beetroot and eighty dozen broken eggs, we may say that the whistle has it’s origin in 960 broken eggs.


After this, regulations were enforced which forbade the circulation of locomotives which were not furnished with a steam whistle or as it might well be called in those days, a “steam trumpet”. Whistles as we know them now were introduced into England in 1836 and into France in 1837 on the first railway of St Germain. We are told that Mr. Fyffe, Director of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway was the first to introduce the present day whistle in 1835. The early whistles consisted of a cylindrical bell of great height with a flat bottom very like the deep sounding sirens on steam boats. Later on, the cylindrical bell was replaced by a hemispherical one with a sharp sound. The old form of whistle is sometimes to be met with on American locomotives.
*Note. Leicester and Swanington Railway opened on the 4 July 1832 and was absorbed into the Midland Railway in August 1845.
The above incident is purported to have occurred at Bagworth on the 4th May 1833 but no written evidence exists and the story must remain part of railway legend.



Since the demise of steam on the narrow gauge railway here in the Eastern Cape and the ‘take over’ by the Class 91 diesel locomotives, a number of the steam locomotives that were working on the Avontuur line have, over the years, been sold to overseas buyers. Here is a list of where they are now.  

NG 15 No. 18 1931 Texas USA Bob Boucher.
NG 15 No. 118 1938 Bennett Brook Railway, Perth, Australia.
NG 15 No. 120  1949 Welsh Highland Railway
NG 15 No. 121 1949 Peter Rampton, Surrey, UK
NG 15 No. 123  1949 Bennett Brook Railway
NG 15 No. 133 1952 Welsh Highland Railway
NG 15 No. 134 1952 Welsh Highland Railway
NG 15 No. 135 1952 Was with Exmoor Steam Railway, Devon, UK.
NG 15 No. 136 1952 Schinznacher Baumfchunbahn, Switzerland.
NG 15 No. 146 1957 Brecon Mountain Railway, Wales, UK
NGG 16 No. 50 1928 Texas, USA, Bob Boucher
NGG 16 No. 60 1928 Schinznacher Baumfchunbahn, Switzerland.
NGG 16 No. 77 1928 Brecon Mountain Railway, Wales, UK
NGG 16 No. 78 1928 (Reported sold to Hanomag and in their museum in Hanover.)
NGG 16 No. 82 1928 Peter Rampton, Surrey, UK
NGG 16 No. 87 1936 Exmoor Steam Railway??
NGG 16 No. 109 1939 Exmoor Steam Railway ??
NGG 16 No. 115 1939 Exmoor Steam Railway ??
NGG 16 No. 129 1950 Puffing Billy Railway, Australia.
NGG 16 No. 130 1950 Exmoor Steam Railway ??
NGG 16 No. 138 1958 Welsh Highland Railway.
NGG 16 No. 140 1958 Welsh Highland Railway.
NGG 16 No. 143 1958 Welsh Highland Railway.

NG 15 No. 123 Bennett Brook Railway

Although not all the above locos are operational, they will eventually be restored and be brought back into service in their respective countries.

(Report – Peter Burton)


The boiler tubes for NG 15 No. 119 have finally arrived. The two sets of tubes, one set for No.119 and another for No. 124 were recently delivered to the workshops at the Humewood Road depot.

This is the first step toward getting these two Kalahari’s back on the tracks. The tubes will in the near future be sent to the steam workshops in George to be swaged. Road trucks move fairly frequently between Humewood Diesel depot and George, so it shouldn’t be too long before work can recommence with the rebuilding of loco No.119.


Boiler Tubes


With Garratt No. 131 being out of commission, it is great to know that in the not too distant future we will be able to see steam traction, at the head of the train, once again. It looks like it will be a very long time, though, before we see the Garratt in action again.


At least we still have video available to remind us of her glory days.

(See HERE for a short video of the Garratt in action.)


Work on the coaches has come to a temporary standstill due to, Clive Nel, our coach builder’s, illness.


Being a “country train” with its day trip terminus a small village far from the bustle of city life, there is always a surprise or two awaiting the passengers at the Thornhill Station. For instance the locals, especially the little ones, are always there to welcome the train.

A welcoming committee

Then occasionally it is not only humans that are around to welcome the train but also our four legged friends wander by to say hello.

Farmyard Scene at Thornhill


During the fruit season one is sure to find the odd local trader arriving to try and tempt the tourist with their juicy wares.

Prickly pears for sale.

Then in the village itself it is not only motor cars that move down the ‘main’ street.

Goose stepping down Main Street

These are but a few of the happenings that the Apple Express passengers are bound to encounter when taking a day trip on the train.


On 17th June, Fathers Day, the train journeyed all the way to Loerie station instead of doing the shorter trip to Thornhill. The Loerie run is always enjoyable, mainly due to the magnificent views passengers have of the Loerie


valley as the train slowly meanders down the hillside toward the town. It was a wonderful sunny day and the capacity crowd of passengers; thoroughly enjoyed the day’s outing.



It is with deep regret that we report on the recent tragic death of Andre Steyn (Junior Manager – Learning and Performance, Spoornet).

Andre was one of the Apple Express’s most staunch supporters. He was always ready to assist whenever there was a problem that needed solving.

 Like all of us, he was a lover of steam and was, on many occasions, seen riding the footplate of a locomotive, the only place on the train he enjoyed being. He will be sorely missed by us all.

Rest in peace, Andre.

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