The Port Elizabeth Apple Express - NG Express Bi-monthly Newsletter - March 2008
The Port Elizabeth
Apple Express

NG Express Newsletter


NG Express

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

March 2008


At a recent Heritage Rail Association of South Africa meeting held in P.E. the Apple Express Company was instructed that all the scrap locomotives parked at the Humewood Road steam depot must be saved from the scrap merchants’ cutting torches.
The meeting was held to bring the Apple Express Company up to date on country wide thinking with regards the preservation of steam locomotives and other historical rolling stock. HRASA who have taken over the responsibility of disposing of all steam assets in the country, instructed the Apple Express Company to move all the rusting steam locomotive hulks, standing on a siding at Humewood Road, to the diesel depot. This could be a major operation as the locos have been standing in the open sea air for so long that they could probably be rusted to the tracks that they are standing on.
Not so lucky though is the steam depot buildings which are destined to be demolished within three months. This is an unfortunate decision and will probably be regretted at sometime in the future. The steam depot is situated on prime land overlooking the P.E. Harbour and is being looked at with envious eyes by property developers. This is the price of progress. An example of this can be seen across the road in Humerail. The old railway cottages there that were once used to house the steam depot staff are being demolished one by one to be replaced by modern “castles”.
At least the Humewood Road Station buildings and toilets are to be saved and will still be used by the Apple Express as its traditional starting point.


In a past issue of NG Express the question was posed about The South Western Railway Co. Ltd. Of course as most readers already know, this used to be the little 2ft railway that used to run from Knysna station in the Western Cape into the Knysna forest to retrieve cut tree logs for the ship building industry in Knysna.
The following is a brief résumé of the railway extracted from the book “Timber and Tides” by Winifred Tapson.
“…Ox-wagon transport no longer could keep pace with the speed of life and in 1904 it was abandoned in favour of a 2ft gauge railway track leading out into the forest.
This little Pouf-Pouf bore the high-sounding title of the South Western Railway Company Ltd. and earned the nickname of the Coffee Pot. It had among its directors most of the leading local industrialists and its first manager was Carl Westveldt, who completed the 22 mile track in 1907. A year later he handed over the management to another Scandinavian, H. Noreen, who in turn handed over the reins to Alex Wilson. Alex (or Alec) Wilson was to see the little Timber Express through to its end on 30 April 1949 and was credited with being not only its general manager, but also its accountant, road and track engineer, locomotive engineer, emergency driver, traffic superintendent, ticket collector, guard, maintenance and custodian staff and the man to be relied upon in all emergencies. Tom Kennett was the unforgettable engine driver who drove the first engine in 1906 and through all the years following, until old age detached him from his love. Then Tom Botha took over until Nemesis fell (in the shape of swift motor vehicles) and Tom Botha it was who had the privilege, as well as the sadness, of driving the little Coffee Pot on its last journey of all.”


Work is progressing on the rebuilding of NG 15 No. 119. All the boiler tubes except for the super heater elements have been fitted and soon a pressure test will be carried out to test for leaks. Also some weak spots on the smoke box have been repaired. The loco now needs to be moved to the steam depot where there is a pit deep enough to allow the boiler makers to do some under frame work.
An interesting observation made while watching the boiler makers fitting the tubes. Some of the tubes had been cut a few millimetres too short at the factory. To overcome this problem one man sat in the firebox side of the boiler and heated the fastened tube with a blow torch. The other person in the smoke box waited for the tube to expand and when it emerged through the boiler plate, he expertly burred the end and fastened it to the plate.

Heat expanding a boiler tube from inside the firebox

The AE Company has been plagued with the problem of securing the services of a qualified steam fitter. Over the past few months the Company has had to put up with firstly, Sandstone Estates poaching a willing candidate, then secondly another, after agreeing to begin work, declined when his current company offered him a better deal and thirdly another not liking the working conditions at the Diesel depot, also declined the position.
Finally yet another candidate has been found and is keen to start work as soon as he has completed his notice period with his current Company. It is hoped that he will begin work at the beginning of April. Let us hope that we can now see work moving on the restoration of No.119.


Work is progressing quickly on the refurbishing of passenger coach No. 59.  Coach builder Clive Nel is doing a wonderful job here and soon the coach will be brought back into service looking as good as new.

Coach no.59 in the workshop

Besides the work on coach 59, general bogie maintenance is also necessary to keep the coaches roadworthy.

Dismantling a coach bogie for maintenance


A few months ago a motorist couldn’t resist the temptation to try and beat the approaching Apple Express train at an open level crossing. The train won the race. Fortunately this time there were no serious injuries and the driver of the vehicle only suffered a broken shoulder.

Beware trains are stronger than motor cars


The Geoff Cooke rail tour into the Langkloof is still on, even though the proposed trip all the way to the terminal station at Avontuur will more than likely not materialise. Because of storm water damage that occurred some months ago, a shortened run as far as Louterwater is envisaged. It doesn’t seem likely that NG Spoornet will go to the expense of repairing the damaged track, as the upper reaches of the line is very seldom used.
Because the time of the steam tour is fast approaching (May), pressure is mounting to get the Kalahari No. 119 fully restored and 100% fit for the trip. There is going to have to be a monumental team effort to have the loco ready by May.

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