OFFICIAL NEWSLETTER OF THE PORT ELIZABETH APPLE EXPRESS
Postnet Suite 124, Private Bag 13130, Humewood, Port
A NAME - THORNHILL
Thornhill village, our day trip terminus
has quite an interesting history. Here is an extract
from the book ‘Governor’s Travels’ written by Bartle
Christopher Thornhill Camm was working on a sugar estate
in Antigua when he heard, in 1802, that he had inherited
a property known as Thornhill in Bishops Wearmouth, near
Sunderland, County Durham. It was stipulated that to
inherit it he would have to change his surname to
Thornhill. After having obtained permission for the
change of name, he took possession of the property on 29
An investment in a glass factory that went
bankrupt forced Christopher Thornhill, as he was now
known, to sell the property in 1816. He and his family
moved to London. He became interested in the scheme to
bring British settlers to the Cape and eventually led a
party that was granted land between the Kowie and Rufane
rivers at what is today Port Alfred. This piece of land
he also named Thornhill.
Christopher Thornhill’s son, John
Thornhill, developed several business interests in Port
Elizabeth after 1835.
He bought property to the west of the
Van Stadens and in the family tradition, named it
Thornhill. It is believed that the homestead on this
farm was situated where the railway cottages stand
In 1864, long after
the last elephant was shot, George “Willie” Smith owned
a large tract of land in the area, part of which was
Thornhill’s former estate. He established an inn for
travellers known by the insalubrious name of
Modderkantien (Mud Canteen), derived from the material
used in its construction. With the building of the Van
Stadens Pass, traffic increased and the success of
George Smith’s venture was assured.
“Willie” Smith died in 1892 the business was taken over
by his son George “Joe” Smith and his wife, Jessica.
They made many improvements and very wisely insisted
that from now on the business be known as the Thornhill
Hotel. Thus it was that when the Governor of the Cape
called in five years later, he refreshed himself with a
cup of tea at the hotel. One can hardly imagine him
condescending to patronize a “Modderkantien”
LOCOMOTIVE No. 119
Although work on Kalahari No. 119 has stopped while
quotes for the supply of new boiler tubes is being
sorted out, the water tender for the loco has been
completely redone and is looking quite impressive in
its new coat of paint.
Let’s hope that it will not be
too long before work can begin on the other half of
A New Coat
progressing well on the restoration of passenger
coach No58. This coach was badly damaged by Spoornet
when the Company “borrowed” it to transport workers
in the Langkloof a few years ago. This coach is
historically valuable as it is one of a few that was
specifically built (1904) to transport passengers
and is not like most of the other Apple Express
passenger coaches that have been converted to
passenger carrying vehicles. Its original status was
that of a First Class coach.
Our coach builder is doing a
first class job and it will not be long before it is
brought back into service with pride.
Once work is complete, it is planned to take one of
the current passenger coaches out of service for
much needed body maintenance. Also necessary work
for the future is the replacement of brake blocks.
In the past some coaches were adapted to accept the
freely available Spoornet “composite” brake blocks
but this work which entails altering the brake
hangers was a major undertaking.
Passenger coach No.58
The foundry that supplies the
composite blocks has been approached to quote on the
supply of the original style brake blocks designed
to fit the coaches.
unfortunate that the curse of theft and vandalism is
still prevalent and ongoing at the steam depot. It
seems that the criminals have a free hand in the
area and are taking things at will. Almost weekly
metal and other fittings are being taken. At least
most of the very important locomotive parts and
equipment have been taken by the staff to the
relative safety of the diesel depot. Recent items
that have been stolen are heavy steel coach wheel
tyres and thick electrical cables that were attached
to the large heavy duty welding machine, the
compressor and other workshop machinery.
The only way
these items could have been removed was by a gang
using heavy trucks. Somehow it seems all to easy to
just drive into the depot, take what they want and
Locked doors are just hacked to pieces or kicked
off their hinges by the thieves. The one area that
was covered by a burglar alarm system did not escape
either. Bits of the system was found hanging by its
connecting wires and the passive infrared detectors
had been stolen. So much for armed response burglar
S.A.RAILWAYS IN AUSTRALIA
News recently received from Australia of two
ex-Humewood Road NG 15’s.
The Bennett Brook Railway
situated just outside Perth, Western Australia,
bought two NG 15’s in 1985 and shipped them over
from Port Elizabeth on the ship “Nederberg” arriving
in Freemantle on 21st April 1985.
They were put into service on
21st September 1986. Both are now in for overhauls
and are expected to be back in service later this
year. NG 15 no.118 is to be named “Freemantle” while
no. 123 will be named “Elizabeth.
No.118 in Australia
After a trial period of
several months it seems that the once a month short run
to Chelsea junction will have to be discontinued. The
two hour return trip does not seem to have found favour
with the general public.
Only schools both local and from further a field have
made use of the service by organising midweek runs for
As 2006 winds down and
the coming summer season winds up, corporate enquiries
regarding Christmas bookings for their staff year end
outings hots up. Peter Burton (Group bookings Manager)
says that enquiries and confirmed bookings from
Companies have suddenly taken off.
his “enquiries” book, it seems that there could be at
least nine extra trips in addition to our normal
scheduled trips for the period ending November/ December