George Area 3rd - 6th October 2002 Photos and Report
|We spent a pleasant 4 days in the George area from Thu 3 Oct -
Sun 6 October.
Thursday morning I dragged the kids out of bed for the morning goods. Overcast weather should have kept us in bed, but we went anyway to find a "goods" consisting of a solitary class 32 near Wilson Bailey. A quick U-Turn and back to George loco. 19D 3324 was on station pilot duty and was quite busy shunting timber wagons and disappeared into a private siding (SAFCOL maybe) for a while. 19D 2749, 2698 and 24 3668 were on shed.
A while later we came back into George and I was surprised to see the Union Limited ready to depart for Oudtshoorn. The Golden Thread schedule I got from the UL web site showed the train going to Oudtshoorn on Wednesday and returning Thursday morning... Not that I was complaining. Our planned visit to the Railway Museum was changed to a drive up Montagu Pass to the summit where we waited for 19C 2439 and GMAM 4122, banked by two 35's, to head up the mountain. I assume the 35's were included as a concession to the fire index which had cancelled steam on the Choo Tjoe, but the steam locos certainly worked nicely up the mountain. A runpast was held at Tunnel 6, and a dark cloud followed the train the whole way (!), but as they rounded the final curve to the summit, the sun shone beautifully for our shots!
The normal service stop at Camfer, where the diesels detached, then on to Oudtshoorn. We returned to George for lunch and a ride on the Choo Tjoe from George to Sedgefield. The crud weather and diesel haulage didn't detract one bit from the magnificent scenery, indeed the grey seas and sheets of foam and water being lifted off the churning waves by the strong wind near Kaaimans was spectacular. The new restaurant in the cave near Kaaimans bridge looked almost finished, with a wooden decking floor, tables, chairs and toilet facilities all in place. As noted by Dylan, the Hunslet diesel at Wilderness is now "flying the flag" with its new livery!
Friday morning we tried the morning goods again, and were greeted by a clear, cold and still morning, with 24 3668 hauling the goods. 5 empty timber wagons and two waste wagons made up the load. We took a pre-sunrise shot on the Swartvlei bridge, then nice sunny steamy shots at Ruigtevlei and the summit beyond Wilson Bailey. Ostrich Field was just in sun, and the 24 was working nicely up the grade out of Goukamma.
At Knysna we tried the "Rogers" photographic position for a panoramic lagoon shot, where you shoot over a back yard to the bridge and the Heads. Unlike on a previous occasion where an, er, objectionable gentleman greeted me in a less than pleasant manner, this time a lady came out and chatted with us, most friendly. The conditions were perfect, with a nice train, sun and the still waters of the lagoon (okay Mark, it's an estuary!) providing a lovely reflection. A few more shots of the 24 shunting the goods yard (sorry, I mean "Freight Centre") before we headed back to George.
We visited the Railway Museum later, it was nice to see the S2 indoors again, although the loco is still in the same condition with rods off and broken cylinder end on the front. Not much else had changed since my last visit in March, except for a display of Dusty Durrant's and John Hunt's photos and a display of THF archive photos. The exhibits are nicely maintained though, and it was still great to look at all the old coaches and locos that are in there, quite a unique collection.
In the afternoon we sat on Wilderness Beach while the kids made sand castles and watched the trains roll past. We drove down to Belvidere to see the afternoon passenger come through, with 3324 on 7 coaches hauling up the grade from Brenton. We perched up on the cutting near km 61.5 and got a nice shot. We left the train for a while and hiked down to the Kaaimans mouth for a swim and more sand castles, and managed a lovely shot of the train as it crossed the bridge a while later.
We drove out to Knysna on Saturday morning to catch the morning Choo Tjoe, and had 24 3668 on duty with 4 coaches. The Choo Tjoes were running at capacity, and indeed the Thursday and Friday trains were said to be booked out a few days before. However, this was not really the case, as there was space on trains heading from Knysna to George, and there seemed to be a few tour groups that were only riding to Sedgefield where they were collected by road coaches. Given that many people drive down to George, it is an option to take a part journey and get picked up further on like we did, rather than not travel at all. Also, you cannot book at George for a train traveling from Knysna... The other strange thing was that if you only ride to Wilderness, or Sedgefield, or wherever, the fare is still the same!
The weather was again kind as we rolled across the lagoon and the 24 dug her heels in for the stiff climb through Belvidere. Nice stack talk echoed around and many a passenger's eye was filled with the char raining down on the train... At the 61km post, we came to a sudden halt as we could see a lineside fire that was burning 500m or so back. We reversed back down and the guard put the fire out in quick time using the firefighting equipment in the van. Then back into the climb and over the hill to Goukamma. I left the train at Sedgefield because I wanted a pie - no, I mean I wanted to lineside for a while so my wife took over the child supervision in the train... The bridge at Ebb & Flow was receiving a coat of paint and now has a tar surface. At Wilderness, 19D 2749 with 4 coaches was waiting in the loop to cross the Choo Tjoe. 2749 was en route to Knysna to run a special train from Knysna to the Kaaimans Grotto restaurant for dinner. A live jazz band was the planned entertainment and return to Knysna was scheduled for about midnight.
We headed off then to Oudtshoorn for the night before returning to Cape Town on Sunday. We drove via Meiringspoort to Prince Albert Road. On the approach to Laingsburg we saw the "not-the-Trans-Karoo" hauling up the reverse curves out of town. The strained whine of the units on their 20 coaches awakened echoes of long gone condensers from the valley walls, who long ago also strained up the same grade under the watchful eyes of the same mountains.
Then back to Cape Town after a lovely few days of steam...
All pictures Copyright © 2002 Trevor Staats
Back to Archives Index