George to Knysna Branch
7 - 9 December 2001
|Drove to George from Cape Town on the Friday evening, arriving
at about 18:45. The sun was still shining so I convinced my family
that a visit to the shed would be a good idea. My wife agreed and my
kids thought it was a great suggestion!
A pair of 32's (042 and 047) were sitting shut down in the yard, 24 3635 was sitting on the shed road and 19D's 3324, 2683 and 2698 were standing around the shed looking bored. GMAM 4122 was on the siding on the other side of the Knysna line and the Golden Thread train was in Platform 2.
We wandered around the shed for a few minutes before the distant sound of a loco whistle reached our ears - the afternoon goods was arriving back from George. Soon we could hear the hardworking exhaust beat, then 24 3606 appeared around the far bend at a good speed, thundered up the straight whistling madly for the crossing, then cruised around the bend into George yard with two loaded timber wagons and a "Waste By Rail" container in tow. Very nice.
She soon returned alone to take a trip around the triangle before backing under the coal stage. A lovely evening glint of sun off the loco as the shed labourer tipped coal from the skips into the bunker. It made for some video of the process from atop the coal stage as well as from ground level. The 24 then trundled back to the shed for a fire cleaning and a water refill.
George Station was quite eerie on Saturday morning with a thick sea mist blanketing the area. I could hear 3324 moving in the yard, her headlight beam trying to get through the fog. None of the Union Limited passengers were brave enough to leave their cosy train to see what was happening - I don't blame them... At 05:00, 3324 departed with a rake of 8 empty timber wagons bound for Serpentine, Ruigtevlei and Knysna. I set off for the Kaaimans River, as the now clearing mist was promising a brilliant sunrise. By 05:20 I was setup on the sand bank in the river bed, waiting for the train. The sun was over the horizon at 05:30 when the train made its appearance. The rising fog gave the sky a beautiful colour and texture, enhanced of course by the loco and train crossing the bridge in perfect silhouette.
I caught the train shunting at Serpentine, then drove alongside for a while before a nice morning shot on the Swartvlei and the rickety bridge. More shunting at Ruigtevlei, the loco departing with only 4 empties for Knysna. I took another shot further up at a siding just before the summit next to the N2, before the line drops towards Goukamma - not sure of the name? A final shot leaving Goukamma, what a beautiful valley - I think I could live there!
There is a lot of timber traffic on the line at present, and many sidings had loaded timber wagons awaiting collection, as well as more at Knysna.
Back to George then, and station was quite busy. GMAM 4122 and 19D 2698 busy taking water and preparing for Union Limited duty, and the Southern Cross in the platform with passengers and relatives to and fro, saying farewell or greeting the arriving passengers. One passenger disembarked with loads of bags and cases, followed by a full-sized refrigerator, then by a washing machine!!! By pushing the washing machine against the fridge, it made quite a comfy seat for the lady whilst she awaited someone to collect her.
At 08:00 the Union Limited whistled out, heading for Voorbaai with 2698 and 4122 at the front. The pair of 34's had also departed for Oudtshoorn by that time so silence descended. Time to collect the family for the 09:30 Choo Tjoe.
The museum is looking really good, unfortunately we didn't have a lot of time to look around but on the whole it is looking excellent. With the gang deposited on the train, I set up for a departure shot near S2 3706, looking somewhat forlorn dumped in the Museum yard with the l/h cylinder blown off... 19D 2683 backed on and departed on time. The weather by this time had become very hot, I was almost baked by the time the train left. I was waiting at Kaaimans when I got a phone call to meet the train at Wilderness because our 1 year old was trying to climb out the window all the time! So at the station I collected one very tired baby and let my wife and older two sons continue in peace! At Sedgefield I swapped places with my wife and rode the train for the remaining distance into Knysna. Even though I've ridden the train a few times I never tire of the scenery and views that continuously stream past the windows!
A great afternoon spent on the beach with the odd steam train passing behind was nice, then off to Knysna to follow the afternoon goods back. The weather had turned cloudy by now so we only took a few shots, including one amazing shot at Sedgefield where the sun appeared as the train arrived and disappeared as soon as it had departed! A final shot of the train on the Kaaimans bridge before heading back to George.
All pictures Copyright © 2001 Trevor Staats
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