South Africa and the Sandstone International Festival

April 2019
South Africa

The International Sandstone Festival in South Africa is one of the biggest heritage transport events in the Southern Hemisphere.

Stars of Sandstone 2019 will feature a spectacular 2-ft Narrow Gauge Railway with over 30 operating locomotives. Aircraft from WW2 will overfly the event and, on the ground, there will be Vintage Cars, Trucks, Tractors, Traction Engines, Military Vehicles and much more.

Update: A very exciting feature for Stars of Sandstone 2019 will be the arrival of a special charter of The Blue Train at the event.  The Blue Train will be departing Pretoria on 3rd April at 09h00 and will be spending 2 nights at Sandstone Estates, departing on 5th April at 18h00 for arrival in Pretoria on  the 6th April at 10h00. Early booking is essential and you could be one of only 52 passengers to share in the experience.

The acclaimed team of 24 trained Afrikaner Oxen will pull original Voortrekker wagons to further enhance the heritage focus. The special light, magnificent landscapes and the towering Maluti mountains make the Stars of Sandstone event a truly memorable spectacle. Photographers may also take advantage of the meticulously planned morning locomotive run-pasts.

To satisfy the interests of serious railway photographers who would like to enjoy early morning photo sessions in a controlled environment with experienced runpast organisers, we have arranged for our group to visit the railway on three mornings for good, low light photography. Each session will run from sunrise to 09h00 with an included breakfast at Sandstone. Alternatively, guests can transfer from your hotel in Fouriesburg to Sandstone Estates after breakfast, in time for the start of the festival at 10h00.

Trains will run throughout the day over the main railway, culminating in a double headed Garratt trip around the Vailima loop each afternoon, arriving back around sunset. There will be numerous steam and diesel locomotives running, with the locomotives used being varied every day so that most of the steam fleet will be seen in operation during your visit. The shorter Sebs Railway will also operate every day, featuring the smaller locomotives in the Sandstone collection. At times, Sebs Railway will offer rides and at other times it will feature photographer’s specials with industrial goods trains using wagons such as hoppers, cane cars, etc.

In addition to the railway you will find traction engines, vintage tractors, machinery and cars, draft animals, military vehicles and aircraft in action throughout every day. Special arena events will take place with each day having a theme, either military, draft animals and tractors, traction engines, vintage cars and buses. Everything on display has an African heritage, making this the premier transport heritage event on the continent.

There will also be opportunities to fly in vintage aircraft (extra charge), ride military vehicles, ox wagons, vintage buses, railcars and much more.

A starlight experience will occur during your stay, where you will take a steam train to a talk on the stars of the southern hemisphere, dinner that night will be at the Sandstone Estates. On other nights, dinner will be at your hotel.

Join us in 2019 at this truly unique venue to experience the romance and character of a bygone era.

The Sandstone Festival

Day 1 Sunday 7 April 2019  (D) Overnight flights from London Heathrow direct to Johannesburg. Flights with Emirates, via Dubai, are also available from Gatwick, Birmingham, Manchester, Humberside and Glasgow.

Day 2 Monday 8 April (B, D) We arrive in the morning and transfer to the Fouriesburg Country Inn, a 30 minute coach trip from Sandstone.  There will be no jetlag as South Africa is just one hour ahead of the UK.

The afternoon will be a day to catch your breath, before we have a welcome dinner at the hotel.

Day 3 Tuesday 9 April (B, D) Coach transfer to the Sandstone event. The railway will again feature the 2 x Class NG6 (Lawley) 4-4-0 locomotives on the eight scheduled trains supported by two Garratts for the Mountain Wanderer and the NGG11 Garratt to Vailima. Sebs Railway will be running all day with some of the smaller steam locomotives, some with passenger carriages and others with wagons. The arena event will include vintage aircraft, cars and trains all in the same picture – a transport spectacular. The stargazer express will run tonight. Travel to a dark location on the estate where there will be an informative talk about the stars of the southern

hemisphere, a wonderful evening of beauty and enlightenment. This can only happen if the weather is clear and so may run on another day. Return to your accommodation will be either before or after dinner and the stargazer event.

Day 4 Wednesday 10 April (B, D) The NGG11 and NG10 will be in action today on the scheduled trains, supported by an NG4 to Vailima and the usual double headed Garratts around the mountain. Sebs Railway will run a usual and today’s arena events will include the railway, traction engines, draft oxen and re-enactors. The idea is to create some photographs of yesteryear, a timeless African agricultural cameo. Return to your accommodation will be either before or after dinner.

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Day 5 Thursday 11 April (B, D) Today will bring the Stars 19 International Festival to an end. The railway will bow out with the NG10 and NG15 locomotives supported by the NG4 and the double headed Garratts around the mountain this afternoon. Sebs Railway will welcome you with the smaller steam locomotives and the arena event will be The Sound of Thunder, military cameos using tanks, re-enactors, smoke and maybe some aircraft. Have your camera at the ready – action stations! After dinner, there will be a lecture on an interesting subject related to the activity at the festival. This event may be switched with the starlight express if it is felt that the weather may be more appropriate. Return to your accommodation will be either before or after dinner and the event.

Day 6 Friday 12 April (B) Today is a changeover day, the Stars International Festival will come to an end and the Stars Family Festival starts. Most international guests will leave this morning, either returning to Johannesburg and their onward journey home, or joining the steam charter that will take you to Bloemfontein, Kimberley and Johannesburg.

Private Steam Train Rail Cruise

Join a steam operated train for a journey through some of South Africa’s magnificent scenery. Stay on the train for five nights as you ride the train, enjoy numerous runpasts, visit the national steam collection and steam workshops at museum and railway museum at Kimberley and a steam preservation group with magnificent Class 25 4-8-4 non-condenser and condenser locomotives.

The locomotive will be Class 12AR 1535, recently back in service after a four-year long overhaul. No.1535 ‘Susan’ has the triple distinction of being the last surviving Class 12AR, the oldest operating main line steam locomotive in South Africa.  The class 12’s, from which the Class 12A’s originated, were the first new locomotive class ordered by the then newly-formed South African Railways.

The train will comprise six sleeper coaches with accommodation for 75 passengers, a lounge and dining car. Silver class has en-suite facilities and showers, economy class uses shared facilities.

Day 6 Friday 12 April (D) Leave your hotel early for a coach transfer to Bethlehem where you will join the train for your journey to Bloemfontein, Kimberley and Johannesburg. Runpasts will be arranged at locations selected by experienced organisers, the number being determined by the time available.

Overnight on the train will stable at Modderpoort. Breakfast and dinner are included each day. Lunch, light refreshments and bar will be available.

Day 7 Saturday 13 April (B, D) the train will make travel from Modderpoort to Bloemfontein where you will spend the night.

Day 8 Sunday 14 April (B, D) We visit the Sandstone workshops and the national collection of locomotives at Bloemfontein. This afternoon, our train will make the journey from Bloemfontein to Kimberley. Runpasts will be staged as the train steams west into the afternoon light. Spend tonight on the train standing in Kimberley.

Day 9 Monday 15 April (B, D) Visit the Kimberley Big Hole Museum to explore the growth of the diamond industry. Your visit will include a tram ride and there are numerous railway and steam related exhibits.  Later this morning, spend some time at the railway museum at Kimberley station, this small museum includes an exhibition hall as well as a platform display that includes a Class 25NC 4-8-4 locomotive. 

After a break for lunch, visit local preservation group Steamnet 2000. If available, we have their Class 25NC in steam for a short run and photographic opportunity. Spend a second night standing in Kimberley.

Day 10 Tuesday 16 April (B, D) Our train and the steam locomotive will be hauled by Transnet Fright Rail electric locomotives from Kimberley to Germiston on the outskirts of Johannesburg as steam is not permitted on this mainline route. Three or four service stops will be needed and photos may be possible, depending on the location and according to the safety rules. The train will stable for the night in the Reefsteamers depot, the original steam maintenance depot for Johannesburg in Germiston, offering an opportunity for night photography.

Day 11 Wednesday 17 April (B) Your tour ends this morning with coach transfer to Johannesburg airport. You can choose to fly back to the UK today or to fly onward to Victoria Falls.

Victoria Falls

Day 11 Wednesday 17 April (D) You will be accompanied by a tour manager and will be transferred to your centrally located hotel in Victoria Falls. Later this afternoon, join a tram trip from Victoria Falls Station to the famous bridge over the Zambezi River. Dinner at the hotel.

Day 12 Thursday 18 April (B, D) In the morning enjoy a hosted tour of the famous Victoria Falls, included will be an informative introduction to the ‘Falls and a walk through the rain forest to a viewpoint overlooking the famous railway bridge. Your rain forest visit will be followed by a visit to the big tree, a Baobab under which David Livingstone probably sat, and a craft market visit. After a break for lunch and a leisurely afternoon, transfer to the banks of the Zambezi River above the ‘Falls for a sunset cruise, snacks and sundowners included.

Day 13 Friday 19 April (B, D) is a free day at Victoria Falls. Time to relax or join numerous activities in the area, including helicopter flights, game drives, village tours and much more.

There is an opportunity to join a dinner steam train to the Bridge and Jafuta Siding, a journey lasting about five hours. The locomotive should be a Class 14A 2-6-2+2-6-2 Garratt, the five-course dinner will be provided by the Victoria Falls Hotel. (This is a scheduled service and space is limited to 44 diners, bookings are subject to availability). 

Day 14 Saturday 20 April (B) after a leisurely breakfast, transfer to Victoria Falls airport for your flight to Johannesburg. This will connect with most overnight flights to Europe.

Wildlife and the Chobe River

Day 15 -18  20 to 23 April (B,L,D) After breakfast, transfer by road to your lodge on the banks of the Chobe river, about 100 kilometres distant in Botswana. The Chobe River is a tributary to the Zambezi, with the two great rivers coming together at Kazungula, a few kilometres down stream from the town of Kasane. The Chobe National Park is one of the best wildlife reserves in Africa, noted for the variety and density of its game and birdlife and the opportunity to view from both land and water.

You will be accompanied by a tour manager, and you will be hosted on an all-inclusive basis by Pangolin Safaris. The package includes full board accommodation, local drinks, two game activities each day, the use of a DSLR camera and telephoto lens during the game activities. The lodge accommodates 12 guests and this option is subject to availability.

Your first game activity will be this afternoon, a memorable opportunity to watch the sun set over the river.

A morning and afternoon game drive or boat trip are included on 21 and 22 April, with ample time to relax at mid-day.

Your last game trip will be on Tuesday 23 April before an included transfer to Kasane Airport for the South Africa Airlink departure to Johannesburg for onward flights back to the UK.

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Holiday Prices (per person)


Return flights

  • £600 to £900 in Economy. Approximately £1,400 in Premium Economy and £3,350 in Business Class. Actual price confirmed at time of booking.

The Sandstone Festival 

  • Twin or double room: £1,560
  • Single room: £1,880

Steam Rail Cruise

  • Silver Class (En suite) twin cabin: £2,399
  • Silver Class (En suite) twin cabin for single use: £4,299
  • Economy Class (shared 3 berth cabin): £1,720
  • Economy Class (3 berth cabin – for twin use): £2,350

Victoria Falls including flights to/from J’burg

  • Twin or double room: £1,375
  • Single room: £1,495
  • Dinner Steam Train: £215

Chobe Game Reserve add-on

  • Twin or double room: £1,375
  • Single room: £1,495


  • Just £100 if booking before September 2018 then 25% of total cost – plus full flight costs if you book a flight inclusive package
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