5 to 15 Days | from 15/18 April 2022

We are just asking for expressions of interest on this tour. Final confirmation and deposit will be payable after 1 April.

There is truly nowhere else on earth quite like Sandstone — a large agricultural estate with its own 26km private railway line and the largest collection of 2-ft Narrow Gauge steam locomotives in the world. There are more than 50 restored and unrestored locomotives, of which 25 are fully operational.

The Sandstone Heritage Trust are custodians of a vast collection of vintage equipment representing the transport, industrial and agricultural history of southern and central Africa.

Sandstone Heritage are proposing to operate six Garratt locomotives on one train, so establishing a new world record. This will take place over Easter 2022 and you are invited to join the fun!

World Record Attempt

We plan to transfer from Johannesburg airport to Sandstone on Friday, 15 April so that we will be present for the record attempt on Saturday, 16 April. Sunday and Monday will be public days where a train service will operate alongside displays from the rest of the heritage collection that will probably include traction engines, vintage tractors, vintage vehicles, military vehicles, historic aircraft, earth moving equipment and ox wagons.

Accommodation at Sandstone may be needed for the volunteers operating the public event, and we will stay at an hotel in Fouriesburg or a lodge at Ficksburg, transferring to Sandstone by a 30 minute coach ride each day.

PTG Exclusive Event

The railway features working steam locomotives from South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Angola supplied by locomotive manufacturers from Britain, USA, Germany, France, Belgium and South Africa. British manufacturers include Falcon, Kerr Stuart, Cockerill, Fowler, Barclay, Avonside and Peckett. Supported by an impressive inventory of rolling stock, original stations and infrastructure, the railway is well positioned to run an authentic and busy narrow-gauge system that represents southern Africa’s rich railway heritage.

We are offering an exclusive tour that will take you from Johannesburg’s OR Tambo Airport to Sandstone for five days and nights with accommodation on the estate. You can end your African holiday with steam hauled dining train, and/or, with an outstanding three-night photographic wildlife safari in the Chobe National Park in Botswana.

Introduction:

Each Sandstone day will start at sunrise, an ideal time for low light pictures in cool conditions. Expect atmospheric pictures with the possibility of frost on the ground but little chance of rain. After a late breakfast, you will be welcome to visit the loco depot to see the steam and diesel fleet as well as the locomotives being used each day. During your stay there will be ample time to visit the multitude of static exhibits, explore the estate and take time out to relax.

This programme features steam locomotives that are not in regular use. They are well maintained, but defects can arise that cannot be fixed in the time available. In the event of failure, a replacement locomotive will be used that best represents the service originally planned.

Availability

Tour Highlights


  • Remote private estate with own Covid-19 bubble
  • Private only PTG group
  • Largest collection of 2-ft Narrow Gauge steam locomotives in the world
  • British steam day
  • Garratt day
  • Moonlight photos
  • German locos day
  • American locos day
  • Small locomotives day
  • Meals included
  • Victoria Falls steam dining train (option)
  • Chobe Safari (option)
  • Tour Itinerary
  • Prices & Options
  • Booking
  • Gallery
  • Transport & Accommodation

Six Garratts World Record Attempt

Day 1 Friday, 15 April 2022 (D)

Overnight flights from London Heathrow direct to Johannesburg. Flights with Emirates, via Dubai, are also available from Gatwick, Birmingham, Manchester, Humberside and Glasgow. We arrive in the morning and transfer to your accommodation near Sandstone.  Time to relax. There will be no jetlag as South Africa is just one hour ahead of the UK. Welcome dinner.
Overnight: Fouriesburg or Ficksburg.

Day 2 Saturday, 16 April 2022 (B,D)

Transfer to Sandstone this morning to witness the record breaking Garratt event, and to enjoy the activity around the farm. Transfer back to your accommodation in time for dinner. Overnight: Fouriesburg or Ficksburg. Full moon today.

Day 3 Sunday, 17 April 2022 (B,D)

Lesotho: The mountain kingdom of Lesotho is a short drive from your hotel, today we will make an excursion into the hills to meet the “blanket people” and see the dramatic scenery surrounding the Katse Dam project. Hosted by a Lesotho guide, this trip will offer you magnificent scenery, a chance to meet interesting people and an insight into a little known part of Africa. Leave the hotel after breakfast and return in time for dinner. A packed lunch will be included.

Alternatively, we can arrange a private transfer to Sandstone where you can spend the day enjoying the public heritage event. Overnight: Fouriesburg or Ficksburg.

Day 4 Monday, 18 April 2022 (B,D)

Spend today at Sandstone on the last public day of the Six Garratts event. There will be ample heritage activity to keep any enthusiast entertained. Leave your hotel or lodge with luggage this morning. On arrival at Sandstone your luggage will be stored until it can be moved to your accommodation later in the day. Overnight: Sandstone. It is possible to leave the event today and fly back to the UK. We of course hope everyone will stay on for the PTG exclusive event.

PTG Exclusive Event

For those just joining for the PTG event then you can fly into Johannesburg today for road transfer to Sandstone.

Day 5 Tuesday, 19 April 2022 (B,L,D) – British Steam Day

Start your Sandstone experience with a British day when three historic British built locomotives. This morning, two Lawleys will create a fitting start with sunrise silhouette shots followed by trains to Grootdraai and Mooihoek. The ‘Lawley’ 4-4-0 locomotives were built by Falcon in 1895 and 1897 for the railway between Beira in Mozambique and Umtali (now Mutare in Zimbabwe). Named after the engineer in charge of the line’s construction, they have a classis British narrow-gauge look, many believe they are the most photogenic locomotives in the Sandstone fleet – they are certainly the oldest. This afternoon, NG4 number 16, a 4-6-2T built by Ker Stuart in 1913, will run to Pandora’s Pond. Sunset will be at Mooihoek where appealing glint shots are possible. Traction engines, a vintage bus and an ox wagon will create trackside photo cameos.

Day 6 Wednesday, 20 April 2022 (B,L,D) – Garratt day

Sandstone has an impressive collection of two-foot gauge Garratt locomotives with six locomotives in four classes operational, three of these will be used on our trains today and a further two will feature later in your stay. This morning the oldest Sandstone Garratt, an NGG11 2-6-0+0-6-2, will operate a train to Mooihoek before heading out in the opposite direction to Grootdraai. This afternoon, two NGG16 2-6-2+2-6-2 Garratts will double-head a mixed train around the steeply graded mountain loop, a challenging line that tests the skill of the footplate crew and offers excellent photographic opportunities. Tractors or vintage vehicles will be available for lineside cameos.

Day 7 Thursday, 21 April 2022 (B,L,D) – German Loco Day

Germany supplied a variety of different narrow-gauge locomotives to South Africa and their colony in South West Africa. We will feature two of them today with German farm machinery offering lineside interest. This morning, South Africa’s largest narrow-gauge straight locomotive, an NG15 2-8-2 built by Henschel in 1931, will take a train to Grootdraai before continuing to Mooihoek. Germany also supplied Garratts, an NGG13 2-6-2+2-6-2 built by Hanomag in 1937 will feature this afternoon. German farm machinery will supply lineside interest.

Day 8 Friday, 22 April 2022 (B,L,D) American Loco Day

The USA did not supply many steam locomotives to South Africa’s narrow-gauge network, but an exception is the classic outlined Baldwin 4-6-2 NG10 number 61, built in 1915. We will use this locomotive today, concentrating on the numerous photo opportunities along the line. Different train consists will be used to offer further variety, along with American manufactured tractors and farm machinery.

Day 9 Saturday, 23 April 2022 (B,L,D) – Small Locomotives Day

Sandstone has many small locomotives with numerous British manufacturers represented. The final selection can be made depending on availability and the preference of the group.

This morning, two British small locomotives will run with cocopans on Sebs Railway. The locomotives will double-head one train, but with the ability to uncouple the lead locomotive for photos of the train with one locomotive attached. This afternoon, two German small locomotives with a few wagons will travel to Mooihoek. The locomotives will double head the train, but single loco and banking operations will be possible at Mooihoek. This afternoon offers particularly appealing sunset photography. English and German tractors and other vintage vehicles will be lineside.

Day 10 Sunday, 24 April 2022 (B,L,D)

NGG16A Garratt #155 is the most recent rebuilt locomotive to enter the Sandstone roster. Number 155 is a gas converter steam locomotive which was developed by specialists but brought to a high level of implementation by the late Phil Girdlestone from Alfred County Railway. Riding behind and photographing this landmark machine, the newest in the Sandstone fleet, will be a fitting end to your visit that started with the oldest locomotives available. After breakfast, leave Sandstone for OR airport in Johannesburg, arriving at about 15h00, time to prepare for your overnight flight home.

Alternatively, spend the night at an airport hotel before flying to Victoria Falls.

Add-on to Victoria Falls and Chobe National Part

Day 11 Monday 25 April (B)

We take a short flight from J’Burg to Victoria Falls Intl. Airport where you will be met by our local partners for a private transfer to the Kingdom Hotel. Lunch/afternoon at leisure. Suggestions: High tea at Victoria Falls Hotel (extra cost) or shopping at Elephant Walk and viewing the Ndau jewellery factory (no cost). The shops and several restaurants within walking distance. Dinner at leisure – suggestion: Palm Restaurant, Ilala lodge or an evening of craft beer sampling and dinner at The Brewery (extra cost). Overnight at Kingdom Hotel.

Day 12 Tuesday 26 April (B,D)

Breakfast at Kingdom Hotel. Morning at leisure for optional activities; Helicopter flight 12mins (USD150 plus Parks fee of USD15); Game drive or birding in the Zambezi National Park (USD75 plus National Park fee of USD15); Crocodile Ranch visit (USD24 per person); Golf on the Elephant Hills resort golf course. After lunch at leisure a guided tour of the falls. Early evening we cross the road to Victoria Falls station to join the luxury dinner train. Usually operated by steam – either a Class 14A 2-6-2+2-6-2 Garratt or a 12th Class 4-8-2. Includes a trip onto the famous bridge with photo opportunities. The coaches are ex-Rovos Rail, wooden bodied that cannot be used on their long-haul trains anymore. Opulent with good service. For railfans, an obvious choice! Overnight at Kingdom Hotel. Dinner train optional.

Day 13 Wednesday 27 April (B,L,D)

Breakfast at Kingdom Hotel. Morning at leisure – optional activities. Late morning road transfer to Kasane, Botswana. Arrival and check in at Pangolin Chobe Hotel. Lunch at the hotel. Afternoon photographic boat cruise. Dinner and overnight at Pangolin Chobe Hotel. The Botswana hotel is owned by Pangolin Safaris who will also provide the photographic safaris on land and water. They are the best photo operator in the area, all of their excursions are accompanied by a pro-photographer who will assist the inexperienced to go home with outstanding wildlife images. Nikon or Canon cameras and 600mm Sigma zoom lenses are offered on loan free if needed and the SD card is yours to take home (no charge there either).

Day 14 Thursday 28 April (B,L,D)

Breakfast at Pangolin Chobe Hotel followed by a morning game activity and fabulous wildlife experiences. Lunch at the hotel, followed by further game activity, bird viewing and wildlife viewing and more photographic opportunities. Dinner at the hotel. Overnight at Pangolin Chobe Hotel.

Day 15 Friday 29 April (B)

Early morning game experience then breakfast at hotel. Mid-morning transfer to Kasane Airport for flights to Johannesburg and onwards to the UK.

Due to the many different options for this tour, we have priced everything individually so you can “build your own itinerary”.

Return Flights from the UK

  • Various options: from approx. £450 return (average price around £600)

Garratt World Record Attempt (4 nights)

  • With hotel accommodation in a double/twin/single: £1,500 TBC

PTG Exclusive Event (6 nights)

  • With estate cottage (min 2 people): £2,650
  • With own compartment in static sleeper carriage: £2,350

Victoria Falls, Steam Dining Train and Chobe (5 nights)

  • With hotel accommodation in a double/twin: £1,990
  • With hotel accommodation single use room: £2,480

Discounts (for bookings before 30/09/2021):

  • Book the full 15-day trip: Save 10%
  • Any single section: Save 5%

Deposit – Payable on 30/09/2021

  • Travelling by air: £1,200
  • Own travel: £600

Minimum group size is 15 and maximum is 32

Online Booking – Just Expressions of Interest at this stage

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Travel

Various flight options from the UK.

SA235 19:00 Heathrow to Johannesburg

BA055 19:05 Heathrow to Johannesburg

BA057 21:25 Heathrow to Johannesburg

VS449 22:30 Heathrow to Johannesburg

Or indirect flights from other UK airports via Zurich.

Accommodation

Please click here to see the various accommodation options at Sandstone.