The opportunity to ride behind a train drawn by a steam engine is quite a rare event in South Africa, and if the steam engine just happens to be a GMAM Garratt then it is even more special.
Two of my facebook friends both ended up on the same train and this post was originally going to be about the intrepid Clinton Evangelides and his bicycle and the train. Clinton entered the 40km Aloe Festival Ride on Sunday 16 of July, camping over on the Saturday night in 0 degree weather! (better him than me).
The festival website explains: Participants and passengers will depart from the Creighton Train Station at 07:00am sharp. The train will meander along the Umzimkulu river for about an +- 1h30min before the Trail runners will be dropped off to start their race back to Creighton. The rest of the Mountain bikers and passengers will stay on the train. The train will then turn around at the Riverside Station. On the way back after about 2h30min the mountain bikers will be dropped off to start their race. Passengers will remain in the train and then disembark once they get to back to Creighton Station.
Clinton remarked “The bike ride was interesting as we crossed the river few times and also over the waterfall itself. Crossing the waterfall was quite hectic as you either ride 1 metre from the edge over shale rock or take the less risky route by going a bit deeper. I chose wisely. “
Coincidently, Barry Roper travelled on board the same train and offered of his pics to help illustrate the beauty of the area and the GMAM up front. My thanks to Clinton and Barry For the use of their images.
Where to start?
Creighton is a settlement in KwaZulu-Natal, 35 km northwest of Ixopo. It was laid out in 1865, It was named after Lady McCullum (née Creighton), wife of Sir Henry McCullum, Governor of Natal from 1901 to 1907. And, as the sign says only 95 miles to Pietermaritzburg.
The loco would have been under preparation long before the event, you cannot rush these machines, they need to be woken up slowly, warmed thoroughly by the fire in their firebox. It is possible the same would be true about the participants.
The loco up front is GMAM-4074, a Garratt articulated steam engine that was built for the South African Railways in 1953. There are only two of this class of Garratt in running order, one based at Reefsteamers in Germiston, (GMAM 4079, “Lyndie-Lou”) and 4074 “Lindie” that was restored for Sisonke Stimela. Barry Roper captured the bulkiness of these surprisingly light footed steamers.
Which way is the front? this is the front of the loco, but they are equally at home running tender first. Garratts were once quite plentiful in Natal, but today they are very rare.
Other steam engines await their turn to be restored, but who knows if they ever will be.
This is 19D-2669 having work done on her innards, while below is yet anther possible candidate for possible future restoration.
Then it was time to join the train for the journey.
Unfortunately I do not know the sequence of the ride so generally speaking some of the images may be in the wrong order.
The coaches are a mixed bag of steel bodied saloons and slam door subs. The saloons below were refurbished especially for Sisonke Stimela.
I do not know how they managed to get those large chairs through that small door.
The Aloe festival was really about viewing the mass of aloes that are in the area, and the views are spectacular in this part of the country.
Of course there aren’t only aloes on view….
Sometimes you really need to get off the train and look around you.
And while you are off the train it may just reverse and then do a run by, providing you with a view of a machine from a different age as she poses for the camera.
And what of our intrepid mountain bike rider? he had this to say: “Never knew cycling could be such fun.” He seemed to get home safely, although I think it was a much more comfortable ride on the train.
Random Images courtesy of Barry Roper.
Special thanks to Clinton Evangelides and Barry Roper for permission to use of their photographs, it is not everyday that an opportunity like this arises, so I am very lucky that I am able to share these images with my readers.
© DRW 2017. Created 19/07/2017. Images Barry Roper © 2017 and Clinton Evanegelides © 2017. Used with permission.