Sandstone with Tanago

A Tanago tour, co-hosted by Geoff Cooke, that can be booked through Geoff’s Travel Club.

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Photographic steam charters on the Sandstone Estate

17 to 26 July 2022

Sandstone is a large commercial farming estate on the picturesque South African/Lesoto border. The principal business here is agriculture, with crops including wheat, soya and the very colourful cosmos flower that are grown for their seed. It also offers an outstanding collection of railway items as well as agricultural machinery, steam road vehicles, traction engines, steam cranes and military vehicles.

Sandstone has an outstanding narrow gauge railway system with over 28 kilometers of scenic track, about 24 working steam locomotives and 200 items of rolling stock. The entire collection was showcased at the “Star of Sandstone” festival, a bi-annual event last hold in 2019. The farm management has decided not to run more festivals, but to make their heritage collection available for group visits. Tanago, our friends in Germany, are pleased to offer photo charters on the farm in 2022. Their event will focus on running authentic trains with a variety of ex-South African Railways locomotives plus smaller steam locomotives of German, French, Belgian, American and British origin.

Geoff’s Trains Ltd are Sandstone’s international groups representative, and have assisted Tanago with the preparation of this tour. We have been asked to offer their charters to our clients and are delighted to do so.

This tour offers an affordable package of transfers, accommodation, full board meals and a unique charter train itinerary.

The programme

Pre-tour options
Arrive in Johannesburg on 17 July and stay near the airport for one night. We are planning an early morning photo session with a class 15CA steam locomotive on Cape gauge – be prepared for some perfect South African glint shots – before passing by Johannesburg’s OR Tambo airport on the way to the Sandstone estate near Ficksburg in the Freestate – that will take about 5 hours.

Monday, 18 July 2022
If you are joining us today, you will be met at OR Tambo airport in Johannesburg around lunch time. If you have not been to Zimbabwe but would like to see the 15CA, you should arrive at Johannesburg on 24 June to join the group in the evening.
On arrival at Sandstone, check in to your accommodation before a short safety briefing, a reminder that we will be staying on a farm with a lot of activity, both on the farm and railway.
Overnight: Sandstone Estate. Meals: Dinner.

The farm provides accommodation of varying standards. We have reserved all available beds for our group. There is a limited number of single rooms, so please make your reservation as soon as possible! More accommodation information can be found here.

Tuesday, 19 July 2022
Our British locomotives day
In general, we will run 2 photographic sessions every day: 3-4 hours very early in the morning to catch the wonderful light around sunrise, and another session of 3-4 hours in the afternoon, ending after sunset. We will also have an occasional night photo session.
Today will feature the two Lawley 4-4-0 locomotives that are scheduled to run from the main Hoekfontein station to the Grootdraai loop before running through Hoekfontein to Mooihoek and back.
Over lunch time you may wonder around and visit some of the spectacular collections the Sandstone Farm has to offer, enjoy your included lunch, and prepare yourself for the afternoon session. We will run a NG4 to Mooihoek and the Pandora Pond, aiming for glint and sunset shots around Mooihoek. Some of the preserved buses and the famous oxen-cart will be featured today as well.
Overnight: Sandstone Estate. Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner.

Wednesday, 20 July 2022
Our Garratt day
Today, we want to feature “the” African locomotive by showcasing the famous “Garratt” design: in the morning, we will be on our way to Mooihoek with an NGG11 Garratt, and after that we will take our train to Grootdraai and back to Hoekfontein. In the afternoon we will see two NGG16 Garratts in front of a mixed train on the main line to Vailima and “around the mountain” and then back to Hoekfontein. As this is the most challenging part of the line, and if conditions do not permit a trip around the complete loop we will run to the S-curves behind Vailima only before returning to Hoekfontein.
Our photo extras today: tractors and/or vintage cars.
Overnight: Sandstone Estate. Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Thursday, 21 July 2022
Our German 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 line-side interest.
Overnight: Sandstone Estate. Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Friday, 22 July 2022
Our American day
Another Sandstone star is the recently rehabilitated NG10 number 61 (42633/1915) from Baldwin. This iconic locomotive will haul all our charters today: we will start with a session to Grootdrai, followed by an afternoon action around Mooihoek and Vailima. We are expecting another chance for superb glint photography! Some of the farm´s US-built agricultural machinery will be on the move, too!
Overnight: Sandstone Estate. Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Saturday, 23 July 2022
A small locomotive day
Some of the smaller steam locomotives on the farm cannot be used on the main line without creating “issues”: the distances to the next water stop may be too long and some of the gradients are steep. Thus the farm management decided to build “Seb´s railway” which was inaugurated in 2017: a new line running in the South-East of Hoekfontein and specifically designed to facilitate the smaller locomotives! We will again have a morning and afternoon session here, using 2 steam locomotives per session hauling goods wagons or cocopans. The steam locomotives will be featured as double- and single-header.
Overnight: Sandstone Estate. Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Sunday, 24 July 2022
Our superpower event!
Our last photo-session during this tour will feature the newest addition to Sandstone´s fleet of active steam locomotives: the NGG16 Garratt  #155. Originally used on the Alfred County Railway out of Port Shepstone, it was rebuild by the famous mechanical engineer Phil Girdlestone who incorporated some of the technology that was used at the famous Class 26 Red Devil in 1980: a gas producing combustion system, Lempor exhausts, an improved spark arrester, lightweight multi-ring articulated piston valves, improved valve events and improved mechanical lubrication. The improved NGG16 Garratt, now labelled NGG16A, performed well and exceeded the old NGG16 Garratts as well as the new class 91 diesel locomotives by 25% in power. The Alfred County Railway was convinced that this new locomotive would be the future and decided in 1990 to build a complete new class of Garratts based on the NGG16A design, to be classified as NGG17. Sadly, traffic levels dropped when road transport took a lot of customers away from the railway, sending the ACR (and the project to build the NGG17) into history.
We will motor back to Johannesburg around 10h00, expecting to arrive at the OR Tambo airport around 15h00

This tour will be operated by Tanago Eisenbahnreisen
Tanago, a German Tour Operator, will operate this tour and Geoff’ Cooke will accompany as your group manager. Please book through Geoff’s Travel Club using our booking link below. We will send the information to Tanago and you will receive a response from them.
An English translation of the Tanago booking conditions can be found here.

Due to uncertainties resulting from the Covid pandemic, Tanago are asking for expressions of interest for this tour and will only request a deposit in early 2022. If you would like to book the tour, please declare your interest now. There will be no commitment until you are asked for a deposit, but your interest will help Tanago to measure interest and consequently keep the tour in their programme.

The tour prices

17 – 18 July 2022. 15CA at Johannesburg
100 Euro Accommodation in a shared twin room, 15CA in steam, all transfers, breakfast
160 Euro Accommodation in a single room, 15CA in steam, all transfers, breakfast

18 to 24 July 2022. Photo charters on the Sandstone Estate
1.980 Euro: Per person for a shared twin compartment in a Cape gauge sleeping car
2.260 Euro:  For a single coupe in a Cape gauge sleeping car
2.490 Euro: Per person for a shared twin room in a Victorian Cottage
2.760 Euro: Per person for a shared twin room at the Railway Cottage
3.280 Euro: For a single room at the Railway Cottage

Please refer to the “Sandstone accommodation” page for details of the various accommodation options.
The accommodation options on the farm are limited and are allocated strictly in the order of bookings.
If you are travelling alone, you can book a “shared” twin room, Tanago will try to allocate another “shared twin room” person. If, contrary to expectations, this does not succeed, they will charge the single room surcharge.

The Tanago Corona-money-back-promise: please do not allow Corona to spoil your interest in trains or photography! We do not know how Corona will influence the rules and laws for the summer 2021 vacation. Therefore we want to make booking this unique trip easy and safe for you and promise that you will receive a full refund of all payments done if the tour has to be postponed or cancelled due to legal requirements imposed by the South African government or decisions made by our partners.

Booking, Deposits and final payments:
Your contract will be with Tanago and payment will be made to them in Euro.
A 20% deposit or final payment will be requested, depending on the date that you book.
Geoff will be your point of contact alongside the Tanago office, he will be happy to answer any queries that you have but Tanago will manage your tour arrangements. When you book, Tanago will send you an insurance document that guarantees your payment to them until the tour has been concluded. The document will be in German, accompanied by a translation that explains it’s content but does not form part of the legal document. Full booking conditions will be sent to you by Tanago Eisenbahnreisen on request. An English copy can be seen here.

Your tour includes:

  • All train charters described in the programme.
  • Transfers between Johannesburg Airport and Sandstone Estates.
  • Accommodation as booked.
  • Meals as described.
  • Geoff Cooke as your group manager (subject to adequate bookings being received through Geoff’s Trains).
  • A Tanago tour manager.English language literature and management throughout.

Your tour does not include:

  • Air travel.
  • Meals not mentioned or any drinks with meals.
  • Gratuities.
  • Items of a personal nature such as phone calls, internet access (except where complimentary) and laundry.

Important information:

Local standards and availability: The quality of the local infrastructure in many places cannot be compared with Western Europe. Our accommodation on the farm may be basic but clean and well maintained. Please note that central heating is not available in most cases, even in winter!
Although the maintenance standards of the vehicles and railway systems on the Sandstone farm are very good and professional, we cannot guarantee the availability of a particular locomotive, class or line. In the event of unavailability we will make every effort to provide you with the best possible alternative. Tanago exclude any further claims for pro-rata reimbursement or compensation.

Indemnities: As Sandstone is an industrial estate, they require all visitors to sign an indemnity on arrival. A further indemnity may be required is you wish to ride on vehicles, including locomotive footplates.

Disabilities: When you book this tour it is accepted that you are able to walk at a reasonable pace, and that you are able to board and leave narrow gauge railway carriages unaided. If you are uncertain about the suitability of the tour, please discuss this with us when you book.

Dress: Casual dress is appropriate.  The weather should be warm with cool or cold nights.

Detailed information will be sent to all participants about two weeks prior to the start date.

Maximum number of participants: 50
Minimum number of participants: 30

To book
Please send an email to:
Include details of the tour you plan to book and the names of all those who will travel.
Let us know if you wish to make a confirmed booking, or if you would like to make a provisional booking pending receipt of more information.
We will get back to you as soon as possible.

If you have any questions, get in touch