Simply Unforgettable Sandstone with PTG

A PTG Tour, hosted by Geoff Cooke, that can be booked through Geoff’s Travel Club.

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

This tour was planned for 2021, but has moved to 2022 due to Covid restrictions.

Originally planned for 2021, this tour has moved to 2002. The dates and information below are provisional and subject to confirmation.

15 to 30 April 2022
A tour for narrow gauge railway enthusiasts and photographers.

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

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. 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 Continental and American locomotives, rolling stock, original stations and infrastructure, the railway is well positioned to run an authentic and busy narrow-gauge railway 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.

Sandstone is a special place, but so are the Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe – one of the seven natural wonders of the world and the Chobe National Park in Botswana, unrivalled for outstanding wildlife viewing and photography. These amazing destinations can be added to your Sandstone experience!

Geoff Cooke will host your tour. He has hosted many tours to all the destinations you will visit, he planned this tour for PTG and is unquestionably the best person to accompany you on your African adventure.

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.

Six Garratts record attempt

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!
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 for the first few days and transferring to Sandstone by coach each day.

You can also transfer from Johannesburg on 18 April, in time for the exclusive charters, if you do not wish to attend the Six Garratts event.

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.
Overnight: Fouriesburg with a welcome dinner.

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.

Sunday, 17 April 2022 (B,L,D)
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. (Extra cost for the transfer and Sandstone entry).
Overnight: Fouriesburg.

Monday, 18 April 2022 (B,D)
Spend today at Sandstone, enjoying the last of their public days. 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 with dinner.
The farm provides accommodation of varying standards. We have reserved all available beds for our group.
More accommodation information can be found here.

Your exclusive PTG visit to Sandstone stars today

Tuesday, 19 April 2022 (B, L, D)
British locomotives 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 classic 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 track-side photo cameos.

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 line-side cameos.

Thursday, 21 April 2022 (B, L, D)
German locomotives 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.

Friday, 22 April 2022 (B, L, D)
American 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.

Saturday, 23 April 2022 (B, L, D)
A small locomotive 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 line-side.

Sunday, 24 April 2022 (B)
Our superpower event!
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 Tambo 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.

Victoria Falls and the Chobe Game Reserve

No African visit can be considered complete without seeing some wildlife and the Victoria Falls. We are delighted to be able to offer you a few days at each to create a fitting end to your unforgettable African experience.

Sunday, 24 April 2022
On arrival at Johannesburg’s OR Tambo Airport, check into an airport hotel for the night. (This is necessary because flights to Victoria Falls depart mid-morning).

Monday, 25 April 2022 (B, Optional dinner)
Fly to Victoria Falls this morning. (South African Airways tends to be the best option, they have generally arrived first and so you get in front of the visa queue at Victoria Falls Airport). You will be met at the airport with a private transfer to your hotel. Join a hosted tour of the Victoria Falls rain forest this afternoon. We do this in the afternoon because the sun should create amazing rainbows in the spray – a big bonus for photographers.  
Overnight: The Kingdom Hotel, Victoria Falls.

Tuesday, 26 April 2022 (B)
There are many optional activities at Victoria Falls, and we have kept this morning free so that you can consider our pre-bookable list including helicopter rides, game activities, a crocodile ranch, some retail therapy or a game of golf. Time to relax this afternoon before an optional steam dinner train experience (subject to availability). The train should leave Victoria Falls station at 17h00 for the famous Victoria Falls Bridge over the Zambezi River that is the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia. Enjoy sundowners and an introduction to the history of the bridge before returning to the station and an onward journey towards Jafuta siding on the railway line towards Bulawayo. A five-star dinner will be served in an opulent dining car as your Garratt steam locomotive steams through the African bush. Return to Victoria Falls station and your hotel at about 22h00.
Overnight: Victoria Falls.

Wednesday, 27 April 2022 (B, L, D)
After a leisurely breakfast and a last chance to book an optional experience, transfer to Kasane and the Chobe Game Reserve. The transfer will be by mini-bus and open safari vehicle over wide tarred roads, about 80 kilometres with the Zimbabwe /Botswana border crossing en-route. After lunch, join an included game activity that will be either by safari vehicle or by boat on the Chobe River. Both options will be experienced during your stay.
Overnight: Pangolin Lodge, Kasane, Chobe.

Thursday, 28 April 2022 (B, L, D)
Enjoy morning and afternoon game activities today, with a break mid-day for lunch and relaxation. Chobe has some of the best game and bird viewing in southern Africa, with the Chobe river adding great value to the experience. Pangolin Safaris is the premier photographic safari operator in the region, every vehicle and boat activity is accompanied by a professional photographer who will help you to obtain the best photographs of the diverse wildlife you will see. Their vehicles and boats are especially designed for photographers in mind and cameras and 600mm lenses are available on free loan.
Overnight: Pangolin Lodge, Kasane, Chobe.

Friday, 29 April 2022 (B, L, D)
Another day of superb wildlife experiences. Morning and afternoon game experiences will once more add to your repertoire of African experiences.
Overnight: Pangolin Lodge, Kasane, Chobe.

Saturday, 30 April 2022 (B)
Your last game experience will start at dawn today, followed by breakfast and time to pack for your journey home. Later this morning, make the short transfer to Kasane airport for your flight to Johannesburg and connection with your overnight flight home.

This tour will be operated by PTG Tours, a British specialist rail-tour operator
PTG Tours will operate this tour and Geoff’ Cooke will be your tour manager.
Please book through Geoff’s Travel Club, details can be found at the bottom of this page.

Geoff’s Travel Club does not arrange flights, but PTG Tours will be happy to quote for and book these for you.

Prices
Holiday Prices (per person) – in Sandstone estate cottages (no singles)
Full “from home” holiday with Heathrow flights: £3,250
Full holiday joining in Johannesburg: £2,650
Holiday Prices (per person) – own cabin in static sleeper carriages at Sandstone
Full “from home” holiday with Heathrow flights: £2,950
Full holiday joining in Johannesburg: £2,350
Options
Victoria Falls and Chobe add-on: £TBC
Deposit
Travelling by air: £1,200
Own travel: £600
With such a large number of flight options, and upgrades, the with flight price will be agreed at time of booking

Please refer to our Sandstone accommodation  page for details of the various accommodation options.

Your booking, deposits and final payments:
Your contract will be with PTG and payment will be made to them in Sterling.
PTG booking conditions apply.

Geoff will be your point of contact alongside the PTG office, he will be happy to answer any queries that you have but PTG will manage your
tour arrangements.

Tour highlights:
For the Sandstone tour starting on 15 April and ending on 24 April

  • Two days at the Sandstone “Six Garratts” record breaking event
  • Day trip to Lesotho, the mountain kingdom.
  • Remote private estate with own Covid-19 bubble on exclusive charter days
  • One of the largest collections 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
  • Many meals and all accommodation included
  • Transfers between Johannesburg and Sandstone

For the Victoria Falls and Chobe post-tour option

  • Guided tour of Victoria Falls
  • Photo charters by road and water at the Chobe Game Reserve

Your tour does not include:

  • Air travel (unless arranged with PTG).
  • 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.

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. Travel on locomotive foot-plates is not permitted by the South African Rail Safety Regulator..

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 prior to the start date.

To book
Please send an email to: geoff@geoffs-trains.com
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