The 4-8-4 locomotives of the classes 25 and 25NC are technical masterpieces on
Apart from the Red Devil, the Super-25NC (class 26), only two locomotives currently have a track licence and valid boiler certificates: 25NC 3437 and 25NC 3482. The former is an original 25NC, whereas the 3482 was converted from a class 25 condenser into a 25NC (NC stands for non-condensing).
Bringing the two locomotives back to life after a long period of storage took a lot of effort and money. Then Covid-19 came along and wiped out all the efforts. The boiler period expired after two years, and thus before the locomotives could go on long journeys again. After intense efforts from various sides, both locomotives have now received a boiler ticket extension. This runs until the third quarter of 2023; and we have to take advantage of this, because nobody knows whether there will be another chance to see these fantastic engines in operation after that. Sure, anything is possible, but who wants to pre-finance the boiler inspections again after the risks of such a venture became so apparent by Covid-19. In any case, it requires a huge portion of craziness, and I have used that up in the meantime with regards to
Therefore, there is this one chance out here that one should take as it is, or possibly leave out unused forever. Even if you don't photograph or film trains: just to see and especially to listen to these magnificent locomotives is an experience that is no longer available in our computerised plastic age. A German 41 may be well know for its great staccato, the Bulgarian 46 may bellow an unsurpassed muffled roar into the landscape from the depths of its huge smoke box, but when you see one or even two 25NCs storm past you, it puts everything else that is driven on tracks with steam power in front of goods trains in the shade! If you don't believe it, you have to come along to be disbelieved!
The journey, like all other tours, is a risk. There are only these two operable and line approved 25NCs, both have stood for many years, and have moved very little since. Technical problems can always occur, even here and after intensive work on the locomotives in
The use of an also mighty 4-8-2 class 15F requires its refurbishment. The 15F is also an impressive machine: 5.9 m² grate area, depending on the boiler manufacturer between 295 and 320 (!) m² total heating surface and with 255 units the most numerous type of the South African State Railways. These locomotives were to be found on many lines, and over three dozen still exist today. However, none of them is operational. But there are four locomotives that can (hopefully) be made roadworthy again at a reasonable cost. The selection will be made in January 2023.
There is no detailed itinerary yet because several options are on the table. However, the plan for the deployment of the 25NC is set:
One day we will travel from
The use of the 15F depends on which one is refurbished. Transferring a locomotive across the country is so expensive that it makes more sense for us to go to where the loco sits. Since the locomotives were widely used, there are no problems with authenticity on the possible lines.
As an additional program we will use several narrow gauge Sandstone Farm-Garratts. This is not authentic, but apart from
Branching off from the electrified
The planned railway lines for the 15F offer much more variation; many curves, gradients, mountains in the background etc. allow many different motifs. But also for the 15F we will try to pay attention to the early morning light when the steam condenses over the locomotive.
The tour is planned in detail by very experienced people with the dedicated photographer and video film maker in mind. There are several limitations which we need to consider, the price is one of them. There is also a strict 12 hours working rule for train crews. There are some regular trains on the lines. Locos and wagons are allocated to a certain shed and cannot be transferred for thousands of kilometres without bursting the budget. What we’re offering here is (as so often) the maximum possible within all the mentioned and non-mentioned limitations.
We have three cape gauge and three narrow gauge locomotives scheduled for our tour. However, the locomotives we’re using are unique in the region and we will not have a replacement in case one of these locos fails. There is no guarantee that a certain locomotive will be used.
We may use pure freight trains and will get access to the photo locations by other means of transport. Those who went on the 2019 tour know what I’m talking about. Thus, it’s not advisable to wear your best clothes on such a tour. White or clothes with intense colours are also not appreciated, in case you happen to be standing in someone else’s picture. High visibility clothes will kill their shot, while dark, brown or black colours won’t disturb too much.
The daylight hours in June, the winter in
Our hotels are of different standards. At smaller places we need to split the group over different places. There will be different standards at different places, but all will be clean and offer a hot shower. The number of available single rooms is limited. We cannot guarantee to have a single room available at all locations. Single room bookings need to be confirmed manually; the instant confirmation from the booking system is not valid for this particular tour. The standard of our accommodations will be three stars.
There is a strong possibility that we will spend a few nights in sleeping cars, because that is by far the best solution. There are different compartments, from economy to first class, which also have different prices. As a rule, the best compartments are booked up the quickest, even if it means paying a premium.
Temperatures can drop below freezing point, while during the day we may reach temperatures of more than 20 degrees centigrade. Although we’re hoping for sunny weather, we may see some rainy days. Please be prepared: rain coat, jumper, jacket, sturdy shoes are essentials which you should carry with you, as well as sun cream and a cap.
Most of the photo spots we’re going to haven’t seen photographers for a long time. Vegetation will be a problem which can be overcome easily by using grass slashers. The more of our group will help, the more photo stops will be possible. If everyone rushes for the “best spot” and stands there until a lonely slasher has cleared the line of grass it may take 20 minutes, time which will be lost for other runpasts. There is sufficient space for everyone to get a master shot in the box. This said, please first help to clear the spot and then head for your position. We’ll not perform a runpast before everyone is in position. It’s a group event and the best result is obtained when everyone in the group cares for the needs of each other and helps when help is required.
Electricity is 230V / 50Hz, but you’ll need an adapter in most cases. Besides a two pin plug type,
A valid Covid vaccination might be required. Currently it is not, but rules may change, depending where you come from. The region we’re travelling to is considered to be Malaria-free. No special vaccinations are required (except when travelling from Yellow-fever areas to
When packing your luggage remember that travelling light is the best way to enjoy the tour. We’ll not have porters and you need to carry your own luggage on most occasions.
For most nationalities no visa is required. Please check with your local embassy if you need a visa (New Zealanders are affected).
You’ll need some local money (
In the countryside you’re almost as safe as in central
Please bear in mind that accommodation and transportation in
|25NC, 15F and Sandstone||70 to 80 participants||£4,260|
|23.06.2023 04.07.2023||Single room surcharge||£670|
|Registration Deadline: 25.04.2023|
Optional: Kruger Park 03.-10.07.2023: £1,220 single room supplement: £250
The price Includes
Not included are