The premier heritage festival in the southern hemisphere – Stars of Sandstone 2019.

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 2ft narrow gauge steam locomotives in the world. There are more than 50 restored and unrestored locomotives, of which 25 are fully operational.

A 1905 Arn Jung 0-4-2T, originally from the Dombe Grande Sugar Estate in Angola. Picture by Sandstone

The Sandstone Heritage Trust is custodian 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 in Britain, USA, France and Germany.

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Ex-SAR NGG16 Garratts (numbers 153 and 88) double head a passenger train. Picture by Robert Carter.

Supported by about 300 items of 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.

Daily timetabled steam trains run on the railway’s three sections, offering an opportunity to experience a variety of passenger, mixed and goods trains in authentic and photogenic locations.

A vintage Harvard comes into land as a passenger train headed by a NGG16 Garratt pulls away. Picture by David Benn.

A daily highlight is a double-headed, Garratt- powered train that tackles the steepest part of the railway as the sun sets – this is very much a real railway where the equipment works hard.

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Uniquely, the heritage collection goes back further than mechanisation with traditional Afrikaner oxen that are bred, trained and still earn their keep by pulling wagons and ploughing the land.

Baldwin Class NG10 4-6-2, currently under restoration for Stars of Sandstone 2019, on display in Port Elizabeth in 1985. Picture by Gary Barnes.

At Sandstone you can also find a magnificent cross-section of almost 300 items of agricultural equipment dating back to the late-1800s.

Included are working steam traction engines and the earliest of early vintage tractors, ranging from the huge Emerson Brantingham Big 4-30, right down to the diminutive Massey Harris Pony.

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O&K 0-6-0T, originally from Fazenda Tentativa Sugar Estate in Angola. Picture by Sandstone

There is a collection of nearly 500 farm implements, a huge collection of old combine harvesters and threshing machines and, to top it off, a fleet of vintage earth-moving machinery that is still used to improve Sandstone’s infrastructure.

A new stationary engine museum has recently been completed which showcases man’s ingenuity in pumping water and generating electricity for well over 100 years.

A freight pulls away from Grootdraai double headed by a NGG11 and NGG16 Garratt. A vintage bus starts it journey alongside. Picture by Marc Henri Andre.

All this will be showcased at Stars of Sandstone 2019.

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Whatever your interests, you will find something to fascinate you. The owners, directors and staff of Sandstone Estates cherish their landscape and work hard to give it the vibrancy a biological approach to farming inevitably provides.

Inside the Sandstone locomotive depot. Picture by Rod Hering

A 400 ha chemical-free zone has been declared around the main complex and that trend towards self-sufficiency without the use of invasive chemicals in agriculture will continue. It’s a big place and an exciting event with much to see and do!

The Sandstone freight yard. Picture by Rod Hering

Here is a list of what you can see and do at Stars of Sandstone 2019 during the event, which runs from April 4-14, 2019:

Steam train rides

Trains run throughout the day with a timetable designed to see every working locomotive out on the line on at least two days during the festival. Travel on as many trains as you want or enjoy some outstanding lineside photography with the Maluti Mountains as a backdrop and the heritage collection as props.

Steam footplate experiences

Ride on locomotives as diverse as a Garratt and a 19th century Falcon built 4-4-0.

Sandstone’s Second World War Mk4 Sherman tank. Picture by Paul Stratford.

Special photographic sessions for the rail enthusiast

Enjoy daily sunrise photo sessions and action throughout the day with a team of experienced South African railway photographers.

A tour to the Sandstone workshop in Bloemfontein

Join a coach trip to visit Sandstone’s workshops and a collection of Cape Gauge locomotives destined for a major national museum development.

Ride the ‘Stargazer Express’

Ride a night train into the countryside where you will be introduced to the stars of the southern hemisphere. An added attraction for night photography.

A double-headed passenger train prepares to tackle the mountain section. Picture by David Benn

Flips in vintage aircraft

Take to the air in a Tiger Moth bi-plane, a Harvard Trainer or other vintage aircraft.

Tractor, classic vehicle and vintage bus rides

It’s a big farm, hitch a lift on a vintage tractor or a model T Ford – all part of the fun.

Military vehicle rides

Personnel carriers to tanks, Sandstone partners with South Africa’s Army Museum to give you an unrivalled selection of African military hardware experiences.

Heavy armour military displays and battle re-enactments

Tanks, troops and dust. Photo opportunities abound.

Modern farming tours

The heritage collection is housed on a modern farming estate. You are welcome to explore the farm (and find out how much the modern farmer borrows from the past – and how the railways still brings in the crops). Join a hosted tour and keep a lookout for wildlife and birds.

Double-headed Garratts in the company of a two Model A Fords.

Vintage agricultural machinery and traction engine displays

Working equipment where it should be – out on the farm beside a steam train.

Ox wagon rides

Ride a 10-ton ox wagon, precursor to the railway. These wagons opened up Africa, just as they did the American west.

Numerous photographic opportunities on the farm and with the exhibits

There are few restrictions, have fun with your camera.

On site food village and bar

Burgers to braai, beer and coffee and some amazing waffles. No need to go hungry or thirsty at Sandstone!

Become involved as an active participant in the event

Get your hands dirty – talk to Sandstone about helping to make the festival tick.

The last two operating survivors from the 1895 Beira to Umtali Railway: Lawleys BR7 and NG97. Picture by David Benn.

Entry tickets for the Stars of Sandstone Festival are available from Geoff’s Trains or Sandstone.

  • For more information on the Stars of Sandstone 2019 Steam and Heritage Festival, go to
  • Geoff’s Trains Ltd, a British specialist railtour operator, is the international sales agent for the festival. More information can be found on their website at Tours include return coach transfers from Johannesburg’s or Tambo Airport, accommodation near Sandstone, local transfers. Sandstone entry start at $1,025 for five days, $1,212 for six days and $2,192 for 10 days.
  • Geoff’s Trains Ltd is also offering a six-day main-line steam railtour after Sandstone and visits to Victoria Falls and the Chobe Game Reserve.

Join us for the premier heritage festival in the southern hemisphere – Stars of Sandstone 2019.


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