On Sunday afternoon, 10th April 2011, four 2ft Narrow Gauge Garratt locomotives representing the products of four separate manufacturers were steamed together hauling a 35 truck freight train on the private 2ft Narrow Gauge railway at Sandstone Estates, an agricultural enterprise close to the Lesotho border.
The Sandstone Heritage Trust which is based on the farm has the largest collection of operating Narrow Gauge locomotives in the world. Amongst this collection are four Garratt locomotives manufactured by Cockerill of Belgium, Beyer Peacock of the United Kingdom, Hanomag of Germany, and Hunslet of South Africa. Over 20-years these four locomotives have been painstakingly restored to full working order. To coincide with an international Steam Gala which is currently taking place and which ends on 16th April 2011 it was decided to coordinate this historic locomotive steaming. There is nowhere in the world where four operating Garratts co-exist in the same Running Shed and therefore it seemed appropriate that it should come together for the benefit of an enthusiastic group of dedicated international railway photographers who had flown from many parts of the world to witness this particular spectacle.
Wilfred Mole, a spokesman for the Sandstone Heritage Trust, said “South Africa has always been a proven and popular destination for dedicated rail tourists. South Africa’s legacy as a Steam Railway destination is highly respected around the world but in recent years there has been a rapid decline in the number of Heritage railways that still operate steam and which offer a tourist experience. Although located in a remote area of South Africa, Sandstone’s engineering excellence is recognised worldwide and is proven by the spectacle of over 300-tons of locomotive power working together in perfect harmony on a beautiful Autumn afternoon in the Eastern Free State.”