Wednesday, 6 November 2013

The Outeniqua Choo Tjoe on the Garden Route, South Africa.

South Africa’s only remaining scheduled steam train, the Outeniqua Choo Tjoe offers its passengers a unique, picturesque and scenic 52-kilometre journey experiencing the Garden Route with spectacular views of the Indian Ocean.

The railway initially traverses mainly agricultural land used for grazing. Two major rivers are crossed. These are the Gwaiing and Malgate rivers. After crossing the Gwaiing River the railway climbs towards the siding of Skimmelkrans. After Skimmelkrans the railway winds its way for 4 kms into the Malgate Valley. The railway crosses the Malgate River high above the river where large roundish holes can be seen in the rock of the riverbed. These holes are the result of floodwater rolling stones over and over in the depressions causing gradual, but noticeable erosion. From Outeniqua the line begins its descendant to the sea. As the train twists around a large horseshoe bend, the hillsides fall dramatically towards the sea. The first seaside resort to come into view is Glentana.

The view of the Indian Ocean with its foaming waves crashing on to the seemingly endless beach, is  breath taking. The train plunges into a deep cutting and then snakes through the only tunnel on the line. Emerging again into the sunlight, passengers have an awesome vista, which stretches away to the St Blaze lighthouse to the south of Mossel Bay.

At Great Brak River the original corrugated-iron station building, erected by the Cape Government Railways, still stands. Crossing the Great Brak River just after the station, one can see the remains of the supports for the original railway bridge. During construction of the line in 1906, a temporary wooden bridge was built over the river. There was great drama on one occasion when the bridge collapsed and a locomotive fell into the river.

After Hartenbos station the Voorbay marshalling yard and railway workshops are passed. In these workshops the steam locomotives, that haul the Outeniqua Choo Tjoe, are maintained.

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