Two-foot-gauge railways in South Africa
At the beginning of the 20th century, 2 ft (610 mm) narrow-gauge railway lines started playing a significant role in South Africa. They facilitated the transport of various agricultural and mineral produce from locations hardly accessible by road. They therefore enabled many communities to become prosperous.
These lines featured the largest and most powerful locomotives ever in existence on two-foot-gauge railways worldwide.
The larger railway lines operated their own workshops performing minor to major maintenance and/or repairs. For the purpose of major overhauls and interchangeability, rolling stock could be transported piggyback on Cape gauge rolling stock by means of a special access ramp on the break of gauge at Cape gauge junctions available on most of the two-foot lines.
Their decline started in the 1980s, the last commercial line ceased operations in the 1990s. Only a few tourist, agricultural and/or heritage railways survive. Many defunct locomotives are plinthed at various former railway station sites or performing their duties on the Welsh Highland Railway and other heritage railways in and outside South Africa.
- 1 Nomenclature
- 2 Railway lines with rails (partially) intact, operationally closed
- 3 Closed or converted railway lines
- 3.1 Bezuidenhout Light Railway
- 3.2 Kearsney–Stanger Light Railway
- 3.3 Otavi Mining and Railway Company
- 3.4 Kalbaskraal–Hopefield–Saldanha
- 3.5 Pienaarsrivier–Pankop
- 3.6 South Western Railway
- 3.7 Estcourt–Weenen
- 3.8 Umzinto–Donnybrook
- 3.9 Umlaas Road–Mid Illovo
- 3.10 Elandshoek–Mount Carmel
- 3.11 Upington–Kakamas
- 3.12 Fort Beaufort–Balfour–Seymour
- 4 Heritage Railways
- 5 Agricultural Railways
- 6 Industrial
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 External links
It is common for South Africans to consider anything less than 1,067 mm (3 ft 6 in, Cape gauge) as a narrow-gauge railway and are accustomed referring to "standard gauge" when they actually mean "Cape gauge".
- Cape Province: 580 km government, 60 km private lines.
- Natal: 393 km government plus approx. 500 km sugar lines.
- Transvaal: 100 km, all gone.
- Orange Free State: 26 km private.
Railway lines with rails (partially) intact, operationally closed
Port Elizabeth–Avontuur / Patensie
The Avontuur Railway was built from 1890 to 1905 and is 285 kilometres (177 mi) long. Extension to Patensie completed in 1914.
The Apple Express, a tourist train, ceased operations in December 2010.
- Locomotives used
- CGR Type A 2-6-4T, CGR Type C 0-4-0T, CGR NG 0-6-0T, CGR NG 4-6-2T, NG3, NG6, NG8, NG9, NG10, NG G11, NG G12, NG G13, NG G14, NG15, NG G16, 91-000.
The Port Shepstone–Harding line was operated from 1911 to 2006 and is 122 kilometres (76 mi) long. Closed by South African Railways in 1986 and then leased to the Alfred County Railway which went bankrupt in 2004. The Banana Express continued under Patons Country Narrow Gauge Railway operations having a temporary permit from Transnet and ceased operations in 2005. On 18 June 2008 a storm ruined the railway in the coastal area. A limited diesel locomotive hauled service has also operated between Paddock and Plains stations more recently.
Closed or converted railway lines
The following railways were closed or converted to Cape gauge.
Bezuidenhout Light Railway
During 1900 these two 0-4-0T locomotives were used by the 47th Field Company Royal Engineers during the construction of the Bezuidenhout Light Railway, a light narrow gauge railway line from Simmer and Jack’s siding near Germiston in the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek to a siege camp 3.5 kilometres (2.2 miles) away along the Bezuidenhout Valley.
- Locomotives used
Kearsney–Stanger Light Railway
January 1901–1944, eight miles (12,8 km) from Kearsney to Stanger, built and put into service at a total cost of £18,500. The track was laid with 30 lb rails and had a ruling gradient of 1 in 30. The line carried sugar and tea, passenger trains were operated until about 1930.
Otavi Mining and Railway Company
1903–1961, 567 kilometres (352 mi) in German South-West Africa (today's Namibia). Built at the gauge of 600 mm, which did not prevent exchanging locomotives with the two foot (610 mm) lines in South Africa when it was taken over by South Africa (as part of the British Empire) in 1915. Regauged to cape gauge.
Before the gauge conversion many locomotives were interchanged with the South African two foot railway systems depending on various operational considerations. After the gauge conversion the remaining stock was transferred to the two foot lines.
1906–1923, 15 kilometres (9.3 miles), later extended. It was built by a farmer  who bought the locomotives and rolling stock from army surplus stock of the Bezuidenhout Light Railway. The line was used to haul firewood. Converted to cape gauge.
- Pienaarsrivier - Bourke - Pankop
South Western Railway
- Knysna - Bracken Hill - Parkes - Diepwalle 
Between 1907 and 1983 a narrow gauge railway connected Weenen with Estcourt, 47 kilometres to the west, and provided an outlet for its agricultural produce and was thus called the "Cabbage Express". This line was the Natal Government Railway's first venture into narrow gauge operation. Its rails were lifted. The NG G11 number 55 remained plinthed at Weenen and was later refurbished and is now used on the Paton's County Railway.
- Estcourt–Scheepersfontein–Peniston–Haviland–Wondergeluk–Stanley–Mielietuin–Mona–New Furrow–Weenen.
The Umzinto–Donnybrook narrow-gauge railway was in existence from 1908 to 1987 and was 93 miles long. It is now closed and its tracks were lifted however the Ixopo to Madonela branch has been rebuilt from Allwoodburn to Madonela and is use by Patons Country Railway
- Umzinto–Esperanza–Nkwifa–Inverugie–Braemar–Glenrosa–Sawoti–Mbulula–Dumisa–Kenterton–Njane–Jolivet–Hlutankungu–Knockagh–Kunatha–Highflats–Rydal–Glen Beulah–Etterby–La Trappe–Ixopo with Branch to Madonela–Vause–Loch Buidhe–Crystal Manor–Lufafa Road–Mabedlana–Maxwell–Eastwolds–Carthill–Donnybrook
Umlaas Road–Mid Illovo
- Umlaas Road–Killamy Road–Edinglassie–Tala–Eston–Ripley–Ntimbankulu–Milford–Mid Illovo.
1925–1931, 12 miles, closed.
- Locomotives used
- Elandshoek–Two Falls–Solarvale East–Solarvale–Indiemiddel–Mount Carmel
1926–1949, 55 miles, regauged to cape gauge.
1926–1940, 35 miles. First, a 25-mile stretch of narrow-gauge line was authorised at a cost of R130,000 between Fort Beaufort and Seymour. This line was later extended from Balfour 12 miles to Seymour. The line was regauged to cape gauge during 1939 and 1940.
Sandstone heritage trust
At Sandstone Estates a 26 km line runs from Grootdraai in the south, northwards to the main farm, loco depot and marshalling and storage sidings at Hoekfontein, onwards via Mooihoek to a large loop at Vailima sidings/Ficksburg. and the village at Vailima. It first opened in 1998.
Its collection consists of narrow gauge stock collected from other closed 2 ft narrow gauge lines in Kwazulu Natal.
Patons Country Narrow Gauge Railway
- Locomotives used
- NG G11, two Avonside sugar cane loco's and Two 4 Cylinder Diesel Hunslet shunter,.
Zebediela Sugar Estates
Sezela, Sugar railway system
Umtwalumi Valley Estate
A sugar plantation in Natal.
Chaka's Kraal Estate
A sugar plantation.
Tongaat Sugar Estates, Natal.
- Locomotives used
- Bagnall 4-4-0T
Darnall and Felixton sugar estates
- Locomotives used
- Various Bagnall.
Eastern Province Cement Company (EPCC)
Ran a private Branch from Chelsea junction at the Avontuur Railway to its cement factory at New Brighton in Port Elizabeth. Locomotives included a 33-ton 4-6-2 built by Baldwin Locomotive Works with a separate 23-ton tender carrying 5 tons of coal and 2,040 US gal (7,700 l) of water. This locomotive, numbered 2, had a 43-inch (1.1 m) diameter boiler producing 160 psi (1,100 kPa) steam to 13.5-inch (34.4 cm) diameter cylinders through an 18-inch (46 cm) stroke powering 36-inch (92 cm) diameter drivers. In 1973, it was wrecked after a runaway accident, and after years of idleness it was shipped to the Brecon Mountain Railway in Wales. The rebuild started in 1990 and the locomotive went back to service in 1997.
The EPCC also operated a South African Class NG8 4-6-0 and two 300 HP funkey diesel-mechanical B-B locomotives which were also shipped to Wales to be used on the Welsh Highland Railway (unaltered) and the Ffestiniog Railway, the latter implying the construction of a new body to be able to negotiate the strict loading gauge of that railway. A third diesel, a three axle hunslet, survived in South Africa 
Rustenburg Platinum Mines
????–1981. Approximately 10 miles. Platinum ore railway. Converted to Cape gauge.
Vogelspruit Gold Mining Areas Ltd
West Rand Consolidated Mines
- Rail transport in South Africa
- List of South African locomotive classes
- List of abandoned railway lines in South Africa
- Sandstone Estates
- Book: Durrant, A.E., A.A. Jorgensen, C.P. Lewis. Steam in Africa, London, 1981, Hamlyn
- Sellick, W.S.J. (1904). Uitenhage, past and present : souvenir of the Centenary, 1804-1904. p. 194.
- Paxton, Leith; Bourne, David (1985). Locomotives of the South African Railways (1st ed.). Cape Town: Struik. pp. 99–100, 110. ISBN 0869772112.
- Old steam locomotives in South Africa: Kearsney-Stanger Light Railway 1901-c.1944
- Charles William Francis Harrison, Joseph Forsyth Ingram (1903). "IV – The Tea District". Natal; an illustrated official railway guide and handbook of general information. London: P. Jennings. p. 166.
- Kerr Stuarts for South Africa
- Book: Twenty-four inches apart by Sydney Melsom Moir, page 139
- See map
- Correspondence 60
- Paxton, Leith; Bourne, David (1985); Locomotives of the South African Railways (1st ed.). Cape Town: Struik. pp. 99–100, 110. ISBN 0-86977-211-2.
- [dead link]
- 2ft Narrow Gauge Forest Railroad in Knysna - South Western Railway Co
- The Knysna "Coffee Pot"
- South Western Railway Co. - Locomotives Archived 28 October 2011 at the Wayback Machine.
- Geoffs Trains - The South African NGG11 Garratt steam locomotive
- "Locomotives and Buildings Used on the Country Railway". Archived from the original on 22 April 2009. Retrieved 10 November 2011.
- Stations are still displayed on Google maps
- photo 20
- Map Durban to Pietermaritzburg - Covering the railway alignments between Durban-Pietermaritzburg and lots of other interesting information - Bruno Martin
- South Africa (Transvaal) Railways–SL 213 - Passenger stations and stops
- Book: Twenty-four inches apart by Sydney Melsom Moir, page 166
- Syd gets all steamed up about trains - Adam Brand - 8 August 1964
- Book: Twenty-four inches apart by Sydney Melsom Moir, page 160
- The Sandstone Steam Railroad – The first ten years Archived 13 April 2014 at the Wayback Machine.
- "Locos In Use Today". Archived from the original on 1 October 2006. Retrieved 3 December 2011.
- Sandstone Steam Railroad Archived 13 April 2014 at the Wayback Machine.
- Old steam locomotives in South Africa: SEZELA Sugar Mill: Sezela No 1 - Avonside 1719/1915
- Developments in sugar manufacture in South Africa from 1959 to 1984: The Sezela factory
- Old steam locomotives in South Africa: Umzinto, Indian Quran Study School, Hunslet 3385/1946
- "No. 16 Carlisle". Archived from the original on 25 April 2012. Retrieved 10 November 2011.
- Bagnall Articulated Locomotives
- The PE-Avontuur Narrow Gauge Line– A brief history
- Moody, Linwood W. (1959) The Maine Two-Footers p.210
- Baldwin De-railed - Evening Post Monday 20 August 1973
- Narrow gauge World Magazine - No. 49 jan-feb 2007 Limestone to Port Elizabeth - by David Payling - Page 12, second column
- "No.2 Baldwin Locomotive". Brecon Mountain Railway.
- Bottom page
- Durrant, A.E., A.A. Jorgensen, C.P. Lewis. Steam in Africa, London, 1981, Hamlyn
- Ex West Rand Consolidated Mines 0-4-0WT Orenstein & Koppel 4102/1910
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to
- General map of narrow gauge railways in South Africa, initial source for this article. From the Two Foot Preservation Trust website.
- South African two foot gauge railways - RMWeb
- South African narrow gauge rolling stock - RMWeb
- Vanishing Steam; Article by the South African Tourist Corporation
- Forum with Photographs of SA NG lines, Page 1 Page2