Sandstone Estates (Pty) Ltd is a large commercial agricultural enterprise covering over 7,000 hectares (17,000 acres), located on the border with Lesotho in South Africa's Eastern Free State province, close to the Maluti Mountains. The nearest town is Ficksburg, 14 kilometres (8.7 mi) away on the R26. It is a hub of transport preservation.
The farm was built up by the Wille family from the 1830s, who were originally German missionaries. Today it is part of an international agri-business that produces wheat, soya beans, maize and sunflowers. 100% organic since 2005.
Sandstone Heritage Trust
Like many farms in South Africa, it had no narrow gauge railway to transport produce direct from the fields to the main shipping ports.
As a steam enthusiast, in the mid-1990s Sandstone was approached by Alan Clarke of Transnet Heritage Foundation, who realised the foundation did not have the resources to rescue the collapsing Midmar Museum in KwaZulu-Natal. The collection formed the basis of what became the Sandstone Heritage Trust. Today, the trust's main collection is still based around the railway transport of Southern Africa, but also covers an extensive global road transport and military vehicle collection.
The annual "Stars of Sandstone" 10-day event every March, April or May attracts 1,000s of visitors, 70% of whom are from overseas.
Old tractors which had been on the farm for many years were retained, and added to by donated items. Today the collection runs to over 700 tractors, all were slowly restored to operation.
The 2 ft (610 mm) narrow gauge railway runs from Grootdraai in the south, for some 26 kilometres (16 mi) northwards to the main farm and main depot at Hoekfontein, onwards via Mooihoek to Vailima Sidings/Ficksburg and the a large loop at Vailima Village. Today the collection of 2 ft (610 mm) narrow gauge locomotives and rolling stock is one of the most numerous in the world.
During the 1990s the Trust took occupancy of the old South African Railways steam workshops at Ficksburg, located alongside the Transnet Freight Rail Bethlehem to Bloemfontein line. As well as acting as a collection and restoration point, it also acted as a training college for local young people, who were trained through the restoration process.
Sandstone operates a major locomotive refurbishment programme at its Bloemfontein workshops. This is located in the old Steam Depot which was the home of constant Steam activity for many decades.
The Trust has 22 locomotives in use on the estate, with another five are under restoration in Bloemfontein.
The trust formed a joint-venture with the South African Army's Armour Museum in Bloemfontein, which led to the development of a significant collection of vintage military vehicles. The collection is built around educating visitors on the history of South African military engineering since World War II.
The School of Armour plays an important role in the semi-annual "Stars of Sandstone" event, with daily displays and convoys of military vehicles.
- Alfred County Railway
- Avontuur Railway
- Welsh Highland Railway
- Two foot gauge railways in South Africa
- "The Sandstone Steam Railroad – the first ten years" (PDF). The Times. Retrieved 2009-07-10.
- Lindi van Rooyen (28 June 2013). "Locomotive collector and his toys". Farmers Weekly. Retrieved 14 May 2014.
- "Narrow Gauge Garratts and More". farrail.com. Retrieved 2009-07-10.
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