Steam trains at Sandstone Estates, Free State
Did you know?
Sandstone Estates runs the largest private collection of narrow-gauge steam locomotives in the world.
As you’re driving on the R26 along South Africa’s border with Lesotho, look east and you’ll see the magnificent Maluti Mountains catching the morning sunlight.
Completing the picture – if it’s your lucky day – will be a narrow-gauge steam locomotive chugging past in the distance, twin plumes of black smoke and white-coloured steam trailing in the air. If he sees you, the driver might toot in greeting.
One of South Africa’s greatest privately owned heritage assets is the steam train collection at Sandstone Estates, near Ficksburg in the eastern Free State.
South Africa was once a world leader in steam. Sandstone Estates wants to re-establish South Africa as the top steam railway destination in the world. Sandstone Estates’ efforts are an integral part of the Steam In Action movement to preserve and rehabilitate many of the great old locomotives that once ran all over the country. The other two big players in South African steam preservation are Reef Steamers and Friends of the Rail.
Understanding the tourism value of this nostalgic form of rail travel, Sandstone Estates have built up a faithful following of overseas steam train enthusiasts who come out to South Africa to attend the various functions laid on throughout the year. One of the highlights of the calendar for steam train fans is an annual 10-day steam festival hosted at Sandstone Estates in March, April or May.
There is also great local support for the trains: every November during the Ficksburg Cherry Festival, Sandstone Estates gets involved and offers walking tours through the vintage sheds. They then get the chance to poke around the many sheds at Sandstone and marvel at the wide range of preserved farm machinery, classic cars and military vehicles on show.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Tel: +27 (0)51 933 2235
Steam Heritage Festival
Tel: +27 (0)11 805 4692
How to get here
Sandstone Estates is 14km north of Ficksburg on the R26 towards Fouriesburg. Ficksburg is about 200km or a two-hour drive from Bloemfontein, the Free State's biggest city, and about 400km or a four-hour drive from Johannesburg.
Around the area
Do day trips to Clarens, and the spectacular Golden Gate National Park.
What will it cost
Enquire directly about the cost of the festival with Sandstone Estates.
Length of stay
The steam festival lasts for 10 days.
What to pack
April and May is autumn in South Africa, and you'll going to outdoors on occasion, so pack something warm.
Where to stay
There is various accommodation available in nearby Ficksburg, or you could camp at the Sandstone Estates' campground by request. There is no alternate accommodation at Sandstone Estates itself.
What to eat
The festival programme package includes hearty farm-cooked meals on Sandstone.
Sandstone Estates organises a 10-day steam train festival every year in March, April or May.