A 100-ton Class 32 Diesel locomotive is to be used for the Knysna Dinner Train in December.
GEORGE NEWS - If all goes according to plan, railway enthusiasts will be able to enjoy a meal on the Knysna Dinner Train as soon as December.
The long-awaited announcement about the reinstatement of the George-Knysna railway line service - albeit in phases - was made this week, Tuesday 14 June.
A team of specialist contractors has moved into Knysna to repair the George-Knysna railway line in preparation of the opening of a new tourist train service. The line has been out of commission since 2006, when flood damage forced the closure of the popular Outeniqua Choo Tjoe steam train.
Now, Transnet Freight Rail (TFR) has appointed Knysna-based Classic Rail as its preferred branch line concessionaire for a period of 20 years. The company received beneficial occupation of the line on 16 February.
The team on site includes Classic Rail’s consortium partners, MechMobility consultants, Global Civil Solutions, (a small to medium-sized construction company specialising in the field of innovative environmentally driven engineering) and Afri-Jero Track Engineers from Parys in the Free State.
While it will take some time for steam to return to the Garden Route, Classic Rail Chief Executive Officer Alan McVitty hopes to have the Knysna Dinner Train running between the Knysna Station and Keytersnek by December.
"This includes both the carriages and our 100-ton classic Class 32 diesel locomotives - the first diesels used in South Africa. The first phase of the development (the restoration of the line between Knysna and Keytersnek, near the Rheenendal turnoff on the N2), will also include the restoration of four dining carriages and two freight cars, which will be converted to open viewing carriages. We have all the engineering and equipment in place to transport the rolling stock to Knysna by road as soon as the track is ready," said McVitty.
Meals for the Knysna Dinner Train will be prepared in a new restaurant at the Knysna Station, and this will incorporate the historic Governor Generals’ Private Saloon which was built in 1931 next to the station platform.
"Once Knysna’s up and running, we’ll begin work on the second and third phases of the project, which will include reopening the line to George for the new Outeniqua Choo Tjoe, as well as for other tourist trains and, ultimately, freight trains by 2020."
McVitty stressed that the project has got this far only because, Transnet and a whole lot of other good people, have brought their enormous good will to the party. "With so many people so excited about what we’re doing, we’re not looking at this as a 20-year project. Rather, we see it as a 100-year plan that will preserve an important part of our heritage. I foresee that it will create opportunities for the local economy, for training and skills development, and for locals and visitors alike to once again enjoy the experience of what is probably the most scenic steam route in the world," he said.
A rock fall on the railway line near Keyters - in one of the railway cuttings - is just one of the obstacles that needs tackling.
An announcement about on-line booking facilities for the Knysna Dinner Train will follow.