A slice of History
The Port Elizabeth-Avontuur Narrow Gauge line was authorised in 1899, with construction starting in 1902. In late 1906, it reached the end point at Avontuur and officially opened early in 1907. A main line track covers a length of 177 miles (284kms) from Port Elizabeth to Avontuur – this is the longest narrow gauge railway line in the world, crossing Van Stadens Railway Bridge, the highest narrow gauge railway bridge in the world. In 1914, the 30km Branch Line, from Gamtoos Station to Hankey and Patensie was opened to serve this rich irrigation farming area. Both freight and heritage operations successfully operated on line.
This heritage rail icon, running on the world’s longest narrow gauge line still open to the public and crossing the highest narrow gauge railway bridge – Van Stadens Railway Bridge – in the world has been revered by steam rail enthusiasts, preservationists and photographers worldwide for more than 100 years. In 2009 the Apple Express was selected as one of the top six narrow gauge rail operations worldwide.
When the Apple Express stopped running, on 29 December 2010, Nelson Bay and the region lost a lot more than a train. They lost a unique tourism icon – it is truly irreplaceable. It is one of only nine heritage rail operators in South Africa!
The Summer Trip
The train will depart from King’s Beach and make its way to the Nelson Mandela Bay Harbor. From the Harbor the train will push through Humewood Station to its final destination, Port Elizabeth International Airport. The train will make its way back along the same path to King’s Beach.
Online bookings are available but there will be a Booking Coach and Merchandise Coach located at King’s Beach (where the old Gravy Train used to be). The Booking Coach and Merchandise Coach will be available on 27 & 28 January 2018 and 3 & 4 February 2018.
Please note that the train is a non-smoking, non-vaping, non-eating and non-drinking Train. The toilet facilities are unavailable as the trip time stands at just under an hour.
The main objective of the Apple Express Volunteers group (AEV) is to support Apple Express Rail NPC in its primary objective of ensuring restoration, operation, maintenance and public access to the heritage rail assets in its custodianship.
The secondary objectives of AEV are:
- Restore heritage rail assets to operational condition.
- Maintain heritage rail assets in safe operating condition
- Provide trained and certified personnel to operate the assets.
- At all times ensure the safety of employees, passengers on the train and the general public who interact with the heritage rail operation in accordance with all Rail Safety Regulator guidelines and initiatives.
Membership is open to all persons sharing a common interest in the preservation and operation of the narrow gauge railway extending between Port Elizabeth and Avontuur, subject to approval by the AEV Exco.
Two forms of membership are offered:
Members contribute time and labour to the organisation, participating in Workshop Open Days, Workshop Duty Days and/or Special Refurbishment or Restoration projects. These members have voting rights and are considered in the quorum required for meetings.
Members who are long distance or country members or who support the organisation financially, but do not contribute time and labour. Associate members have no voting rights and are not considered in the quorum required for meetings.