That’s right; the iconic train most Bay locals grew up with and fondly called the Apple Express is letting off steam once again after many years and the excitement in the Nelson Mandela Bay is tangible, it is real. So real that it took only 9 minutes before the first train was completely sold out! Needless to say, but if you still haven’t purchased and booked your spot on the train you better do it right now because the train tickets are selling like hotcakes!
After a lot of hard work by highly enthusiastic, highly skilled volunteers and thanks to the help of the sponsors, the Apple Express is back in the Bay for the summer season. And even though this train ride is shorter than what we remembered it to be from back in the day, this taster ride definitely brings back all the memories; the rhythmic sway, the open-shutter windows, the sight of the steam and the sound of the wheels on the tracks. In the compartments you can hear the chatter from generation to generation, parents telling their kids stories from back in the day and kids listening with ears wide open while they eagerly greet onlookers waving from the roads, while others are hooting from cars, standing on balconies of homes and businesses to witness the well-known nostalgic sound and sight of the old faithful Apple Express.
All this excitement can only mean one thing, this can only be the beginning of bigger – and steamier – things to come in the future.
The train departs from King’s Beach and make its way to the Nelson Mandela Bay Harbour, from the harbour the train will go towards Humewood Station to its final destination, Port Elizabeth International Airport and make its way back along the same path to King’s Beach.
The train will be operating from 26 December until the 14th of January (excluding the 1st of January 2018). There are 5 train rides available every day during the operational period, with the first train departing at 09:00, then 10:30, 12:00, 14:00 and 15:30.
Train tickets are R75 p/adult and R50 for children under 12. There is also a family ticket package available at R250 for two adults and two children under 12 years old. Children 3 years and younger can hop on for free if they are seated on a parent’s lap. Tickets can be booked online via the secure booking system, click here to book yours, or alternatively you can visit the booking office at King’s Beach. To avoid disappointment, it is advised to book well in advance!
Make this summer a summer to remember and board the Apple Express; dig up those old photo albums filled with Apple Express memories and bring the kids, the parents and the whole family to make new Apple Express memories!
Please take note that this is a non-smoking, non-vaping, non-drinking and non-eating (yes, no apples are allowed) and train. The train ride is just under an hour and there is no toilet facilities on the train.
1) The Langkloof fruit industry and the use of the Narrow Gauge to transport fruit to the cooling sheds in the Port Elizabeth harbour for export, led to the popular name: Apple Express.
2) The 284 km narrow gauge lines (opened in 1907) that run from Port Elizabeth to Avontuur in the Langkloof are internationally recognised as one of the top 10 narrow gauge lines in the world.
3) The Apple Express is one of only nine heritage rail operators in South Africa.
4) The Van Staden’s rail bridge is the second highest railway bridge in South Africa, and the highest narrow gauge bridge in the world, completed in 1905 and 156 m long and 77 m high.
5) All traffic on the line was hauled by steam locomotives, from the opening of the first section in 1902 until the arrival of the first diesel locomotives in 1972.
6) Passenger traffic has always been of secondary importance on the narrow gauge and was terminated in 1948 when a road motor service was introduced to the Langkloof; however third-class accommodation was still offered until the late 1970s and fortunately the majority of the coaches survived and to be used for the Apple Express tourist train from 1965 and onwards.
7) Back in the day the following stations were staffed to deal with passengers and freight: Humewood Road (Port Elizabeth), Thornhill, Loerie, Humansdorp, Assegaaibos, Joubertina, Louterwater and Avontuur. Later this was expanded to Patensie, Gamtoos, Chelsea and Misgund.
8) The Apple Express dates from May 1965; the first day trip to Loerie was so over-subscribed that another train had to be run the following week. The train was a way for the people of Port Elizabeth to get away from the city.
For more information and history about the Apple Express, visit www.appleexpresstrain.co.za.