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With the gradual decline of passenger rail transport, leisure travel by train – particularly that of a steam train – is a joyful event, loved by families and a romantic trip for young lovers. And while the Apple Express steam train that operates between Port Elizabeth and a small station inland is currently not running, its return is eagerly awaited. Those that have in the past boarded the Apple Express enthuse over the journey.
It’s been over 5 years since the Apple Express ran from Port Elizabeth to a station in the Longkloof Mountains, however, a volunteer group of steam enthusiasts calling themselves the Apple Express Volunteers (AEV) continue to maintain the vehicle in preparation for its return. The original route is spectacularly scenic and crosses 2 main bridges, one of which is the highest narrow gauge bridge in the world. The narrow gauge train has a wheel span of 610mm while the international average is 1440mm.
The Apple Express was first commissioned in 1906 and used both as a passenger and cargo train, transporting apples and other produce from farmers in the Longkloof area into Port Elizabeth.
Past journeys included a stop at the van Staden’s River Bridge for passengers to appreciate the height and architecture of the steel bridge spanning the gorge, and a stop at Thornhill for a lunch at the hotel or to enjoy a packed lunch at one of the designated picnic spots. Authorities are considering operating the train during the week as a transport services for commuters travelling between Jeffrey’s Bay and Port Elizabeth, and continuing the Apple Express leisure route over weekends in order to make the running of the train profitable. Hopefully the original route, with its original stops will be upheld when the train begins operating again. The last news report indicated that this may be as early as December 2016. We can't wait.