Old Ceres steam train brought back to life

2016-03-15 12:58 - Louzel Lombard
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Cape Town - The old Ceres Rail Company steam train is up and running again, puffing its way through the Witzenberg. 

This after the old locomotive hit the tracks running with tourists on 28 November last year, for the first time in years. 

Derick du Toit, co-founder of Ceres Rail Company, together with business partner Simon Beckett, says the steam train runs through one of the most scenic routes you can travel by train in the Western Cape... and we agree! 

The Witzenberg offers visitors the ultimate adventure escape, less than two hours from the Cape Town city centre. Apart from the kick it gives adrenaline junkies, it is also a hit with wine-lovers, snow-chasers and smitten couples who would like to tie the knot. 

An Adventurer’s guide to the Witzenberg

Transnet Freight Rail (TFR) stopped operating branch lines such as the Ceres Rail Company in the 1990’s because they were not profitable. However, because branch lines are a vital link with the rural areas, partnerships between public and private enterprise are now exploring the re-commissioning of some of these branch lines.

The new and improved branch line thus services tourists, but also serves as a commercial freight transportation connection service from Cape Town to Wolseley, Ceres and Prince Alfred Hamlet during weekdays. It would carry fruit and other agricultural products. 
The tourism steam train will depart from Demeter Station and take tourists into the Ceres valley over selected weekends. Ceres Rail Company bought the old Union Limited together with three steam locomotives. They refurbished the steam locomotive and seven coaches.

Recently, South Africa's iconic luxury rail service, the Rovos Rail, purchased the Shongololo Express train of 19 coaches in a bid to open mid-range travel to more South Africans. 

Where the Rovos Rail's market was previously aimed only at high-end 5-star luxury-seeking passengers, it has now extended the brand to accommodate travellers seeking a 3-star rail travel experience. 

Along with the Ceres Rail Company, the new Rovos Rail venture and other initiatives like the Spier Winelands Express, operated by Atlantic Rail, it seems as if mid-range leisure rail travel is becoming more of a reality for train-lovers in SA, mainly due to the privatization or part-privatization of the rail companies. 

A photo posted by @annerenie on

The new services in the Witzenberg are a collaboration between the Ceres Rail Company, Transnet and the Municipality of Witzenberg.

The next train departs on 19 March, offering a return train ride from Demeter Station at Ceres Golf Estate to Waverley Hills, the organic wine and olive estate located just outside Wolseley.

The complete trip takes approximately two and a half hours and passengers have the opportunity to disembark at the winery and enjoy some time there. The train then proceeds to Wolseley, where it turns around and returns to Waverley Hills. 

Picnic baskets can also be pre-ordered and enjoyed on board, with drinks bought at the cash bar. 

Ticket Prices are: 
Adults: R295 (13 years +)
Children: R200 (3-12 years) 
Infants (0 - 2 years): No charge (these children must be booked and are expected to travel on an adult's lap)

Bookings can be made via email, or at 079 077 5332. 

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