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Investors Needed to Keep The Outeniqua Choo Tjoe Train on Track

Updated on July 12, 2011

The future of the Outeniqua Choo Tjoe train, the only scheduled steam train remaining in Africa, is hanging in the balance. Before reading any further I think you should watch the first video to really set the mood.

Outeniqua Choo Tjoe Train

Old Route Knysna- George Outeniqua Choo Tjoe Train

I remember as a young child walking to a bridge early in the morning just to watch the steam train pass by. The sound and smell of the steam train as it carries its passengers to some distant place held a certain magic for me then and it still does today.

Before we get to the news which may be good or bad, depending on which side of the fence, or should we say track, you are on,  maybe a bit of background history of the Outeniqua Choo Tjoe train will inspire you to invest in the Outeniqua Choo Tjoe's future.

Outeniqua Choo Tjoe Train at Knysna Station
Outeniqua Choo Tjoe Train at Knysna Station

Background History

The history of the Outeniqua Choo Tjoe train dates back to 1922 when the South African Railways and Harbours Board suggested  the construction of a railway line linking the two towns George and Knysna.

The railway line between these two picturesque towns on the world-famous Garden Route is 42 miles long. The building of this historical railway line started in 1924 and was officially opened on 17 October 1928. 

The route hugs the rugged coastline and winds its way past fern-covered hills, through dense forests, across low-level bridges and through tunnels and cuttings before it ends its journey in Knysna where it crosses the lagoon by bridge.

Engine Room - Outeniqua Choo Tjoe Train
Engine Room - Outeniqua Choo Tjoe Train

Knysna and the Garden Route

Anyone who spent time in Knysna before 2006 will know what a thrilling and beautiful experience it is to see this steam train cross the lagoon when it is covered in mist. It creates the impression of a train traveling on clouds and adds a sense ofmagic to this awesome sight.

For those of you not familiar with the beautiful Garden Route and in particular the town Knysna,  I have added a video so that you can fully appreciate why this area is one of the most popular holiday destinations.

Garden Route South Africa

An Introduction to Knysna

Severe Storms Cause Railway Line Between Knysna and George to Close

By 1992 the George-Knysna railway line was carrying about 40,000 passengers a year and was officially declared a preserved railway line although it was only officially handed over to the Transnet Foundation Heritage Preservation in 1993. Ten years later this line was carrying 115,000 passengers a year of which 70% were foreign tourists.

Unfortunately in August 2006 severe storms hit the Southern Cape causing extensive damage to the railway infrastructure and numerous landslides smothered  the railway line between George and Knysna.

Transnet, the state-run owner,  was forced to close the line as the damage ran into millions of dollars and would require major construction work and the rebuilding of the line in many places.

In its wake the storm left some potential landslides above the railway line between the Kaaimansriver Bridge ( as seen on photo) and the Wilderness which is a huge concern specially regarding the level of engineering expertise required to stabilize and secure the embankment. 

Outeniqua Choo Tjoe Train crossing Kaaimans Bridge
Outeniqua Choo Tjoe Train crossing Kaaimans Bridge
Outeniqua Choo Tjoe Train Approaching Tunnel
Outeniqua Choo Tjoe Train Approaching Tunnel

Outeniqua Choo Tjoe Train

George - Mosselbay Route Replaced the George - Knysna Route

In November 2006 the Outeniqua Choo Tjoe resumed operations but the route between Knysna and George remained closed and the original Outeniqua Choo Tjoe route was replaced with a trip between George and Hartenbos.

The route was later extended and currently runs from George to Mossel Bay and currently runs three times a week between the Outeniqua Transport Museum in George and the Dias Museum complex in Mossel Bay.

The future of the Outeniqua has been in the balance for some time now and rumors were that Transnet was considering closing down the operation at the end of June this year. Transnet shut-down this route for what was intended to be a month's maintenance but this was extended to 19 October 2009.

Current Route George to Mossel Bay

Transnet Calling for Expressions of Interest

Transnet Freight Rail has now called for "Expressions of Interest" as they wish to sell the Outeniqua Choo Tjoe train. Despite the fact that this train is a very popular tourist attraction Transnet are struggling to make money from this tourist attraction.

The sale of this train is part of the company's restructuring program whereby they intend to sell off any assets not directly related to their core competency - freight transport. Transnet has however stated that they will only sell this heritage train to a potential operator whom they are convinced is able to turn this business into a sustainable and profitable business.

The concession will initially be limited to the current George-Mosselbay route which will mean that Transnet will be their landlord. The purchasing of this train and the working capital needed to run and maintain steam engines is going to need some pretty serious funding.

The finer details of track charges and the kind of access Transnet will give a private steam-operator will need to be determined up front.

Transnet has agreed to run the service until a new operator for the steam train could be appointed.

Let's hope that they find someone or a group of businessmen that not only have the funding but the business acumen to not only make it a sustainable business but grow it into a flourishing one that will allow future generations the opportunity to experience the thrill of traveling on a steam train. This is something that everyone should experience at least once during their lifetime.

Part of New Route Outeniqua Choo Tjoe Train

Future of the Outeniqua Choo Tjoe Train


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    • Laura du Toit profile imageAUTHOR

      Laura du Toit 

      9 years ago from South Africa

      LadyLyell: So glad that my hub brought back happy memories of one of the most beautiful places in our country. Hope you manage to visit South Africa soon!

    • LadyLyell profile image


      9 years ago from George, South Africa

      I enjoyed reading your hubpage as I have been on this train and glad I did so. I returned to South Africa Nov/Jan 2011 and stayed in Mossel Bay where I had a view of the railway line and always kept an eye out for the train passing by. My husband and I also drove across the Swartberg Mountains and we fell in love with this region thereafter. I have a hubpage soon to be published on our amazing experience there. South Africa has so much to offer so wonder I miss this country where I lived for over thirty years. I may return. Thanks for the memories!

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      magnificent. i have always loved trains, but this steam train is almost like a living creature. i love it already! thank you for this amazing hub!

    • xunlei profile image


      11 years ago

      it is a nice hub , great? Thanks ?

    • Laura du Toit profile imageAUTHOR

      Laura du Toit 

      11 years ago from South Africa

      Thanks for stopping by sweetie. The train in your area sounds like another magical train ride

    • sweetie1 profile image


      11 years ago from India

      Beautiful pics and breath taking views..i do hope this train doesn't die its death. We do have train which is very slow and u can actually run and catch it. It takes 5 hours to travel 92 kms ( 60 miles) in mountains but the scenery is breath taking.

    • Laura du Toit profile imageAUTHOR

      Laura du Toit 

      11 years ago from South Africa

      Thanks Paradise. The Garden Route is one of the most beautiful places on Earth. I wish I could live in Knysna permanently. I am going to be doing some more hubs on this fascinating and beautiful part of out country.

      As for the train I am sure that somebody will recognize the value of such an investment and not only save the route but turn it into a thriving business!

    • Paradise7 profile image


      11 years ago from Upstate New York

      Wow, Laura, fascinating! I hope the railroad restoration fund succeeds. What a beautiful route!


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