Sunday, October 25, 2009

Grahamstown (G 15)


The Alicedale/Johannesburg line from Grahamstown was closed earlier in the year (2009).

Related story: All aboard in a fond farewell

He says he was expecting the ticket price to be affordable (around R50) but Metrorail says the trip will cost R350 per person because hiring the train itself costs R193 000.

The date that has been set for the trip is 10 October 2009 and 550 passengers are expected to board the train. "I am disappointed because it's expensive and not everyone can afford to pay that price,'' he said. Although Metrorail has decided on a ticket price and a passenger number, Ferreira says he is trying to negotiate with them to at least offer the passengers a more reasonable price for a ticket.

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Nestled in the heart of the Eastern Province is the fascinating Victorian Village of Alicedale which until the mid 1990's was the Central Railway Junction for rail transport throughout South Africa. In the charming old fashioned style of train travel, board the train at Grahamstown at 08h00 and meander through spectacular landscapes of ancient rock strata, game reserves and an historical tunnel whilst viewing the wild life from the comfort of your train window. As you chug across the old railway bridge and through, (yes through!) the newly designed Gary Player Signature Golf Course, you will arrive at Alicedale Station at 09h30 where you will be welcomed by trained tour guides to take you through an exciting and unusual day. Return to Grahamstown by train at 16h00, or overnight at one of the varied accommodation establishments.

The Alicedale Adventure includes a Cultural Xhosa Village Experience with Song, Dance, Poetry and Traditional Cooking, a Township Tour, an Oxwagon Trail, Donkey Cart Rides, a Garden of Gethsemane Olive Grove Tour along with olive tasting and a light lunch as well as a tour of untouched Bushman Cave and Rock Art. Also not to be missed is the Weaving Museum which is part of the oldest Mohair Factory in South Africa. An internationally renowned Interior Decor and Designer furniture outlet is also worth a visit. Living skills workshops, beadwork and cultural games also form part of the programme. Alicedale is an easy hour's drive from Grahamstown on the old N2 to Port Elizabeth. Turn right at the Alicedale sign 25 km from Grahamstown and take a further 30 km scenic drive on gravel road to enter this delightful little hideaway.

All aboard! Former railway station operating inspector, Hennie Ferreira is people to join him in the last train trip from Grahamstown to Alicedale.

The chugging and whistling of trains died away in Grahamstown since the railway line was closed earlier this year. Since it's existence in 1878 the Grahamstown railway station has had a fascinating history and saw trains (and people) of many different types all different types passing through. According to Ferriera trains all the way from Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia) carried passengers travelling to Grahamstown.

More recently the train travelled to Alicedale, where passengers could catch a connecting train to Johannesburg. Locals and tourists have now been given the opportunity to board the metallic millipede as it travels to Alicedale for the last time.

Ferreira says he is arranging with Transnet to assist him in the organisation of the last passenger train to run on Grahamstown's scenic railway. According to Ferreira, Transnet assured him that the train can be arranged if he manages to organise 500 passengers who can pay a R50 fee to bid farewell to the railway line. Sharing memories about the railway's heydays, Ferreira recalled a Class GDA maiden locomotive which made its last run on the Grahamstown line in December 1968.

Ferreira says he is displeased that the train was stopped and nothing has been done to bid farewell."I feel sorry and disappointed to see that after 130 years of the railway line's experience, it has now been abondoned," says Ferreira.

3.5 Railway Links, Alicedale – Port Alfred line: Mr. Makkink reported on a meeting in Port Alfred.
The line from Grahamstown is leased by “Ndlambe Arts and Culture Committee”, and the Kowie –
Bathurst toy train is being run by a private company. The Grahamstown – Bloukrans leg could be
leased, and the bridge is useable, but the costs of rolling stock and maintenance make it non-viable. So
Grahamstown – Port Alfred is not on the cards, and Alicedale – Grahamstown is still under discussion
with Spoornet.

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Which station was this?

A particularly intense moment demonstrating trust and kindness was Brett Bailiey’s Blood Diamonds – a site-specific performance art installation in the abandoned railway station on the outskirts of Grahamstown, alongside vandalized graves in an old settler cemetery. In the dark cold of a Grahamstown evening, every patron moved through the installation individually and in silence. On walking onto the derelict train platform, your hand was taken by an under-dressed, under-nourished, urchin-like child – the child’s small icy hand finding yours in the darkness. A strange couple – anonymous festino and unknown child walking hand-in-hand without words along a blustery train station and through a shadowy cemetery. Grahamstown Websites

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