Van Stadens Narrow Gauge Railway Bridge

Geocaching is about so much more than using multi billion dollar spy satellite technology to find hidden Tupperware.  Its also about exploration, going to and discovering places you may not otherwise have gone to.  One of these is the highest narrow gauge railway bridge in the world spanning the Van Stadens Gorge outside Port Elizabeth.  Years ago when the Apple Express was still running it used to stop before the bridge and passengers could walk across and get a photograph of the train crossing with smoke billowing and steam blowing.  This time around I walked in from the closest road to find two containers placed on each side of the bridge.
This narrow gauge line from Port Elizabeth was authorised in 1899 and construction commenced in 1902, reaching the town of Avontuur in the Langkloof late in 1906. The line was built to connect the scenic Langkloof with its fruit growing industry to the port of Port Elizabeth. The official opening of the line was in 1907, with a main line track length of 284km (177 miles) from Port Elizabeth to Avontuur.  The 30km branch line from Gamtoos Junction to Patensie was completed in 1914 to serve this citrus producing area.  The establishment of the deciduous fruit industry in the Langkloof, 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 for the narrow gauge, namely the Apple Express.  It was also the name of the little tourist train that we so badly would like to have back running again.  

The Van Staden’s rail bridge is the second highest railway bridge in South Africa, and the highest narrow gauge bridge in the world.  Construction on the bridge was completed in 1905 with it being 156m long, 77m high and containing 1 112 cubic metres of concrete and 574 tons of steel.  I peeked through a gap down to the bottom of the gorge and snapped this last picture. Hectic to think what it must have been like building this.

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Jeanne

    Oh how sad that it has stopped running! The Apple Express was so much a part of my childhood – going to Loerie for a picnic on the train was always a massive treat and I still remember how the train used to stop before the bridge so people could walk across to take pics. Growing up in Walmer, I used to hear that little steam engine toot every day as it approached the level crossings near the airport. Makes me very sad to think it had to stop. Lack of funds presumably? It is a crime how South Africa has allowed its rail network to slip largely into disuse. Rail is so much more efficient and safer than road transport (for people and goods) and yet one can easily drive all day on the open road in SA and often see train tracks but no trains.

  2. Love those little narrow gauge rail lines. They should run a trip for visitors, sure it would be popular. I know we went on one years ago somewhere in the Cape but I do not remember where . Have a good day. Diane

  3. Diana Studer

    is there any chance of the Apple Express running again?

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