Outeniqua Choo Tjoe Line repairs update: August, 2016

Classic Rail – the private consortium that’s working to restore train services on the historic Knysna-George railway line – is pressing on with repairs to the section between Knysna Station and Keytersnek Siding, while at the same time attending to the Front End Engineering and Design (FEED) phase of the project, which will establish its actual capex requirement.


“The line has now been cleared and weed control will follow soon,” said Classic Rail’s Project Manager, Alan McVitty.

He explained that the FEED phase will include assessments of the retaining structures required to repair major and minor slips; the repairs required on the causeway and bridges across the Knysna Estuary; repairs to storm water crossings and furrows; and sleeper requirements.

“Engineers are currently preparing repair options for the Donkey Bridge and the slip at km 62,” he said. (See photo).

Mr. McVitty said that Classic Rail is extremely grateful to Transnet Freight Rail’s engineers (RME) for their help in providing historic data and technical assistance.


Classic Rail is now working with Knysna & Partners to establish an ‘Outeniqua Choo Tjoe Trust’ that will receive and distribute funds to the project.

“We’re planning a crowd-funding campaign because we’ve had an overwhelming number of people asking how they can help,” said Mr.  McVitty.

“An independent trust is clearly the best mechanism to manage this welcome enthusiasm. “In our model, donations will be paid to the Trust – which will live on after our 20-year concession ends – and Classic Rail will then motivate to the trustees whenever it needs to spend on specific infrastructure repairs.

“When the trains are running, Classic Rail will make regular donations to the trust so that funding will always be available to keep the infrastructure going, and to keep the Choo Tjoe operating in perpetuity.

“In this way – and because the money in the trust won’t be used for operational requirements – everybody will openly know exactly how their money has created value,” he said.

First services

Classic Rail now plans to have its Knysna Dinner Train running between Knysna and Keytersnek by April 2017, and to have the steam-driven Choo Tjoe running between Knysna and Sedgefield as soon as possible thereafter.

“The second phase of the roll-out will include installing another turntable and a steam locomotive workshop at Sedgefield Station,” said Mr. McVitty.

“The opening of the line between Sedgefield and George will follow when other funds become available – and our ultimate plan includes the introduction of Road-to-Rail freight trains in 2020,” he said.

Public access to railway property

Classic Rail Track Engineer Etienne Beukes announced with regret that the company is now forced to close the line to all unauthorised personnel – that is, to anyone not covered by its contractors all risk policy.

“This means that only registered site personnel and those in possession of an access letter from Classic Rail or Transnet Freight Rail may now access the line,” he said.

Readers who want to be kept informed should follow Classic Rail on Facebook (www.facebook.com/classicrailgardenroute), or visit the company’s site, www.outeniquachootjoe.com, which will go live this week.

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