Tradition and Heritage at Sandstone Estate
The fertile region of the Free State Province located along the little Caledon River on the border between Lesotho and South Africa, is characterized by wide open plains against the backdrop of the sandstone outcrops of the Maluti Mountains. It is here that visitors will find Sandstone Estates and the Sandstone Heritage Trust, a private farming enterprise committed to preserving aspects of South African heritage and tradition which may otherwise disappear. In addition to using traditional farming methods to grow organic produce, the Sandstone Heritage Trust is the home of some of the original steam locomotives which carried goods and passengers along a network of railway tracks, playing an essential role in linking the towns and cities of South Africa in the past.
As was the case in many countries around the world, progress in methods of transport in South Africa resulted in steam trains becoming obsolete as a means of transport. However, for some time, the Transnet Heritage Foundation kept a number of steam trains in operation as tourist attractions and South Africa developed a reputation among steam locomotive enthusiasts around the world as a destination worth visiting to pursue their interests. Although government no longer supports the preservation of the steam locomotive, private interest groups have kept this historic means of transport going, and Sandstone Heritage Trust and the Steam in Action initiative continue to play an important part by preserving the equipment and arranging various events for steam locomotive enthusiasts.
While the Sandstone Heritage Trust collection focuses on historic railway transport, it also includes a military vehicle collection, as well as local and international road transport and steam-driven industrial machinery. The 2 foot narrow gauge railway line runs for a distance of 26 kilometers from Grootdraai past Hoekfontein and Mooihoek before arriving at Ficksburg. Also at Ficksburg is a short stretch of 3 foot gauge railway line, where the locomotive restoration workshop is situated. Sandstone also supports model makers in their efforts to recreate these mighty machines in miniature.
The estate has earned a place in the history books by having 99 steam-driven tractors working in one field at the same time, generating interest and support from the public. The Sandstone Heritage Trust participates in the annual Ficksburg Cherry Festival, and events arranged by the Sandstone include the annual Sandstone Steam Gala.