All aboard for mini-train club’s holiday programme

The trains departing from the Western Province Live Steamers Klein de Grendal Station.

The Western Province Live Steamers Society will hold public running days every first Saturday of the month at its miniature railway in Parow.

The club, which celebrated its 40th anniversary recently, has postponed its December Hobby Expo, which would have taken place next weekend, due to the increase in Covid-19 infections.

All proceeds from the public running days will go towards the maintenance and development of the railway.

Club chairman Geoffrey de Vartek says the enjoyment on the faces of their visitors and patrons every running day drives their members to keep this special little railway alive.

”Many children who once rode our trains in the 1980s at Goodwood Showgrounds now bring their children to Parow. Some even became members and many are surprised to see some of the same engines that they saw in the 1980s still going strong today!“

The club is a non-profit organisation and was founded in 1980 by the late Jack Love.

The club took the lull in activity during the pandemic as an opportunity to carry out maintenance and repair work on the bridge, tunnel, and clubhouse.

Running and maintaining a railway of this size requires significant funding and careful management, says Mr De Vartek.

“While membership, thankfully, remained steady, the economic shutdowns decimated our funding – a blow from which we are still recovering. That, coupled with attempted break-ins, has made the past two years a significant challenge to our members.”

But every cloud of steam, it seems, has a silver lining because the club members have been using all the extra time they’ve spent at home during lockdown to work on their hobby, and the past two years have seen the highest number of locomotives being built or restored.

“It is a simple fact that South Africa has produced some of the best model engineers in the world with some producing parts for overseas markets and others having their work displayed in local and international museums,” says Mr De Vartek.

Derik Wolvaardt currently owns the oldest operating miniature locomotive in the province – a 1936 South African Express engine.

The last two remaining Jimmy Scott J tanks will be on show most Saturdays. These are models of the 1912 South African tank locomotives which both won gold medals at the Rand Show in 1969 and 1971. They were two of the 27 locomotives built in Mr Scott’s little garage workshop in Rondebosch and which are now in private collections and museums all over the world.

Anthony Zinserling owns one of the oldest working model stationary engines in the country. It was built and exported to South Africa from Germany in 1910.

One of the youngest WPLS members, Kyle Nessling, driving the Jimmy Scott J Tank.

Mr De Vartek says the club is grateful to the community for its support and donations during these trying times.

“This club and its members teach us the lesson that as long as enough people share a passion, there’s little that will stop them. We are not out of the woods yet, but with the dedication of our members and the support of our visitors, we can ensure that these little trains will keep steaming for another 40 years!”