ID #3733

Apple Express, Port Elizabeth, Sunshine Coast, Eastern Cape.

Authority to construct a narrow-gauge railway between Port Elizabeth and Avontuur was granted in 1902. By December 1903 construction gangs had reached Geduldsrivier, 32-km from Humewood Road, and the first passenger trips were opened for passengers. The famous bridge over the van Staden’s Gorge was built in 1904, and it is still the highest narrow-gauge railway bridge in the world. It stands 77-m (253 feet) above the water. The rails reached their final destination in Avontuur on December 10, 1906, a distance of 284-km. Passenger services were discontinued in 1946 but mixed trains continued to run until the 1960’s.  Apples were exported from the fertile Langkloof to Port Elizabeth Harbour for many years –hence the name. 

The Diaz Express was introduced in 1988 to coincide with the 500th anniversary of the landing of Bartholomeu Diaz in Algoa Bay.  The train runs between Kings Beach and Port Elizabeth Harbour.

Spoornet discontinued the Apple Express in March 1993 for economic reasons.  They entered into a joint venture agreement in November 1993 with Alfred County railway to reintroduce the trains on a trail basis during the December/January holiday season.  The hordes of holidaymakers who rode the train coupled with strong community support led to a decision to continue operations.


A Trip to Thornhill.   The famous steam train now runs on a regular basis from Port Elizabeth (departing the Humewood Road Station) to Thornhill and makes use of the famous “Kalahari” locomotives (Class NG15 or Class NGG16 Garrats). Thornhill is 53-km from Port Elizabeth and the trip takes two hours. On the trip, it passes through the suburbs to reach Chelsea Station where a branch line leaves the main line to the cement factory in New Brighton.  It continues through open countryside at times ablaze with wild flowers and stop at the Van Stadens Station for the locomotives to turn and take on water.  In the meanwhile, passengers can stroll down to the famous bridge. They may walk across the bridge and admire the view as well a photographing the oncoming trail as it slowly steams over, seemingly suspended in space.  You embark again at the western (Thornhill) end.

Thornhill Hotel.  The hotel, which is situated at the station, offers lunches, refreshments, braai fires, or just a place to have a picnic under the shady trees.  A menu is available and meals can be booked from the Humewood Road Station before departure.  The train departs Thornhill after two hours to return to Port Elizabeth, arriving tow hours later.

Special Trips. The train runs to Loerie, 72-km from Port Elizabeth at certain times of the year, such as the Great Train Race in August or for other functions that may be organised. Trips to Jeffreys Bay, Humansdorp and up the Gamtroos Valley to Patensie will also be organised.

Train Hire.  The train may be hired for large groups or companies who want to hold functions with a difference.


The Diaz Express runs between Kings Beach and Port Elizabeth Harbour for short steam-train excursions daily during the Christmas and Easter Holiday Season. Take in unusual views of the harbour. When the beach development is completed, passengers will be able to park at Kings Beach, travel by train and spend some time in the harbour before returning.

For information, timetables and bookings, contact:

•    Spoornet Information Centre
•    The Bridge, Greenacres
•    The Oceanarium in Marine Drive, or
•    Publicity Association in Donkin Reserve +27 (41) 52 1316

Port Elizabeth is close to the intersection of the N2 with the N10. BCApple

Contct:            +27 (41) 507 2333 telephone
+27 (41) 507 3233 fax
+27 (41) 71 3590 telephone after hours   

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Last update: 2014-05-30 12:28
Author: Alan McIver
Revision: 1.2

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