Journey back in time with the Inchanga Choo-Choo

Winona Griggs

Step into the Past on the Inchanga Choo-Choo

Ready for an adventure through time? Hop on board the Inchanga Choo-Choo and prepare to be transported to a different era. The Inchanga Choo-Choo is a historic steam train that takes you on a magical journey through the picturesque countryside of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa. Get ready to experience the wonder and charm of a bygone era.

When I first heard about the Inchanga Choo-Choo, I was filled with excitement and curiosity. I couldn’t wait to step into history and see the world through a different lens. As the train chugged along the tracks, I watched as the modern world faded away and the past came to life.

One of the incredible aspects of the Inchanga Choo-Choo is the authentic steam locomotive. Hearing the whistle blow and feeling the power of the engine as it pulls the carriages along is an experience like no other. There’s something truly magical about being aboard a train that was once the primary mode of transportation for so many people.

During the journey, you’ll have the opportunity to take in breathtaking views of the stunning Valley of a Thousand Hills. The lush greenery and rolling hills will transport you to a different world. As you travel across historic viaducts and bridges, you’ll feel a sense of wonder and awe at the engineering marvels of the past.

But it’s not just about the scenery. The Inchanga Choo-Choo offers a range of excursions and events throughout the year, each with its own unique charm. From romantic moonlight trains to festive Christmas specials, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.

One of my favorite experiences on the Inchanga Choo-Choo was their High Tea train. Picture this: sitting in a beautifully restored vintage carriage, sipping on a cup of tea, and indulging in delicious treats as the countryside rolls by. It’s an elegant and nostalgic adventure that combines the best of both worlds.

If you’re looking to step back in time and experience the magic of a bygone era, the Inchanga Choo-Choo is the perfect choice. Whether you’re a history buff, a train enthusiast, or simply someone who loves a unique adventure, this journey will leave you with memories to last a lifetime.

So, why wait? Book your ticket today and embark on a journey through time on the Inchanga Choo-Choo. Get ready to make history come alive in the most extraordinary way.

Journey back in time with the Inchanga Choo-Choo

I’m taking a trip back in time aboard an 80-year-old steam train, and it feels like a blast from the past!

With a loud clang of the brass bell, we’re reminded that departure is just around the corner. I find myself in a unique spot, situated at the rear of the train – or is it the front? It all depends on which way Wesley, the wonderous locomotive crafted in Berlin back in 1938, is headed.

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Journey back in time with the Inchanga Choo-Choo

As I watch, a group of young boys in blue overalls eagerly scramble aboard the train. You can see the excitement in their eyes and the joy on their faces. They are volunteers for Umgeni Steam Railway, and they play a crucial role in preserving history.

These boys, mostly pre-teens, don’t seem to mind the dirt and grime that comes with their work. Their hands are covered in grit, their knees stained with coal marks. But their enthusiasm is contagious, evident in the wide grins that adorn their faces.

We bid farewell to the waving hands as the train chugs away, enveloped in a cloud of billowing steam. As we pass by the Stoker’s Arms pub, the rhythmic sound of the train resembles that of a panting dog. And when the horn blares, it pierces the air like a shrieking bird of prey.

Journey back in time with the Inchanga Choo-Choo

When I step onto the steam engine, I can’t help but be amazed at the amount of work that goes into making this vintage locomotive run. Each round-trip requires two tons of coal and 15,000 liters of water. It’s a painstaking process, with every bit of coal loaded by hand. The sound of chatter fills the air as I settle into my seat. There’s a young family sitting behind me, the kids holding colorful spinning pinwheels out of the window. It feels like a nostalgic throwback.

I strike up a conversation with Cyanne Courtney, the coach marshal. She’s been a part of Umgeni Steam Railway for seven years, starting when she was just 16. What surprises me the most is that everyone here is a volunteer. No one gets paid for their time and effort. They do it simply because they love it and want to keep the train journey alive.

As the journey continues, specks of coal float through the window and land on my arm. It’s a reminder of the hard work behind the scenes and the history that runs through this locomotive. We pass by old train stations, long abandoned and overgrown with weeds.

Finally, after about an hour, we reach Inchanga Station and disembark. It’s been an incredible journey, one that I won’t soon forget. The dedication and passion of the volunteers at Umgeni Steam Railway have created an experience that is truly special.

Journey back in time with the Inchanga Choo-Choo

There’s a charming craft market at the Inchanga station where I often find myself immersed in the bustling atmosphere. The market stalls are always brimming with toys, clothes, food, delightful iced coffee (trust me, it’s amazing), and a treasure trove of books to peruse.

I cross the tracks and pass by a group of little girls who are utterly enamored by a group of ponies. My destination is the Station Master’s House, which has been transformed into a museum, thanks to the efforts of Heather Main, the curator who warmly welcomes visitors.

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Heather shares with me some interesting tidbits about the history of train travel in this region. She tells me, “Train travel used to be the safest means of transportation. Can you believe that the line from Durban to Maritzburg was constructed entirely by hand and completed in just two years? You should definitely take a look at the other trains in the station workshop.”

In the dimly lit shed, I find myself surrounded by an assortment of locomotives and coaches. Some of these magnificent machines are over 120 years old, and obtaining parts for their maintenance can be quite challenging.

As we prepare for the return journey, we men, boys, and even a seven-year-old girl gather together to trim the coal. Our goal is to make it easily accessible for the ‘fireman’ to shovel into Wesley’s furnace.

This steam engine requires about two tons of coal and 15,000 liters of water for each round trip. And believe it or not, we load all of it by hand! It’s a massive undertaking, but we approach it with cheerful enthusiasm. Jokes and banter fill the air within our tight-knit team. Many of us were once passengers on this very train, and now we’re hooked, dedicating our time to keeping it running smoothly.

Journey back in time with the Inchanga Choo-Choo

As I sit here on the train, I can’t help but notice the world passing by outside the window. Time seems to fly by so quickly. The family behind me seems to be enjoying the view as well, capturing photos and videos with their cell phones.

Finally, we arrive at our destination. Stepping off the train, I am greeted by a bustling crowd on the platform. People of all ages and backgrounds are here, eager to experience a piece of history. The volunteers are here too, ready to guide us and bring the past to life once again.

What to Look Forward To

Hey there! Let me take you on a little adventure to Inchanga Station and the Station Master’s House, a place filled with history and charm.

First stop, the Station Master’s House. This old gem was built way back in 1894! Can you believe it? It’s perched on a small hill, giving you a perfect view of the scenic Inchanga Station, which was built a year later in 1895. Inside the museum, you’ll find a fascinating collection of photos that capture the essence of the past. One of the highlights is the old viaduct, which used to stretch over the Sterkspruit Valley. It’s no longer around, but the pictures will make you feel like you’re stepping back in time.

Here’s an interesting tidbit for you: when the weather got really bad, the viaduct would sway so much that the train couldn’t cross. Can you imagine the passengers having to get off and walk in front of the train? Kinda crazy, right? But hey, back then, safety always came first!

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Now, let’s move on to the perfect picnic spot. Grab your picnic blanket and some delicious food, or you can always grab a bite from the market nearby. Picture this: you’re sitting on lush, shaded grass, with the sweet melodies of music drifting up the hill. And as you look out, you’ll be greeted by breathtaking views of the valley stretching out before you, far beyond the train tracks. It’s a peaceful and magical place to relax and soak in the beauty of nature.

So, what are you waiting for? Grab your sense of adventure and get ready to explore Inchanga Station and the Station Master’s House. It’s a journey you won’t want to miss!

Journey back in time with the Inchanga Choo-Choo

Come and visit the Station Master’s House – it’s been transformed into a museum! This historic building was constructed way back in 1894, so there’s plenty of fascinating history to explore. Trust me, you don’t want to miss out on this experience!

How to get there

If you want to visit, hop on the train at Stoker’s Arms in Kloof. The train leaves promptly at 8.30am and 12.30pm on the last Sunday of every month. And guess what? During school holidays and the festive season, they even have extra trips! Just make sure to arrive at least thirty minutes early to secure your spot on the train. Oh, and don’t forget to bring some cash in case you get thirsty or hungry, as they have refreshments for sale on board.

About the journey

When the train chugs away from Stoker’s Arms, get ready for a scenic adventure. You’ll pass through Kloof and Hillcrest, and then round the bend of Botha’s Hill. That’s where the real magic happens – prepare to feast your eyes on breathtaking views of the Valley of 1000 Hills. Finally, the train will make a special stop at the Inchanga Craft Market. So, whether you go on the morning or afternoon train, you’re in for a real treat. Just keep in mind that the morning train takes three hours, while the afternoon train takes half an hour longer. The ticket prices are R240 for adults and R170 for children. And hey, make sure you book in advance because it’s essential. You can find more information at umgenisteamrailway.com.

This incredible adventure is featured in the March 2018 issue of Getaway magazine, so you know it’s something you don’t want to miss!

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