Friends of the Rail (Hermanstad - Cullinan)
Overview of the Friends of the Rail steam train trip
Friends of the Rail is committed to preserving the railway heritage of South Africa for future generations. The members are responsible for rebuilding and maintaining steam trains and steam locomotives from the great heydays of South African railways. Friends of the Rail's coaching stock dates back to the 1960's, having been restored and brought back into prime condition by the members.
From their home in Hermanstad, west of Pretoria, Friends of the Rail offers regular steam train trips for tourists looking for that something different to do over a weekend, and also corporate functions and team building.
The railway station in Hermanstad provides visitors with a safe, guarded car park, a souvenir shop and a coffee shop for light refreshments before the journey.
One of the regular steam train rides offered by them is the Cullinan Fun train, which takes tourists to the historical mining town of Cullinan, where they can enjoy the cozy restaurants and stand in awe of the Cullinan Big Hole, where the largest diamond in the world was found.
Review of the Friends of the Rail steam train trip
If you are looking for something different to do, I would definitely recommend going on the Friends of the Rail steam train to small diamond mining town of Cullinan. Traveling on a relic of a bygone era is an absolute thrill of it's own, rekindling in many the love for railways.
Leaving the Hermanstad depot early in the morning, the steam train winds its way through Pretoria, heading in an easterly direction. You pass several suburbs, as well as the townships of Mamelodi and Eersterust. Seeing how excited the township people are about the train is almost a treat on its own.
The town of Cullinan is still a thriving community. The main road is lined on both sides by shops, house museums, restaurants, and a small, but popular theatre, Jan Harmsgat se Agterplaas.
All of these businesses are located in what used to be residential houses built in Cullinan more than a century ago, which adds to their charm.
One restaurant I would definitely recommend is the "Cockpit", where you can sample an array of home brewed beer, for free!
A local informal tour guide, Rusty, are more than happy to give visitors a tour of Cullinan on his trike. You won't miss Rusty when he is around... his three wheeled motorcycle is towing a coffin! The coffin has a special meaning, but I'll let Rusty tell you all about it. :-) Rusty built the trike himself using a 2 liter Golf GTI engine, and the front of a Kawasaki Motorcycle. Impressive!
The whole experience makes for a great day trip. I would recommend the Friends of the Rail steam train trip (also referred to as the Cullinan Diamond Train) to everyone.
This one is a definite must-do on anyone's bucket list.