I’ve always been intrigued by the old world charm of former years, wondering what it would have been like living in those days. Approaching the Royal Yacht Club in Table Bay Harbour, at the crack of dawn last Saturday, I caught a glimpse of this period. There stood ‘Jessica’ proud, with steam billowing out from her black engine. It looked like a scene straight out of a classic movie. She was ready to welcome passengers and take us on a journey back in time.
Jessica, one of three trains in the Ceres Rail Company fleet, was manufactured in the UK in 1948 and originally ran on the Ceres rail tracks completed in 1912. After many years of service the track was closed and later reopened in 2012. Ceres Rail officially launched their Cape Town to Ceres return trip earlier this year, giving passengers of all ages the opportunity to experience travel to Ceres (known for its scenery and being one of the largest deciduous fruit producers in the Western Cape) in a unique way, aboard an authentic vintage steam train.
After receiving a warm welcome (on the chilly morning), we signed indemnity forms and entered the train. The passenger carriages were fitted with comfortable couches and chairs and we all chose our seats (seats are unreserved) settling in for the first half of our journey. All aboard, the sounding of the unmistakable whistle blowing, we set off for our destination, the Ceres Golf Estate.
As Jessica made her way out of the city I opted for a much needed coffee, available to purchase along with muffins in the dining car (circa 1930) which was elegant and boasted wooden furnishings. Couples, friends and families sat down to enjoy their breakfast and for some, even a game of cards with the kids. The bar carriage also has refreshments available and snacks on sale to stave off any cravings that might creep up.
Breakfast done, relaxation and spectacular views were next on the agenda. Jessica made her way along the route, treating us all to the beautiful views of the Ceres Valley, Witzenberg district and the majestic rock formations along Mitchell’s Pass Road – from a different perspective than being on the road.
After 4 and a half hours, we arrived at the golf estate where a buffet lunch awaited us. The kids were also able to stretch their legs and played on the golf course under the watch of their parents. After lunch, it was time for the journey back to the city. Adults and kids alike were quieter on the home stretch…some opting for naps while others read or chatted, while kids played. We arrived back in Cape Town as the sun was setting and also caught a lovely beach view – a reminder that we were in fact ‘home’. A picture perfect ending to a day straight out of the history books.
The Ceres Steam Train runs every second weekend. Please check the website for all dates and itineraries. For trips to Ceres Golf Estate, the buffet lunch can be had at an additional cost of R150pp for adults and R50pp for children. Adult and kids meal hampers are also available for purchase upon request from Ceres Rail.
When Every second weekend
Where Departs at Royal Cape Yacht Club, Prince Alfred’s Hamlet or Ceres Golf Estate (depending on trip)
Cost Adults (13 years +) R400, Children R250 for a one way trip
Contact +27 83 440 7868, [email protected], www.ceresrail.co.za
Photography courtsey Roshaan Patel, Ceres Rail