Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Rotary Great Train Race 2012 - Witbank

#The Rotary Great Train Race 2012 took place over the weekend of 17 and 18 August. 

#Reefsteamers  had been booked for the 3rd year running to provide the rolling stock for the race taking place on Saturday 18th from Witbank to Middleburg. I had arrange to crew for the trip and we were all on board well in time for the 13h00 depart we were in fact so on time that we had the coaches out in the good yard waiting for the 6E's that would take us to Witbank. Waiting became the operative word for the entire weekend as no soon that our units had arrived that they were nabbed by the Shongolo train waiting alongside us for their units and for their generator to be repaired. This meant we now had no traction and needed to arrange for new units to be sent to us. 
Anyhooo we waited for many hours with the units eventually arriving at 10.10 that evening. 
A tad embarrassing as we were supposed to be in Witbank by 5.30 so that Rotary could prepare the train with banners for the race and load snacks and drinks for the VIP's. We eventually arrived in Witbank at 3am but only by the skin of our teeth as the units that ended up taking us there failed on arrival at Witbank :(. I hate to think what would have become us if they'd failed earlier. 
By 4 am Rotary had arrived and were hard at work fitting the banners to the train while I arranged for the  crew to have morning coffee, rusks and blikkies eier's (YUMMY). 

In the interim Attie our Train manager was frantically calling #Transnet to enquire about the 18E's that were due to pull the train for the race against the runners. In true #Transnet style they claimed no knowledge of the booked units for which a YQ had been paid in advance :(. 
Well Attie worked his magic and eventually they arrived a little late but they arrived. We hurriedly boarded the passengers and VIP's and the train pulled off to try catch up with the runners who'd had  ahead start thanks to the units being late. 

Along the route we stopped briefly to watch the runners from a bridge where the train stood above the runners and then it was off again in the hopes of catching the lead runner. 

Alas this was not to be as he ran ahead of the train by 10minutes and so the machine lost the race to the two footed human. 

At this stage we dropped our passengers off at the finish to enjoy themselves, we would collect them again at 13h00 to return them to Witbank before our coaches would begin their journey back to #Reefsteamers.  This would yet again prove to be a challenge which Transnet would fail dismally. 

Our YQ for the Units to collect us was 14h45 and we were meant to back at our depot by 17h30. No units arrived for us and so we began phoning everyone we could Witbank CTC, NOC, Germiston, and anyone who could help us within Transnet but alas we were kept waiting and made promises that were not kept until 23h30 Saturday night when one Unit arrived from Welgedacht. Driver Patrick duly took us all they way back to Germiston Station Platform 6 instead of the goods yard where we were meant to be. Why do we bother giving you a radio if you don't use it to check where we are meant to be going? There we sat from 2am until we could get hold of our trusty Reefsteamers crew who would come to our rescue and shunt us from platform 6 through the goods yard into our depot. Home Sweet Home for our train and very weary crew. Thank you to the behind the scenes people who helped with calling the authorities and trying to get us traction so we could get home and a special thank you the following Reefsteamers volunteers who gave up their time (long hours) for this train Attie, Coenie, Jeandre, Mari, Diana, Victor (11 days on the footplate), Hennie, Shaun, Lauren, Alan, Gordon.

Despite the lack of traction the crew enjoyed themselves and managed to cope with the 46 sleepless hours quite well. The last pictures are a few images from the crew keeping themselves going or trying to stay warm and attempting to catch 40 winks.

a leaky  kettle :( but it kept us going.

The important paperwork being done.

This is what happens when stones get thrown at moving trains

An attempt at 40winks, all they managed was to keep warm.

At this stage I must add that Reefsteamers has plans in place to restore a historic DE2 Diesel locomotive ex Rhodesian railways which would mean running trips like this without needing to use Transnet traction and thus could run according to the YQ on time every time and provide customers with the service they expect. If you would like to support the initiative to restore the DE2  and other locomotives please contact Reefsteamers.