Words & Pix by Chris Marais
I’m standing here in a cosmos field in the Eastern Free State, surrounded by gricers (trainspotters) and anoraks in great profusion.
There are more cameras and tripods here than on an evening game drive through the Maasai Mara.
But these are different elephants being photographed today.
Sandstone Estates is hosting its Stars of Sandstone old machine extravaganza week and the 7 000ha working farm is teeming with men and women from all over the world in the heat of a steamy affair with, well, steam.
It takes just one outing with these international steam-chasers to get me totally hooked on all things locomotive.
An old green bus carts us around to various good spots along the narrow gauge Sandstone Estates line. In the distance a steam train full of excited people approaches.
The afternoon light is perfect, the Malutis glimmer in the background and the sun glints off the approaching loco. The photographs are getting prettier and prettier with every frame, until the massive black engine whooshes on by me and the driver gives us all a wave.
And right there, I’m back to being a six-year-old on my auntie’s farm near Ermelo in the old Eastern Transvaal (now Mpumalanga), waving at the drivers and the firemen as they pass by, sometimes tooting in recognition, sometimes not even noticing us, the little people down there.
But when they do make some form of eye contact, I can see the looks on their faces. In that moment, we all know. Those men in the cab, those Lords of the Footplate, are nothing less than rock stars in a little boy’s eyes.
For more on Sandstone Steam, go HERE – the next Stars of Sandstone event takes place in 2017 – follow the website for details.