Fauresmith, Free State

The horse and the steam train – icons of Fauresmith.
There are few towns in this world that are bisected by a railway line – Fauresmith in the southern Free State is one of them. In fact, the central icon of Fauresmith is an old loco fixed to the rails outside the town hall.

Someone once managed to drag the train a short distance with his bakkie and it has subsequently been firmly attached to its moorings. The farmers’ parties around here can get quite hectic.

In fact, the only recorded accident involving the rail line running through Fauresmith was the death of a hapless rooster that crossed at the wrong moment.

The first endurance ride was held locally in 1964 on the Richmond – Hanover – De Aar route. A year later, 60 of the competing horses died of poisoning, administered by someone with a grudge against the event. In 1973 it was staged in Fauresmith – and became an annual fixture.

Today there are more than 300 entries each year, coming from all over the equestrian world. It’s called The Fauresmith International Endurance Race, and is considered one of the toughest events of its kind – anywhere. If you’re not a fully-blooded endurance rider, then come as a spectator.

If you nose around the town, speak to a few of the Fauresmith residents, you’ll come across all sorts of anecdotes about who loved and lived here. You’ll also hear some hairy stories about some of the local murderers who were publicly executed in the town.

One of South Africa’s best-loved artists, the late Walter Battiss, comes from “the town with the train”.

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