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Locomotive back on track a la good ol’ Banana Express

It's a magical train ride for the whole family.

CLIMB aboard the ‘Hamba Wehelie Express’ and relive the golden age of the Banana Express on a nostalgic and relaxing trip through the countryside.

Hauled by a 50-year old diesel locomotive, the one-hour train trip starts at Gorgez View, (a 20 minute drive from Port Shepstone) and travels to Paddock and Plains station.

The popular children’s character, Thomas, the tank engine, from the The Railway Series books, comes to mind, when chugging along the railway track on the adorable, small train’s ‘homemade’ bogie coach.

The train is the brainchild of Derrick Classen of Paddock and Julian Pereira of Paton’s Country Railway of Ixopo.

Derrick explained that the train’s name, ‘Hamba Wehelie Express’, is derived from a story told to him by his eldest uncle, Jacob Solomen Classen, who was an engine driver.

“Migrant workers travelling from Lesotho to the mines in cattle trucks used to sing and dance on the way to work. They would sing ‘hamba wehelie’ as the stream train struggled up the steep hills, hence the name ‘Hamba Wehelie Express” he said.

Since the demise of the Banana Express in 2005, the ‘Hamba Wehelie Express’ is dubbed to be the next big tourism attraction in Paddock.

Interestingly, during the Banana Express’s iconic reign, it attracted record numbers, and is estimated to have bought in the region of R30-million annually, to the region.

After the Banana Express’s final run, the locomotives and coaches were so badly deteriorated and vandalised that they had to be rebuilt from the frames up, before being fit for public travel.

Seizing the opportunity to revive the iron horses, Derrick is currently restoring the locomotives and carriages to even better condition that they were before, at his own workshops in Paddock.

“I have various interests, and restoring trains is just one of them. I hope it will encourage tourists, locals and holidaymakers to visit the area, especially the restaurant at Gorgez View”, he said.

Passengers are able to enjoy the extensive facilities Derrick has established, as well as the connecting bus or combi tours to various Oribi Gorge viewing sites. Not forgetting the historic sighting of Paddock’s quaint station, which is a national monument.

Derrick said they are looking forward to December, as they are expecting a fantastic turnout of visitors.

Bookings are essential, call 039 6791345 or 072 2386865 or email gorgezview@paddock.co.za.

2 Comments

  1. Fantastic to get something ‘back on track’!! Hopefully Derrick Classen will be able to get some of those old BE coaches, and even a steam loco, back up & running?!?

    If we could get some kind of co-operation with Transnet, council & tourism, they would be able to see that the narrow gauge track could really bring tourism to the inland areas & our new sector, Ezingolweni (whose current logo features a steam train!). What an exciting and empowering Route that could be in our brilliant Southern Explorer!

  2. I’m so happy about this!! I have never been on a train before so I will most definitely book a seat. I think this is great for tourism – Just worried about crime… How safe will this train trip be?

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