TAKE A STEAM TRAIN BACK IN TIME TO THE ELGIN COUNTRY MARKET

Take an 80km steam train ride to Elgin and a Winter market so toasty, you’ll want to stay until Summer.

From Harry Potter books to Agatha Christie mysteries and epic African journeys – steam trains take us to places in our imagination as much as to destinations. That is where Rick Botha and the Ceres Rail Company aim to take more of us more frequently.

The trains are typically ex South African Railways steam locomotives, sometimes combined with diesel locomotives. The example that we use on most days is a Class 19D from 1948 and she’s still going strong,” explains Rick. 

Ceres Rail Company provides an incredible opportunity to experience the Ceres Valley from a historic refurbished steam train

With a nose for new adventures, Capitec’s Chandré Matlala and friends Phumzile Andries and Hope Ntshangase had already booked. The trio were dressed with sophistication but feeling like kids on a weekend without their parents.

The train departs from Cape Town harbour and journey’s through Bellville, Eerste River, Somerset West and then over Sir Lowry’s Pass. Arriving at the foot of the pass, the train embarks on an epic climb up one of the steepest railway lines in South Africa. Cresting the peak, the train snakes its way into the lush Elgin Valley before arriving at the Elgin Railway Market.

The slow-coach approach suited Chandré just fine, and she loved being able to spend the day adventuring through the Western Cape with little more than her phone. 

“What’s really appealing about Capitec’s digital payments is that you don’t need to carry a wallet or lots of bags and things. When you see a QR Code, you open up your Scan to Pay and you scan that. You can use  Pay Me to split the bill with your friends and then it’s just Instagram all the way. Making it perfect for a day like this,” explains Chandré.

Waiting for them was an old apple warehouse converted into a bustling Steampunk, Art Deco market by creative and visionary Roger Orpen.

“This is the Elgin Market. It was originally built by Italian prisoners of war in the 1940s and was designed by an architect called Stephen Fry – who was actually a Springbok rugby player.” shares Roger. 

The building was badly neglected and rundown but Roger saw its potential. He purchased it and got to work building something interesting. 

Situated at the gateway to the beautiful Elgin Valley, it was opened in June 2018 and is home to an array of local food and craft vendors and live music on weekends.

The arrival of the old steam train is as exciting for crowds watching as those disembarking. The train roars in with thunderous whistling, puffing and hooting. Visitors to the market can greet the train on the station platform or view its arrival from the market’s leisure deck overlooking the railway platform.

Decades of conceiving film sets then bringing them to life prepared Roger for creating this special space and attracting a fascinating cast to inhabit it.

Marvel at the works of a blacksmith using equipment dating back to the 1900s, and be enticed by fashion of all kinds, jewellery, kids toys and a range of leather goods. 

Come hungry as there’s a burst of flavours on offer, from artisanal gins, infused olives, fragrant curries, Mediterranean cuisine, spicy chicken, ribs and burgers, vegan options, Dim Sum, Mexican Nachos, tasty biltong, fresh Thai – you name it. 

It was Neapolitan pizzas which won the popular vote and as quick and simple as payment was, those pizzas came together just as fast and deliciously.

“It’s been a brilliant day. We had great food, the music was amazing. It was live, and I didn’t expect that so, that was absolutely key for me. The train ride was breathtaking, the views were great, the conversations were great. We had so much fun coming here. I don’t think it would have been possible without the Live Better saving, so that definitely put a hop in my step,” shares Chandré.

 

With a world of wondrous South African tastes, escapes and experiences on offer this season, all that remains, is to choose what suits you. 

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