ceres steam railway steam trains south africa

Five steam train trips you can take across South Africa

Steam train travel is alive and well all across South Africa thanks largely to groups of volunteers dedicated to preserving the history of the railways.

ceres steam railway steam trains south africa

Despite your feelings towards Metrorail (or Metrofail as some might call it), train travel is an amazing way to get around… if it’s reliable.

South Africa’s rail network might not be quite as connected (or as fast) as some other countries, but it is (mostly) functional.

And yes, you can take the Shosholoza Meyl from Cape Town to Joburg without too much trouble, but if you want something more unique from your train travel, this is for you.

Steam trains might not be the most environmentally friendly of fastest way to get around, but they are quite romantic and South Africa has a few options for those who want a peek back in history.

  1. Atlantic Rail

steam train cape town

If you like your tipple in the form of fermented grape juice, but don’t like the las of having to organise a taxi or rope in a friend to be designated driver, this is a great day out. You can read our review of Atlantic Rail here, but in short: the train takes you from Cape Town to Stellenbosch or one of two wine farms. You are free to roam, indulge in wine and laze around the estates at your leisure.

Where: The train departs from the Train lodge in Cape Town’s forehore up to two times a month and travels to either Stellenbosch, Spier or Vredenheim Wine Estate.
Cost: R550 per adult (includes a wine tasting at lunch on a wine farm) and R450 per child. Trips to Stellenbosch only are R300 per adult and R200 per child.
How to book:
Book well in advance as these trips fill up fast. Details on www.atlanticrail.co.za.

  1. Magaliesburg Express
magaliesburg express steam train south africa
Photo: ReefSteamers

As you might have gathered from the name, the train takes you to the town of Magaliesburg. The group who runs these trips have also recently started running trips from Rhodesfield to the Irene Dairy Farm and The Big Red Barn. As is the case with Atlantic Rail, you are free to explore the town (or nature) at your own leisure.

Where: Departs from Johannesburg Park Station on most Saturdays and from Rhodesfield PRASA Station for Irene trips.
Cost: R250 (adults), R200 (children), Children under four travel for free. There is also the option to hire a private compartment or a coach.
How to book: Bookings via the Reefsteamer website. 

  1. Cape Town to Ceres

ceres steam railway steam train trips south africa

The Ceres Rail Company runs trips every Saturday from Cape Town to Ceres and back. The journey follows some stunning views through Wellington, Nuwekloof Pass, Wolseley, Michell’s Pass before disembarking at Ceres Golf Estate. Passengers have the option of either booking lunch or having a buffet lunch at the golf club.

Where: Departs from Cape Town Royal Yacht club at 07:30 am.
R950 for adults (return trip, including lunch) and R550 for children between three and 13. Infants travel for free.
How to book:
Book on the website, well in advance. The train is currently booked up until the end of April 2017.

  1. Diamond Express – Pretoria to Cullinan


This train takes you from Pretoria to the small town of Cullinan. As with the other trips, you can explore the town, take a tour, having lunch at one of the restaurants or back your own picnic basket.

Where: Private Hermanstad Station, departing at 08:00
R275 for adults, R225 for pensioners and disabled persons. From R125 for kids and teenagers and a 10% discount for parties of 15 or more when booking online.
How to book: The scheduled is varied, so check the website and book online. 

  1. Umgeni Express
umgeni express steam trains south africa
Photographer: Greg Hart

The train travels on the last Sunday of every month from Kloof to Inchanga. “Special” trips also run during certain times of the year and sometimes trains run to Durban or to Pietermaritzburg. he route from Kloof to Inchanga follows the old main line from Durban to Pietermaritzburg and traverses some of the steepest railway gradients in South Africa.

Where: The last Sunday of every month from Durban. There are two trips every Sunday – morning and afternoon.
R220 for adults, R150 for children aged 2-12 and R150 for pensioners.
How to book:
Book on the Umgeni Express website.