Fun Things to do this summer in Cape Town: # Do the Locomotion

Not like the 80’s classic as sung by Kylie Minouge. But rather on an actual steam locomotive, refurbished and ready to take you on probably one of the most scenic routes you can do up & down the Cape peninsula. It would prove to be an experience the Nomadic team could only have had by befriending ole Jenny.

Now ole Jenny is an old girl. So old in fact she has been around since our grand daddies stepped off the boat, so to speak. But with a bit of help from her buddies at FoAR (friends of Atlantic Rail) she is once again tearing up the tracks to rival most if not all of her electrified counterparts. Her big, black and beautiful frame tied together with a fine red trim made Jenny (engine number 3655) a broad you can’t help but fall in love with.

As I did, while I stood patiently waiting on the platform to board. All the while as Nomadic Bug ran circles around her snapping away on her camera. I couldn’t help but notice, like some girls, Jenny does like a fair a bit of attention. And it’s not unwarranted, the sight of the steam wafting up from her sides while she gently let out a toot-toot to blow off a bit steam made her ravishing. While her conductor forever fretting over passenger lateness, eagerly blew his whistle to signify the last call to board. All culminated in me experiencing what could only be described as a feeling of intense nostalgia.

And this I have to admit is probably what makes the mind of a train enthusiast tick. Or a vintage fanatic for that matter, just take a gander inside one of her many coaches and you’ll understand. Old wooden furnishings with wrought iron trimmings adorned every nook and cranny. Complete with a heavy door embezzled with a plaque dated 1920. Had me wishing I had donned the appropriate attire of the time if just in a vain attempt to show her some respect.

Something that was quite apparent when I struck up an impromptu conversation with senior coach controllers Dave and Jenny Levene. When upon inquiry filled my head with all sorts of information which only served to further compound my love for her. And left me feeling like a child on its favourite theme park ride. As I constantly stuck my head out of the coach window trying to get a glimpse of Jenny’s boiler as she slowly yet majestically made her way to our destination Simons Town. I have to point out; the route itself is also an opportunity to see a side of Cape Town only southern suburbanite commuters get to see.  But unlike them we were doing it in vintage style.

A style Jenny just oozed from every rivet and steam trace as she slowly chugged her way through the first half of the Cape peninsula in record time. Or so I thought. It was probably as I mentioned before a case of just being mesmerized by the experience. It always happens when you’re having a great time. Time flies much in the same way as the embers of burnt coal and soot did as they drifted past our carriage window. But still, I like most of my fellow Afri-Dutch passengers sitting opposite couldn’t stop whipping our heads from side to side. And the towns just kept on flying past.

Soon after an hour or so we had reached the lagoon town of Lakeside. And that’s when it all changed. More specifically the terrain as it immediately transformed itself from old suburbia into beautiful stretches of lakes, grasslands and marshes. It was at this point we were rewarded with our first glimpse of the ocean on the horizon its beauty momentarily interrupted by the passing of old stations.

By now Jenny was comfortably in her stride as she began to round the peninsula passing Muizenberg beach slowly etching her way closer to our first stop; Kalk Bay. We briefly made an unscheduled stop at the behest of a few passengers who wished to jump off a bit early. We however were not going to part with Jenny until the end of the line. And Jenny was more than happy to take us all the way.

It was not long before the next leg of our journey saw Jenny taking us along the breakwater skirting the towns of Glen Cairn and Fish Hoek. It literally felt like we were chugging on the ocean in parts. The sea spray shooting in the windows was a nice touch. And coupled with the cheerful waving of numerous beach goers and onlookers made it one of most memorable moments of our trip. Similar was the last stretch to Simons Town, a breathtaking view from across the bay. The deep water harbour made obvious by the dark blue sea, and the lonely lighthouse on its manmade island had changed my perspective. Like I was in a foreign land imagining what it must be like for the everyday commuter as they made their way back from the city to their village at the end of the world.

I too would know soon enough as Jenny approached the end of the line. This however was not the end for us for it gave us to opportunity to get better acquainted with Jenny. We could take her to grab a bite to eat at a nearby local fish market and to finish take a nice stroll on the beach.

I was not as heartbroken to see Jenny go as I would be later though. We still had the journey back but I had to make a confession. Although I was shy when we first met to just jump on board and do the locomotion. I was now proud to say that I had become a convert. And would gladly do it all again, as long as it was with Jenny and/ or Katie but not with Kylie Minouge.


Quick Facts/ Highlights

  • Jenny 3655 is apparently named after her keepers late wife.
  • Jenny was built circa 1940, and was decommissioned sometime in the 70s. She was however brought back from retirement in the late 2000’s and has never looked back.
  • There is another locomotive called Katie who is an even older than Jenny. She is used on occasion to give ole Jenny the weekend off but is generally run not as much as Jenny.
  • The FoAR is a volunteer program supported by Atlantic Rail and Spoornet. Anyone is free to become a member. They hold regular meetings, exercises and ultimately day trips for all members.
  • The FoAR would love to take Jenny and Katie on more routes in the near future. And other than their regular route to Simons Town also offer a trip to the Wine lands. More information can be found on their site.

Tips for Virgin Steam Locomotive Travellers.

  • Book way in advance for as you will notice on their website they are constantly booked up. So prepare yourself to only go on your trip in about 2/ 3 months time.
  • Bring some extra cash along for they have a fully kitted bar in one of the carriages. Just in case you dream of sipping on a cold one as Jenny takes you for the ride of a lifetime.
  • You can, if you so desire, be dropped off and picked up later at Kalk Bay station instead of the final stop at Simons Town Station. But you must prearrange this before your trip so that FoAR can fit your stop into their schedule.
  • Don’t forget to take your camera along for the sites are just incredible, but if you’d prefer to take some mental pictures instead, not to worry they will be just as memorable.
  • And finally don’t forget to take along some sunscreen, a beach towel and a packed picnic for those stunning Summer days if you decide to head on down to the beach. Or if you go in the winter, a jacket a beanie and some cash for a well deserved hot chocolate to be found at one of the many coffee shops in Kalk Bay/ Simons Town will leave you free of regrets.

Please don’t forget to pay your respects to Jenny and/ or Katie for they work real hard to get you to your destination and deserve all the respect you can muster for coming out of retirement.

Special thanks go to the crew of FoAR, Atlantic Rail and Spoornet for making these wonderful day trips happen every second Sunday of the Month. Special thanks go out to Dave and Jenny Levene for their kindness by assisting us in any way they could and by answering my numerous questions. And not forgetting Jenny and Katie for providing us with probably one of the most memorable trips I have ever done.

Some information was sourced from the Atlantic Rail website and us.

We did the locomotion on Sunday the 11th of January 2015.

By Slippery Joe Lyzard © (Writer for Nomadic Existence)

Photography: Nomadic Bug © 

Nomadic Existence 2015 ©

 Explore. Conserve. Discover.


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