Things To Do in FauresmithFauresmith's Street Train
Where? Fauresmith Town Square, Main Street, Fauresmith, Free State.
When? Daylight hours for best visibility.
How much? Free
What would the town of Tula Homa, Tennessee, USA and Wycheproof, Victoria, Australia have in common with Fauresmith, Free State, South Africa? A phenomenon. These three towns are the only places in the world's history that have ever had the phenomenon of a railway line running along their main street and the only places in the world today that still pay a tribute to this bygone rail exception.
This 'dorpie' (diminutive term for local town) is the second oldest town in the Free State province yet still has a village ambience. Named after Rev Phillip Faure and Sir Harry Smith its little known existence, 130km South West of Bloemfontein, is largely due to the historic absence of two House of Assembly votes that saw Bloemfontein become the capital of the region over this town that has a train running through it.
The only road on the African continent that had a steam train toot tooting in between olden day hooves that eventually became modern day honking. The steep main street climb had the locomotive travelling at a pace slow enough to walk besides and consequently only had one victim of causality, a rooster. The linear locomotive track clanked with railway activity until 1999 where a pristinely maintained steam locomotive (built in 1903 by North British Locomotive Company) was mounted dead in its tracks as a monument to this nostalgic transportation. The need for working steam trains had diminished and the line between Springfontein and Koffiefontein was closed down. Much negotiation by the old Town Council and the South African Railways resulted in the donation of this original steam train to the town of Fauresmith where it now stands welded to its original tracks in tribute to its train transit contribution.
The desire of the local Werda school rugby team to take the locomotive on its final trip if they won the district tournament was honoured when the team's achievement was secured with the blowing of the game's final whistle. Mr. Moos Visser's truck towed the train off its tracks taking a victory lap along the main street for one last time.
The polished black beauty with a yellow front bar now (SAR Class 8BW No. 1153 wheel type 4-8-0 ) rests her steam pipe under the mains streets lamp poles which contrast the parallel railway tracks aground by mirroring parallel electric wires aloft. Follow the train tracks through the main tree lined street of the town balancing fearlessly on the rails one foot in front of the other safe in the knowledge that there is no risk of an oncoming train. Although putting an ear to the tracks will no longer pick up a train echo one can imagine the steam rising from the locomotive now stationed permanently in the town square.