Our group of five lady friends are back home after a long weekend spent together on the Ceres Rail Red Devil Steam Train to Robertson and back. A weekend of fun, laughter, wine, beautiful scenery and a chance to make new friends.
We arrived at our departure point at the Harbour Bridge Hotel on Friday morning and after being informed that the “Red Devil” steam engine had been experiencing problems, which resulted in a delay of 1 ½ hours whilst a “Black Devil” steam engine was brought in to replace it. We then, with the efficient assistance of Brian and Carol quickly boarded and were shown to our respective compartments all conveniently situated in the same carriage. With great excitement we came together in one of two very comfortable lounge carriages and settled down to watch beautiful scenery pass by. Lunch with a selection of fresh sandwiches and muffins was enjoyed in the dining car, after which we again settled in the lounge carriage for glasses of wine and bubbly to celebrate the start of our weekend.
Unfortunately, late afternoon we were informed that the lounge carriages would not be available to us on Saturday as they for the use of “day trippers” only, who would be joining the train in Robertson. However, on voicing our disappointment this problem was sorted out and five chairs in the lounge were made available for our group. Perhaps this problem could be sorted out on future trips on booking as although fine for families travelling together in one compartment, groups such as we were, travelling together cannot be expected to spend the day apart in individual compartments. (Editors comment: Essentially it applies to “day trippers” as well. They do not have access to the Coupes & Compartments, which people who sleep on the train do have).
We had dinner together at the Bourbon Street Café in Robertson. Service very slow – Food very good but portions fat too large.
Back on the train for the night, we discovered that although there were basins in the compartments, there was no running water and we had to make use of the basins in the toilets situated at the end of each carriage. The beds were ready for us with lovely warm duvets and were very comfortable. The next problem we encountered the next morning was related to water supply to the showers: Cold in our carriage and boiling in the carriage next to us.
Muffins etc. and good coffee and tea was available in the dining car at breakfast and the staff there were efficient and extremely friendly.
After breakfast we travelled to Rooiberg Winery experiencing once again the beauty of this area – a smattering of snow still on the mountain tops. A truly relaxing way to travel. Lunch at Rooiberg, after a taste of their wines, was a delicious lasagne with salad and crunchy bread. As we had decided to stay on board the train and have cheese and wine for supper, we arranged that the restaurant at Rooiberg provide us with a variety of cheese, meat and bread to take with us, and they certainly went to a lot of trouble to put it all together for us. We then headed for the Arabella wine estate to taste and purchase some of their beautiful wines. Then back on the train to Robertson Station.
We had already ordered our wine for the evening from Melanie (Train Manager-Stefan’s wife) who controls the bar on the train and as the lounge carriages could not be utilised at night due to lack of lighting we were thoroughly thrilled when the staff on the train offered to set up a table in the dining car especially for the “Golden Girls” (as we became known on the train by all) with all the appropriate cutlery, crockery and wine glasses with pink serviettes tucked into them. A lovely gesture so very much appreciated by us all. We had our private party with much curiosity from the other passengers on board.
After a good and comfortable nights rest and a cup of coffee, the train left Robertson for a restaurant in the Nuy Valley for Brunch. On arrival, we were treated a glass of their Red Muskadel and everyone had a fantastic shopping experience in their very well stocked deli before settling down to a scrumptious breakfast.
Then – time to head home – more bubbly to celebrate a great weekend and the Springbok win.
To Sum up: THE STAFF ON THE TRAIN WERE FANTASTIC, very friendly and obliging. Problems: Water to basins and showers should be efficiently provided. Seats in the lounge area should be made available for weekend passengers too. Lighting in this area in the evening should also be considered. Perhaps special seating in the observation carriage could be reserved for periods, on booking, to afford more people the chance to experience it.
Although definitely not luxurious by any means, we as a close group had a wonderful time and felt that all that we experienced was well worth the cost of the trip