The Sandstone Heritage Trust is a private Preservation initiative established on a commercial farm in the Eastern Free State in South Africa. The present owners purchased the farm from the Wille family in 1995. The farm has been in the continuous ownership of the Willes since the 1840’s, which means the farm has only had two owners over a period of 170-years.
The arable farmland along the little Caledon River which constitutes the official border between South Africa and Lesotho is rich in agricultural potential. It is a particularly beautiful part of South Africa with sandstone outcrops nestling under the towering Maluti Mountains which sit high above the Drakensburg range. It is an area where farming has proceeded quietly using traditional methods for centuries.
The Midmar Museum which was a joint venture between the Kwa-Zulu Natal Parks Department and the Heritage section of the National Railways was dissolved by mutual agreement in 1997 and a selection of Narrow Gauge assets and the railway line came on the market. This event would give new direction to the Sandstone heritage program. These assets were put up for auction which Sandstone put in a bid for and being the successful bidder Sandstone was suddenly the owner of enough components to create a small Narrow Gauge railway. It was decided to lay some track and to bring one of the NGG16 Garratts back into steam.
A pivotal point in the heritage program’s development was the decision by Sandstone to hold an innovative attempt at the World Record for the maximum number of vintage tractors (pre 1960) working in one field at one time
. In order to make it more interesting for spectators a short section of railway line, which had been obtained on the Midmar auction
, was built and the Garratt with a few coaches was cobbled together. The event was in fact the first attempt of its kind and it took place amidst great international fanfare. It was awarded with a Guinness Book of Records certificate. 99 tractors participated.