Knysna was once synonymous with the Outeniqua Choo-tjoe – one of the last steam driven locomotives in operation in South Africa.
Unfortunately extensive flood damage in 2006 left the line with expensive damages requiring repairs. The department of Transport did not have sufficient funds to carry out these repairs.
The local group – Friends of the Choo-Tjoe have petitioned and campaigned for the line to be repaired and reopened over the last few years. The Department of Transport has however been reluctant to commit to any repairs if profitability could not be established.
The line (which connects Knysna, Sedgefield, Wilderness and George) was only partially used for commercial purposes (mostly Waste by Rail which takes excess waste from Knysna to the incinerator at PetroSA in Mossel Bay).
The twice daily tourist (passenger) train did however attract a large number of visitors annually. Slowly choo-tjoe-ing along the beautiful coastline certainly had a very romantic feel.
The Outeniqua Choo-Tjoe happened to be in George at the time of the flood and now rests at the Transport Museum.
You can see a lovely selection of current and historic pictures, including the dramatic landscape, on the Outeniqua Choo-Tjoe webpage.
The Outeniqua Transport Museum is well worth a visit and not just for the Choo-tjoe.
The Knysna Plett Herald carried an exciting story with regard to the possible reopening of the line today (13 March 2014). Although nothing is yet written in stone, it does give us hope that, with the help of International experts, we will once again see the Choo-tjoe steaming across the Knysna Lagoon and into the station.