For my Grandad’s 80th Birthday my Mum bought everyone in the family a ticket for a steam train trip from Johannesburg to Pretoria. My Grandad has been a train enthusiast all his life, so it was a perfect gift.
This was the first train, never mind stream train, that our girls had ever been on. The jolting of the carriages, the drunken swaying of the train and the memorious smell of the smoke brought my sister and I back to childhood!
We reached our halfway point and had lunch in the dining car. Then we explored the area off the train. There were old trains and carriages to explore and the girls found a lump of coal each and various treasures aka old bolts and screws! We waited for a while as the engine had to travel half an hour just to get to the turntable to turn around and then half an hour back!
We watched the engine return and reverse slowly. With a ‘clank’ it reattached to the water tank and carriages. The heat from the coal fire was very intense and we were not even in the engine room, but on the platform! After they had filled up the furnace and probably scorched off some of their eyebrows, they hosed down everything with water for a good 10 minutes, just so they could touch the controls!
Then we were off! They announced that it was happy hour and that you could pay for 1 beer and get the second one for free. I bought my sister’s boyfriend a beer and decided that I would try out the free one. They were called ‘Mustang’ and it had a picture of a pretty girl in 50s style dress on the front. I had never seen them before.
A first sip revealed a sickly sweet initial taste, followed by a vile bitterness close to a cough drop. Oh my soul it was nasty! I could not believe that anyone could actually enjoy that! But my sister’s boyfriend said the challenge was on and now it was a competition to see if we could both actually finish it without gagging or leaving any! Well he polished his off and, I am ashamed to say, that when the train was still I got my 80 year old Grandad to pour mine out of the window of the waiting train.
About an hour later there was an announcement that any kind of beer was FREE! (I have no idea why!) This time I politely declined but my sister’s boyfriend was up for another challenge! This time he got the ‘Spitfire’ and my Mum and brother got a Stout. I decided to have a taste, perhaps my beer had been an exception. Who am I kidding – I wanted to see if it was worse! I tried the ‘Spitfire’ and it was not worse, but it was no better either! It was less sweet but tasted like cough syrup. Then I tried a sip of the Stout and I had met my match! It tasted like a liquid ashtray! I am dead serious! I only had one sip and I had to bum a chewing gum from my sister immediately! Oh my soul, I have never drunk anything so vile before and I will never have a Stout again!
So the train ride was an adventure and an eye opener too!