The Stars of Sandstone event has come and gone and now the photos, reports and comments regarding the event start to flow in. We are creating a special section here for our visitors to see if they agree with these comments and for all prospective visitors to shows in the future to develop some feel for what people were able to experience. We will be announcing the dates for the next event within a week. We are already receiving high quality photographs from some of the outstanding photographers who have been covering the event. 

Have a browse of Graham Black's impressive array of images.

Take a look at Kim Winters' lovely photographs of our event.

The photos below were taken by Gary Barnes - we hope they inspire you and you enjoy looking through them.

We hope Rudolf Pretorius's snapshots of our event give you an inspiring impression of everything it involved and what was on offer to see and do.

Take a look over Johan Jacobs's images of Stars 2015.

We hope you love Aidan McCarthy's striking selection of colour and black & white photographs as much as we do.

The wonderful photos below were taken by David Benn.

This is Hannes Paling's fifteenth visit to Sandstone Estates and he has submitted a set of interim photos of his experiences during the event to date. Thank you Hannes, we appreciate you providing us with these outstanding photographs which provide our web site viewers with an insight into what we are all about.

From: Danie Pretorius Sent: 14 April 2015 14:41 We had a great time again at Stars of Sandstone 2015, herewith some of my pictures taken during the event. You are welcome to use some on the website if you like. Regards and keep well, Danie Pretorius

Stars of Sandstone '15, Impressions from the first Weekend By Andy Selfe As usual, this event coincided with our Apple Harvest, which stretches from February to early May. I can only get away for the Easter weekend; the Packsheds don't take in fruit on the Thursday, so I was on the road at 4 o'clock that morning for the 1200km, 12-hour trip to Sandsone Estates, this time on my own. Being on my own meant there was plenty of space in the car for not only my clothes and camping equipment, but also nearly a quarter-tonne of apples and five cases of wine, produce from the Elgin Valley where I live, farm and have a mechanical repair business.

The route I prefer and which looks straightest on the map, leaves the N1 just after the Orange River at the !Gariep dam, via Bethulie, Smithfield and a 90-km stretch of gravel road and then all along the Lesotho border to the farm. It doesn't matter how fast I drive, the trip takes 12 hours! It goes through some spectacular scenery.

Once on the farm, the first impression was the depth of colour of the cosmos. On the roadsides on the way it was in flower, but not nearly as deep pink as this. Apparently this is a result of selective breeding.

I just missed the afternoon train, but took my time unloading the CapeProduce, greeting old friends, setting up camp and looking around.

Pliny the Elder's expression ex Africa semper aliquid novi applies equally to Sandstone; Len pointed out a new ablution block he had built in dressed stone, looking as though it's been there for a hundred years.

Also in dressed stone is a new wall around the Office.

Among the old friends was the contingent from the SA Armour Museum. They had promised that their exhibition would be 'Tank Heavy', and they were not joking! Three Eastern Bloc tanks, a T34, a T55 and the T72 which we saw from last year, along with an operational Olifant and a Rooikat.

Having served in the SA Army in Armour, this is a special interest of mine, and the senior members of this group remember my instructors from 1969. Indeed the son of one of our Sergeants serves as a Sergeant Major with them at the moment! I was delighted to meet, as a retired General, my old Troop Commander, (then Lieutenant) Heinz Heinze from our three month stint at Runtu at the beginning of 1970! This is exactly as I would have been dressed back then.

There were two more 'Blasts from the Past' in store for me, one the Marmon Herrington Mk 4, recently acquired from the Boet Percival collection in Bloemhof. I have a picture of my late father on the turret of one, along with his driver Arthur Waks from Heidelberg in the Cape and his gunner, Potgieter, outside Gazala in the WesternDesert.

I have agreed to supply and fit an engine in this one to make it operational again. The other incident was working on the T34 Russian Tank, which was experiencing fuel supply problems.

The tank was built in 1953, at which time we lived in Cologne. Joe Stalin was still very much in charge and we had to keep our car always at least half full of petrol, in case his Army came thundering across the border...... in this tank! It was interesting to see that the mechanics of the tank, including a huge V12 diesel engine, were relatively sophisticated for that time. I was delighted to be invited by Lt Col Hohls to take part in the daily Sound of Thunder Demonstrations, driving what I trained on, the Eland Armoured Car. There is a Tradition after such an event: after the de-brief, one is expected to down a 'Grease Nipple', some very strong green alcoholic beverage, with a clove of garlic and a glacé cherry drowning in it. Further, if you have broken some rule, for example not applied your hand brake, there is a penalty of downing another!

Arno, a Sergeant Major from the Gunners in Potchefstroom was a welcome addition to the group; he had brought the Chev Quad Gun Tractor 'Halfaya', limber and 25-pounder which was last seen at Sandstone several years ago.

Every morning we went out on the Military Convoy to a different part of the farm. Mostly in soft-skinned vehicles, but on Saturday, Terry Boardman OAM from the New South Wales Lancers was able to take us out in one of the Saracens. You will note his thumb is not wrapped around the steering wheel!

During the stops on these Convoys, it was interesting to look at the very different flowers which grow in the veld there, some of which I hope to add to our blog and maybe send to for identification.

One seems to get very hungry at Sandstone and one is never disappointed with the food, prepared by Len Huxham, Leigh Sanders and their team.

In the Waenhuis where the food is served, I was delighted to see a set of drawings I found many years ago and donated to the Trust, now all framed and displayed. They are of Military Vehicles built in then Rhodesia, often on whatever chassis was at hand, for use during the Bush War.

Feeding a large group of hungry people needs detailed planning. Often extra people not booked, are allowed in at the gate at the daily rate and need to be catered for. The apples I brought were part of this planning, but to see what the store-wagon looked like inside was an experience!

'An Army Marches on its Stomach', said Napoleon! These stocks were constantly being topped up, bread being delivered late every evening, for instance. Also the grounds were constantly being cleaned and tidied. Here the lawns were being mown on Saturday afternoon.

.... and the Army of cleaners never stopped.

The Mole family(ies) were constantly busy. Plural because Train Controller Peter Mole (no relation) from England was always seen with a radio in his hand, making sure that there were no two trains on the same line. Here he is putting up the daily timetable.

And for those who don't read small print, Hayley posted the Highlights of the Day on the board.

Lyndie made a point of greeting every new face at the dining tables, making sure everything was what they expected and Ben and their friends seemed to spend the whole time in (well behind!) the bar! The Sound of Thunder Demonstrations by the ArmourMuseum took place every afternoon at 2. From the smallest Armoured Vehicle (normally me in the Eland) to the largest, the Olifant Tank were all put thorouh their paces, over humps and through ditches, to the delight of the public. At the end, we would line up facing the crowd and when a smoke bomb was set off, we would all charge directly at the crowd, stopping just short of them. Many people said this was the highlight of their visit! I managed to capture, (rather shakily) Colonel Hohls showing off the T72 on this clip This tank was bought from Poland for evaluation purposes, the other two Russian tanks are Spoils of War. Enough of the Military Vehicles, I tend to forget that the railway is the Centre of Attraction at Sandstone! As usual, one 'new' locomotive was inaugurated, fresh from Lukas Nel's Bloemfontein workshops. He was constantly busy during the event in the workshops, making sure all the locos and rolling stock was running perfectly. This year's new loco was (yet another) Orenstein & Koppel, christened Montana, after the latest addition to the Mole family.

I think this is the fourth O&K runner, and there's another in the queue, here is a picture of the chassis, which gives an idea of what Lukas and his team start with.

.... and here is the reconditioned boiler from Keith Stevens in Natal.

All the time, different locomotives with different consists were passing this way and that, along with the Road Steamers chuffing around.

.... and every afternoon, the Mountain Wanderer pulled out for the hour-and-a-half tour of the whole line, normally pulled by two Garratts.

Other passengers on the train were always interesting, on this one was a member of Transnet who is very much involved with the local production of the copy of a Chinese locomotive, which he described as excellent! Those people who were in charge of the old vehicles and tractors were encouraged to drive around as much as possible to enhance the visitors' photographic opportunities; here is Tom Kirkland on the Fire Engine, keeping pace with the train.

The farm facilities never stopped, the workshops were always open. I found on Sunday that I had a flat tyre. No problem for Lucky and his mate, to fix that!

There was a catch, though; I had to help Henry dismantle the wheel of the Fire Engine which also had a flat tyre. No doubt there's a technique (and maybe a special tool?) to do it easily, but it led to a lot of head-scratching!

Another of my interests is Stationary Engines. I had two tasks in this line, one to photograph and take details of the four large Ruston & Hornsby engines also from Bloemhof, for 'Holiday Sightings' in the UK Stationary Engine Magazine.

The other was to take detailed photos of the Crossley X engine which we removed from Phoenix Roller Mills in Grahamstown, for a group in Australia who are restoring a similar engine, from which some parts have been removed.

All too soon, Monday morning arrived and it was time to say goodbye to old friends and new and to get back on the road for the 12-hour trip home. Many thanks to all who made my visit so enjoyable!

The show rolls on and the thunder of Military vehicles can be heard in the background. We are starting to receive our first responses. From: Thys Buitendag Sent: 07 April 2015 08:49 To: 'Joanne West' Subject: RE: Your attendance at Stars of Sandstone 2015 We spent Friday, Saturday & part of Sunday at your estate. What an awesome experience it was for all of us. From the moment we arrived we were blown away by all the activities, the steam locomotives, steam truck & tractors, the military display, the aircraft, too many to mention. You and your team did a fantastic job in organising the event. The attention to detail speaks of many hours of planning. The food was great, the volunteers did a great job. Everything was just perfect. I was like a kid in a playground. J - and the flip in the Harvard was mind-blowing. I have attached a few pictures for you. We all really hope this event will be repeated next year – we will be there again! (with more of our family) Best regards and THANK YOU. Thys, Alicia & Jayden (the grandson)

Photo credit: Willie Bodenstein

The Armour Museum deploys its most impressive Heavy Armour seen arriving at the Stars of Sandstone event commencing 2nd April 2015.