Wickham Trolley RT 1717

In late 2010 the Committee for “Friends” agreed to purchase a second hand rail inspection trolley from Sandstone Heritage Estate (www.sandstone-estates.com ) in the Eastern Free State.

Our first sight of the Trolley

Our first sight of the Trolley



The Driving seat

The objective behind this acquisition was to bring some focus to the reopening of the George/Knysna line, the use of which was suspended in 2006 following flood damage. It was felt that if it could be demonstrated that the members were willing to contribute and participate in the project, that the authorities would take note and make a decision on the future of the line,


The decision to acquire the Trolley was the easy step; first problem was that the fledgling “Friends” did not have any funds available.  A number of members stepped up to the footplate and agreed to fund the purchase.  Having purchased the trolley the next hurdle was transport to Knysna, again a cost and again the members dipped into their pockets and by mid-February the trolley was en route to Knysna arriving on 16 February 2012 at Bodge Engineering where the owner Ron Hollis had agreed to allow us space in his workshop to work on the vehicle.


All very exciting but now the real work was to begin and volunteers were sought to assist with the overhaul and restoration project. 


Regular work days Wednesday and Saturday were agreed to facilitate a team approach to the task ahead.  Our Chairman Fraser Howell took ownership of the project and it was all go, stripping the vehicle down.  It is quite amazing how many bits and pieces you end up with.

Waiting for lift off

Waiting for lift off

We were able to source a few works drawings in the UK; which have been a useful reference document.

We have also been able to tap into a UK Wickham Ware interest group who have been a useful source of information.


The body was lifted from the chassis which allowed us full access to the mechanicals.


The body was stripped of all its cladding exposing the frame which was taken The Village Blacksmith in Knysna for sandblasting. 

Like new

Like new

With sandblasting completed it was all hands on deck to get the new surface covered with primer.  Following two coats of primer and two undercoats the frame was moved to Sedgefield where Colin Jenkins and Colin Burgess set to work cleaning down and having badly rusted sections cut out and new welded in place.

The side panels were refitted; no mean task when you know that all the panels are fixed to the frame with a few hundred 4BA screws.  The job progressed well and before long the Sedgefield crew had the body repainted and ready to be re-united with the chassis.

Colin Jenkins hard at it

Colin Jenkins hard at it

While the bodywork was progressing work continued on the mechanicals.

·      The radiator was removed and sent to Silverton Radiators Knysna who repaired and refurbished the unit.  On stripping it was found that the fan was loose on the shaft and this had caused severe wear in both keyways as well as the shaft.  The radiator fan, its carrier and drive shaft were refurbished and new bearings fitted.

·      The engine was taken out, stripped down and sent to Briden Engineering for overhaul, new pistons, rings, bearings etc, a complete rebuild we now have a new engine.

·      The clutch plate was refaced.  The thrust bearing looked fine but we felt while we had gone this far we should replace it as well.  Unfortunately we were not able to source a new thrust bearing so back went the existing.

·      The clutch slave cylinder was found to have a broken lug and a suitable replacement unit was obtained and fitted.

·      The gearbox and final drive appeared to be okay so no work was done on these, running will however provide the final test.

·      Next on the list were the wheel bearings.  This task was not tackled lightly but after taking one off and replacing it we got the hang of things.  Just when we were thought that this job could

A Timken bearing

A Timken bearing

be ticked off the list, the last one proved to be a difficult cuss.  Perseverance prevailed and off it came; the state of this bearing which had obviously overheated somewhere along the way            justified the work that had gone into the replacement. IMGP5760

·      The air brake system provided a challenge for us all; we learnt a great deal, as did the specialists Airtech, to whom we had allocated the work of servicing the valves and pressure tank.  Fortunately the air brake system uses many standard truck components and after a long road all is together and we have functioning brakes and reverser.

·          Several new window glasses sponsored by PG Glass Knysna were replaced


Starting to take shape again, it certainly is easier to take apart than put back together, sorting through all the bits and pieces and digging in boxes takes time.  We often look at the achievement when we pack up at the end of the day and wonder what we did; we really have to scratch our heads on occasion but there certainly is steady progress.

En Route to the Knysna station

En Route to the Knysna station


The crew

The crew

The rewiring of the Trolley proved a major challenge to our little team of workers but at the end after much frustration (and a steep learning curve) all wires were reconnected and the dashboards at either end were reinstalled.  In the interim the seats were recovered and the frames painted.  We had targeted completion to coincide with the 2012 Knysna Oyster Festival but this was not to be.  A month later we achieved 99% completion and on 9 August 2012 we were ready for the move from the workshop to the line. 

A new beginning

With the assistance again of Knysna Motor Strippers and Gavin Cooper, after a trip through Knysna, the Trolley was reunited with the rail track at the Knysna Waterfront.

Our next big hurdle is to obtain a Permit to operate from the Railway Safety Regulator.  Without this we can’t run the Trolley.  Transnet equally will not grant us any running rights on their lines without the permit; driver certification will also be necessary. 

Hopefully we will have been able to deal with the statutory requirements by the time Transnet have made a decision on the re-opening of the line.

Just over 2 years  later (October 2014) with no positive news as regards the opening of the line or any indication that an application by the Friends to run the Trolley on the Knysna George Line we were approached by an operator from Mosel Bay, Diaz Express who intended to operate a shuttle service between Mossel Bay and Hartenbos calling at the Langeberg Mall and Diaz beach during the summer months and operate charter type journeys in the off-season.  After a fair amount of soul searching we agreed to sell the Trolley to Diaz Express. We felt that after the concerns that were expressed at the last AGM about the deteriorating condition of the bodywork and the non use of the engine and bearings, it would be in the best interests of the vehicle to allow someone else to operate it.

It was not an easy decision to make and there has been some dissent; but there has also been support for the approach that the committee took in this regard.

Diaz Express recognising the work that the Friends have put into restoring the vehicle has undertaken to affix a notice on it acknowledging the work done by the Friends and to promote the George – Knysna line.  In addition, all bona fide members of the Friends will qualify for a 25% discount on tickets should they wish to travel.

We also have first refusal on the Trolley should Diaz Express wish to sell.









Diaz Express colours – Our Trolley looking smart again

30 November 2014


Contact Us

E-mail: friendsofthechootjoe@telkomsa.net
Post: PO Box 846, Sedgefield, 6573
Telephone: +27 (0) 44 343 1868
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