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Bring Trains to Maine up from Africa

Be Part of a Worldwide Narrow Gauge Movement!


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Donations large and small are needed and deeply appreciated.

Bring Trains to Maine up from Africa!

The WW&F Railway museum in Alna Maine is seeking your help to purchase, transport, and restore two ballast hoppers from South Africa. Deemed surplus by their current owner, these cars represent a rare opportunity for rail enthusiasts around the globe to bring a unique piece of history to the United States – illustrating the worldwide appeal and utility of 24″ narrow gauge railroads. Moreover, these cars will become a “down payment” on possible further extension of Maine’s storied line of “big dreams and little wheels.”

Project Overview: Mechanization of Railroad Maintenance and Expansion

The WW&F is implementing an expansive Maintenance of Way improvement project, with the goal of keeping the railway in an excellent state of maintenance.  The project seeks to streamline specific MoW tasks related to the upkeep of the Railway including ditching, tie replacement, brush removal, and other specific elements. It will also maximize the efficiency with which our volunteers can work, by accomplishing more tasks with less labor. The end result of this MoW project will leave the Railway well positioned for continued reconstruction from either Sheepscot or Trout Brook. With the Mechanization of Railroad Maintenance and Expansion project already well underway, we are looking to you for support with a specific element of the reconstruction: the purchase and transport of two narrow gauge hopper cars from Sandstone Estates in South Africa.

Already Implemented: Tracklaying Gantry & Australian Tamper

WW&F Rail Train

Prior to track laying on the WW&F’s Mountain Extension, the WW&F recognized the need to build a machine that allowed us to more efficiently and safely lay track. Using some historical precedents as inspiration, we constructed a modular tracklaying gantry crane which allowed us to safely handle rail and tie bundles while the construction of the Railway progressed northward towards Trout Brook station. The new system proved its worth by allowing us to construct track faster and safer than we’d ever been able to achieve with prior systems.

During 2021 the WW&F took delivery of a Tamper Corporation/HARSCO track tamper that was built for use on the extensive network of sugar plantation railways of Queensland, Australia. The tamper, which was donated by Wilmar Sugar, was shipped from Queensland to the WW&F on a series of 3 different ships to reach us. Since its arrival, it has greatly expedited tamping operations, especially on the newly constructed Mountain Extension

In Progress: Kubota Excavator and Track Car

Excavator Rail Cart

After reaping the benefits that the tamper and tracklaying gantry brought to MoW activities, the WW&F wished to further increase in efficiency and productivity track maintenance. Earlier this year, the WW&F partnered with the Candelaria Foundation, who generously granted $100,000 for the purchase of an excavator and construction of a car which it can work from. The car’s design has been finalized and we are ready to order the materials to construct it. Once operable, the combined Excavator and Track Car will enable mechanized tie changing, ditching, roadbed repairs, brush removal, and other critical functionality.


What’s Next: Ballast Hoppers from South Africa

For many years the WW&F has used flatcars for dispersing crushed stone ballast to the locations along the line in need of stone. Typically this involves loading the cars with a front loader, then unloading each car by hand to get ballast to the necessary locations. While this system works well during our Spring Work Weekend when we have many volunteers on hand, the system is less productive for the routine maintenance carried out throughout the year. When we learned that the Sandstone Estates had made some of the ballast hoppers from their collection available, we were immediately intrigued. These cars are well suited to the application, so contact was made and the sale was agreed upon. The Edaville Railroad of South Carver, MA, another two-foot operation here in New England also found themselves in need of similar surplus cars, so we are sharing shipping with them to reduce costs for both organizations. While we utilized our reserves to act quickly – so not to lose out on this rare opportunity, we still need your help. Your donations towards this project will help us carry on with the progress which the WW&F is known for.

The Future: A Better, Longer Railroad

Where will this project leave us? Ready to maintain the Railroad up to a standard we are proud of, and comfortable with tackling further expansion. We are frequently asked, “are you going to extend the railroad further?” – this is your opportunity to make a “down payment” on the future goals of the WW&F Railway Museum.

About the Hopper Cars

The cars we are purchasing are in operational condition, coming to us from surplus stocks at Sandstone Estates in South Africa. These hoppers, officially designated NGY-1 class, were built by Hudson in 1968 and 1976. They were originally constructed for a project to upgrade the Avontuur Railway, which is the longest 2 foot gauge railroad in the world. They are widely regarded as excellent cars and have been used extensively by heritage railways in the U.K. and South Africa. Other than installing US-style couplers, we expect the ballast hoppers to be ready-to-roll upon their arrival.  Even their vacuum brakes are compatible with the system we are developing!

How YOU Can Help

We (currently) estimate purchase and shipping of these cars at $66,000. The WW&F is committed to this project – but needs your assistance to make it a reality. Please help spread the word about on social media, rail history groups, and the like – worldwide! This is a rare opportunity where narrow gauge enthusiasts from around the globe can help preserve a part of our shared heritage. Contributions (which we receive 100% of – no deductions for processing fees) can be made at or by mail to: WW&F Railway Museum, Attn: So. African Hoppers, PO Box 242, Alna, ME, 04535. Finally, consider volunteering at the WW&F (or whatever heritage railway is near you) – as together we can make a difference.

Thank you for your interest and support!