Family Outings Places we go

Exploring Pretoria: The Steam Train to Cullinan

March 9, 2017

Pretoria, it’s the only place Mr. Perfect and the girls have ever lived and although we have incurable wanderlust, this is where we call home. Ever changing, ever growing yet staying the same. Pretoria is a big city with the heart of a small town and this year it’s our family mission to rediscover all its new, hidden and forgotten treasures.

We’ll visit places in and around Pretoria, sharing reviews, tips and our experiences. All of this in the hope to assist in our dream of living slower, loving each other more and being present in the NOW!

First we’ll start with a look back at one of the coolest things we’ve done as a family:

A ride on an old-school Steam Train to Cullinan.

Way back in 2015, when Lia turned 6 months old we wanted to celebrate and decided to book tickets for the Friends of the Rail Steam Train to Cullinan. We did not know what to expect but what a cool outing it turned out to be.

It’s an early morning start:

The train departs at 8am sharp from the Hermanstad Station in the heart of Pretoria. Don’t worry about parking and safety because Friends of the Rail have taken precautions to ensure all of that, just be sure not to be late. Arrive at least 30 – 45 minutes before departure (especially if you have little ones) seeing as checking-in and finding ones seats will take some time.

TOP TIP: Make sure google maps or who ever’s driving has got the right location. The train will leave with or without you.

Expect a leisurely day back in time:

When I say the train departs at 8am, I actually mean you have to be onboard by 8 am. The train however will take a couple of minutes to really be on it’s way, waiting for the Metrorail trains to pass before crossing over their tracks. As soon as the conductor gets the go-ahead you’ll be off at a leisurely pace of 60km/hour so don’t expect to have breakfast in Cullinan. The journey will take between 2.5 and 3 hours depending of any delays and please do expect delays. Sit back, relax and enjoy some quality family time in the beautifully restored old-world setting of this vintage locomotive.

TOP TIP: Eat a good breakfast at home and make sure to pack loads of snacks and drinks. The train does have a lounge coach but the refreshment choices were limited so rather bring your own. Remember you’ll be doing this trip twice (again on your way back) so double up!

Explore and lunch in Cullinan:

Visiting the picture perfect little town of Cullinan is a treat and with so much to do it really is up to you. With great spots to lunch and quaint stores to explore you needn’t go far.

We stuck to Oak avenue (the main street), popping into a few cute shops and enjoying a craft beer at one of the local pubs before sitting down for lunch at As Greek As It Gets. If you’re into Greek food, this is a must! The food is fantastic and the atmosphere GREEK! Loud, fun, warm, spontaneous… We felt at home and I loved the fact that they made a big fuss taking care of the kids 1st making sure they were comfortable and fed. (Just a side-note: As Greek As It Gets is child-friendly but it’s not a Spur-type restaurant with a playground or kids entertainment so pack the kids some toys and colouring stuff etc. to keep them busy).Transport can be booked for special excursions and Friends of the Rail also have busses available for travelers who prefer not to walk the few 100 meters into town.

TOP TIP: This part of the day need some planning ahead of time. Cullinan is a popular tourist destination and if you don’t book a spot for lunch you wont find anywhere to eat. Google and have a look here  for some ideas. Also remember to mention that you are one of the train passenger. This will make a difference regarding what time you book lunch. The train leaves at 3pm so you’ll need to start making your way back around 2 / 2:30pm. They don’t do a return roll-call so if you’re late you’ll be left behind and in need of an expensive Uber…

Making your way back to the train:

Remember to leave ample time to explore the locomotive either before of after your visit to Cullinan. We decided to do so after lunch before departing back home. What a highlight seeing the engines all fired up and the locomotive steaming and ready to go, it certainly made Eliana’s day!

Returning home:

The train usually leaves Cullinan just after 3pm and you can expect to be back in Pretoria around 6 / 6:30pm depending on delays en route. The kids will be tired so pack a small pillow and blanket so they can enjoy an afternoon nap. It will also be cool so remember something warm too. Once again food is a must for the kids, especially young ones seeing as there aren’t any take-away options close by upon arrival back at Hermanstad station.

TOP TIP: The train “parks” every now and again to wait for other railway services. This can be very boring, sitting in the middle of nowhere with nothing to see or do. Toys, games, books and other activities to distract the little ones can be handy during these times. 

This is an all day event and does take a bit of prep and planning but it was so worth it. It’s something special to do that you’ll remember forever. We shared the day with some close friends and their kids and this made everything even more fun (plus, we moms could share the prep and planning – so no one felt overwhelmed).The next Steam Train Trip to Cullinan is scheduled for the 21st of March but a full schedule for the entire year can be viewed here.

Price per passenger: Prices range from R275 – R225 for adults, R200 – R125 for children depending on their age and kids under 2 are FREE. View the full price list here. (Groups of 15 or more get a 10% discount upon booking with Friends of the Rail).

Book through Friend or the Rail, Quicket or Computicket.

Get more info and the full day’s itinerary here.

PHOTO CREDIT | Anje-Ilana from Madison & West.

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