Welcome to South Africa: Pietermaritzburg – Ladysmith Route Preview

Written by: TrainSim-James

Pietermaritzburg – Ladysmith is a new South African route in development for Train Simulator. Rolling stock screenshots will follow as soon as licenses permit. 

We speak with Hermann Kuhne and Johan Pretorius, the creators of the upcoming Pietermaritzburg – Ladysmith route for Train Simulator.

Train Simulator users will soon be able to drive South African trains (downloadable from Steam) for the first time, thanks to third party developers Hermann Kuhne and Johan Pretorius. Their history as content creators goes back many years, as we found out.

‘I started building a few years ago when RailWorks started. I began with RailWorks because MSTS’s editor scared the daylights out of me!’ says Hermann. It was not all plain sailing in the beginning, in fact it was almost impossible to purchase a copy of EA’s Rail Simulator as Johan explains. ‘This resulted in me trying to find a person, in either the UK or USA, to purchase a copy for me (I just had to have the game, as I’m a train freak). Finally I found a South African citizen who was living in Britain at the time, and was due to visit South Africa the following week. Problem solved. I think, I might have been the first South African (in SA) to own a copy of Rail Simulator.’

The mighty Midmar Dam looms over the countryside by the route.

Both Hermann and Johan got into creating content early on. ‘I uploaded about 15 or 16 freeware routes to UKTrainSim and a few other sites,’ says Hermann. ‘I mainly use existing routes, although the extinct, abandoned routes grabbed my attention. I suppose it’s mainly because I grew up with them and can still remember the good old days of steam!’ Johan found the help and support offered in the community on site like UKTrainSim to be invaluable. ‘I promise you there were lots of times that I wanted to pack up, were it not for a number of great guys, with a positive outlook and wonderful help, on UKTrainSim. I am deeply in debt to them.’

A quiet, wet night at Mooirivier Station.

Johan had already begun researching and building the Pietermaritzburg – Ladysmith route for MSTS: ‘I had done most of the research and physical photography of the complete route. This route was the first to be electrified in South Africa’. In fact, research was to prove one of the most challenging aspects of the route. Johan continues, ‘I crisscrossed the whole route taking photographs etc. I also received some pictures to compliment mine, supplied by train driver friends. But many of the stations, station buildings, staff houses and so on had been demolished’. And the challenges don’t end with demolished buildings, as Hermann explains. ‘Info on SA routes is fairly hard to come by, as documentation does not really exist or it is extremely hard to come by. Our biggest problem though, regarding routes, is that the Google Earth resolution for SA is not always very clear’.

Large yard at Mason’s Mill. As ever, hills and mountains are never far away. 

‘This route from Pietermaritzburg to Ladysmith is the first really huge effort at creating something on this scale,’ says Hermann. ‘I can’t see why there are not more creators for RW in SA, as there are more than enough routes to attract their attention.’ Johan continues, ‘This route was the first route to be electrified in South Africa. The railways actually built an Electric Power Station at Colenso, on the banks of the Tugela River, which later was decommissioned and today only three of the four cooling towers remains. These are also depicted in the route. The area is rich in South African/British war remnants and monuments, grave yards, battle fields etc.’

Winding rivers and lush greenery are characteristic of the route. 

So, having made such a great start, are there any plans for more South African locos – maybe steam locos – or routes in the future? Johan responds, ‘Yes, to locos and Yes to steam. I have started on two steam locomotives, a Class 24 and a GMAM Garratt. Both are in a near finished state, lots of minor tweaks still have to be done, and obviously the baking.’

Johan’s in-development South African Class 24, without its tender. (Note – this loco is not included with Pietermaritzburg – Ladysmith. Images of the included 6E1 loco will folllow soon.)

Hermann adds, ‘Yes, the idea is to get in a few more SA routes. In fact one or two are already in the planning, like the Outeniqua Choo-tjoe route from Knysna to George – the old Garden Route line, sadly abandoned, which drew many tourists from abroad. The line is more or less finished with just the scenery to add. Also the route from Harrismith to Ladysmith, which boasts a ‘looped tunnel and the Lady Grey to Barkly East route which includes no less than eight reverses to negotiate the narrow valleys and high mountains. A very interesting route. Do yourself a favour and look for “Riding the Reverses” on You Tube. Stunning route!’

More screenshots of Pietermaritzburg – Ladysmith and the included rolling stock will follow when licenses permit. 

TrainSim-James

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