The Great Heidelberg Train Race 2023

By Jaco Kotze

The Roaring Golden 1920's was a time of economic boom following World War 1, with extravagant social events which gave the opportunity to showcase the transporting technological marvels of the day.

One such an event which happened in 1930 was the "Impossible Race", the epic race between the Bentley Boys and the "Le Train Bleu" - Boy Woolf Barnato, founding member of the Bently Boys, wagered a race across France from Cannes to Calais, in the Bentley Six Speed Coupe against the French Blue Train. Ultimately the Bentley ended up winning the epic race, stopping in London even before the train had reached Calais!

The Great Heidelberg Train race provides a rare opportunity to step back into yesteryear and experience this nostalgic excitement and extravagance of the 1920's and it certainly did not disappoint! The morning started with the arrival of the steam train, the magnificent Rovos Rail train with the superb Class 6 steam engine named Tiffany in front. This steam engine was built In 1893 and is still going strong despite being 130 years old this year! Some good advice: the train gets to the station early, so be in time if you don't want to miss it!

Representing the Bentley Boys was the immaculate Bentley "RGE Blue Train Special". This car is built around a Bentley Mark IV chassis with running gear mated to an 8 cylinder B81 Bentley Engine.

The magnificent flying machines were represented overhead by a vintage open cockpit Boeing Stearman, flown by Ivan Van Der Schaar. It really would have been the cherry on top to have the Stearman follow the train overhead exactly as it was entering into the station over the bridge; perhaps this could be planned by the organizers for next years race which would make for a very unique photo opportunity!

Kitplanes for Africa

Following the start of the "race", the Bentley was followed by a convoy of spectacular vintage automobiles which did an hour long heritage tour through the historic town of Heidelberg before all making their way to the main event are at the Heidelberg Aerodome.

At the Aerodome, the sky filled with the rumbling sound of the radial engined Harvards of the Flying Lions Display team. The three ship formation flew perfect low level displays which is always a treat to see with their thick display smoke, which makes them synonymous with the term Smoke-on-Go!

The event had many visiting aircraft who flew in for the day. For those who wanted to experience the thrill of flight over the Heidelberg/Suikerbosrand area, helicopter rides were available as well as flights in the historic Beechcraft 18 of Springbok Classic Air, flown by Captain Flippie Vermeulen.

Other vintage static aircraft on display included a Chipmunk, Tigermoth as well as Alloette 2 & 3 helicopters.

For those who enjoyed the terra firma more than the air, it was a spectacular display of all the vintage automobiles which are so lovingly cared for by their owners with some very unique and rare cars being showcased. One very unique automobile was the oldest electric car dating back to 1923!

A model working steam train gave the children the opportunity to ride on a real steam train.

Another unique audio/visual overload display was that of the static Rolls-Royce Griffen engine. This unique double propped V12 engine really rumbles your insides!

The Goodyear Eagles then entertained the crowd with their very good aerobatic display overhead with a 3 ship formation. Their traditional switchblade manoeuvre and cross-over display's are always crown favourites.

The Sons of Speed vintage motorcycle racing club then entertained the crowds with an exhilarating dirt track vintage motorcycle race, which was led by the very unique vintage Bugatti race car. Whilst the motorcycles were battling it out on the dirt track, the crowd could enjoy some cold drinks in the beer tent whilst being entertained by the band, 60 Shades of Grey.

The Great Heidelberg Train Race really is a very enjoyable family event with something for everyone to enjoy. Unfortunately it is not without its problems, with the lack of cold drink selling points being one of them - it is simply not acceptable to have to stand in a queue for more than half an hour just to buy some cold drinks on a warm summer's day. Also the lack of access control to the airside of the unmanned Heidelberg Airfield was alarming, with families and children making their way to the apron where the aircraft were parked whilst departing aircraft are navigating past. Some spectators were also seen taking photos and videos very close to the active runway during departing of the aircraft. This is a major safety risk which needs to be addressed by the organisers before the next event to prevent future incidents.

Chapter 322 April 2023 Fly in to Fly Inn Estates

Events 2023

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