R/€ = 14.70
R/$ = 10.62
Au 1292.57 $/oz
Pt 1412.50 $/oz
Nov 23, 2007
South Africa features prominently in history of rail transportBack
Canterbury|Cape Town|DURBAN|Johannesburg|Liverpool|London|Maputo|Paris|Pretoria|Queen Elizabeth|Wellington|Gautrain|Germany|Mozambique|South Africa|Switzerland|United Kingdom|Zimbabwe|Channel Tunnel|Corinth Canal|Durban Station|Gautrain|London Hotel|Paris Hotel|St Pancras Station|Then Travel|Transport|Malaria|Cape Town–Wellington|Eastern Cape|English Channel|Gautrain|Charles Brown|Elizabeth|Gautrain|Jack Van Der Merwe|Paul Kruger|Richard Trevithick|British Columbia|Eastern Cape
© Reuse this When driving between Pretoria and Johannesburg, I have passed large construction sites that penetrate deep into the ground – they are the start of the Gautrain project.
I am pleased to see that the digging has begun.
Also in the last few days, in London, Queen Elizabeth officially opened St Pancras station as the new hub of the extended Channel Tunnel train. One can now take a taxi from a London hotel to St Pancras station, then travel to Paris by train, under the English Channel, and then take another taxi to a Paris hotel.
So, although trains have been around for a while, they certainly are not out of date. In fact, the first recorded use of rail transport was circa 500 BC, when ancient Greeks operated a rail system to carry boats across the approximate route of the current Corinth canal. They probably used horses or humans as the power source.
Modern railways developed from wooden mine railways, on which wagons were pushed by hand or pulled by horse. The first recorded were in Germany, about 1430. The first use of iron rails was on the Coalbrookdale–Horsehay railway, in England, in 1767.
By 1804, Richard Trevithick, of England, had built the first steam locomotive and it ran on the Peny-Darren ironworks railway. In 1830, in England, the world’s first regular steam railway passenger service was inaugurated by Canterbury & Whitstable Railway.
In 1860, South Africa’s first steam train ran from central Durban to the Point, in the harbour area. The large Durban station that was built years later is still visible, in that its main building is preserved as a national monument.
I travelled by train from that station often. Next time any reader goes near that old station building, he or she should have a look at the roof – it is very steep, and was built that way so that snow would not build up on the roof and cause a collapse. The architects were Canadian!
Three years after the Durban train, in 1863, the world’s first underground railway line opened in London. They must have been courageous engineers to take steam locos underground. Anyway, in the same year, the Cape Town–Wellington rail line was completed.
There were other South African innovations and, in the Eastern Cape, a crippled signalperson trained a baboon named Jack to operate the signal system, which he did most days. Part of Jack’s wages included two glasses of brandy over the weekend.
In 1890, the first railway on the burgeoning Witwatersrand goldfields, known as the Rand Tram, ran from Boksburg to Randfontein. It was called ‘tram’ to try not to threaten the many horse-drawn tram operators, who felt very edgy about the new steam machines.
By 1892, only seven years before the Boer War started, the line between Cape Town and Johannesburg was opened to traffic. There certainly was no such long line in England at the time – that was one huge South African achievement.
At the same time, the line from Beira, in Mozambique, to Zimbabwe was being built, but the death rate from malaria was staggering. In 1892, and also again in 1893, 60% of the workers died each year, mainly from malaria, but some were eaten by wild animals. It was much easier to build the London–Liverpool line.
The guys worked on rail like crazy in those days and, at the same time that the Beira line was being built in 1893, the railway line from Maputo, in Mozambique, crossed the Transvaal border into South Africa. Transvaal President Paul Kruger later used this line a great deal to bypass the British forces.
As the Boer War broke out in 1899, Charles Brown, of the company Brown Boveri, in Switzerland, built the first ac electric locomotive. In 1925, the first South African electric locomotives came on line, while we were also running some of the biggest steam loco- motives in the world, pulling some of the biggest trains.
Worldwide, the train business continued to develop and South Africa now has some of the best railway engineers in the world, guys as straight as a rail, and as tough as . . . well, rail nails.
South Africa now runs the world’s largest and heaviest train on the 860-km Sishen–Saldanha line. In 1989, it set a world record when it comprised 660 wagons plus tank and caboose and 16 locomotives. It was 7,3 km long.
I made a TV movie on this train and recall that the locos would start moving and, quite some time later, the caboose at the end would move because of all the slack in the coupling, that had to be taken up.
It also had radar-controlled brakes. The radar watched the sleepers – the idea was that all the locos and trucks had to brake at the same time. You could not have the front stopping before the back, with 69 393 t rolling along.
I can’t wait to travel on the Gautrain, so maybe Jack van der Merwe, of the Gautrain, should offer free soccer tickets to any crew that finishes ahead of schedule.
Edited by: Martin Zhuwakinyu© Reuse this Comment Guidelines
Other Dr Kelvin Kemm News
Updated 1 hour 20 minutes ago The waves of strikes that we have seen in South Africa for some time now just have to stop.Nobody is benefiting, not even the workers who strike for higher pay. The reason is that, as soon as one group succeeds in getting a pay increase, the next group strikes. ...
Recent Research Reports
Steel 2014: A review of South Africa's steel sector (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Steel 2014 report provides an overview of the global steel industry and particularly of South Africa’s steel sector over the past year, including details of production and consumption, as well as the country's primary carbon steel and stainless...
Projects in Progress 2014 - First Edition (PDF Report)
This publication contains insight into progress at the delayed Medupi and Kusile coal-fired projects, in Mpumalanga and Limpopo respectively, as well as at the Ingula pumped-storage scheme, which is under construction on the border between the Free State and...
Automotive 2014: A review of South Africa's automotive sector (PDF Report)
The report provides insight into the business environment, the key participants in the sector, local construction demand, geographic diversification, competition within the sector, corporate activity, skills, safety, environmental considerations and the challenges...
Construction 2014: A review of South Africa's construction sector (PDF Report)
Construction data released during 2013 hints at a halt to the decline in the industry during the last few years, with some commentators averring that the industry could be poised for recovery. However, others have urged caution, noting that the prospects for a...
Electricity 2014: A Review of South Africa's Electricity Sector (PDF Report)
This report provides an overview of the state of electricity generation and transmission in South Africa and examines electricity planning, investment in generation capacity, electricity tariffs, the role of independent power producers and demand-focused initiatives,...
Defence 2013: A review of South Africa's defence industry (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s 2013 Defence Report examines South Africa’s defence industry, with particular focus on the key players in the sector, the innovations that have come out of the defence sector, local and export demand, South Africa’s controversial...
This Week's Magazine
Updated 1 hour 20 minutes ago Celebrating its fiftieth Green Star SA certification in only six years, and with a further 150 projects in the Green Star SA registration pipeline, the impact will increase significantly. “In South Africa, certified new green buildings now cover nearly one-million...
Updated 1 hour 23 minutes ago Volkswagen Group South Africa (VWSA) has installed an automated guided vehicle (AGV) line to replace the traditional roller conveyor used on the VW250 engine line. An AGV is a mobile robot that follows markers or cabling in the floor, or uses vision or lasers to...
Updated 1 hour 23 minutes ago South Africa has an opportunity to achieve a similar result to that of China, which has lifted hundreds of millions of its citizens from poverty to prosperity, but the challenge is to develop world-class customer-focused engineers.
Updated 1 hour 23 minutes ago South Africa had more than enough money and resources to deliver on the constitutional promise of quality of life for all, but those involved in corruption have cost the country immensely.
Updated 1 hour 23 minutes ago BMW South Africa has postponed the introduction of the i3 city car and i8 supercar to March 2015, says spokesperson Edward Makwana. The i3 is an electric vehicle, and the i8 a plug-in hybrid. Both models were scheduled for local introduction this year.
Next ArticleCarbon capture, storage a waste of time and money