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 Post subject: Questions on Selati Railway, Kruger Park
Unread postPosted: Sat Oct 03, 2009 5:24 am 
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Joined: Sun Sep 20, 2009 2:25 pm
Posts: 25
Location: Germany / Mayence
Hi there,

someone out there, who can tell more about the Selati Railway?
When established, what target, when closed, how & when deleted.

I´ve often seen the two remains of bridges at Crocodile and Skukuza.
And: One can see the remaining route in google-earth.
Every vacation i crossed that track, without knowing about.

Are there WEB-Links, pages or books?

Kind regards,
freeclimb.

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3.-15.12. 09: Berg, Lower, Sat, 2x Oli, Mop, Let, Tam, Skuk, 2x Pretorius, Berg.
6.-14.10. 10 Berg-en-Dal, Lower Sabie, Satara, Olifants, Letaba, Talamati, Skukuza, Berg en Dal.
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 Post subject: Re: Questions on Selati Railway, Kruger Park
Unread postPosted: Sat Oct 03, 2009 6:48 am 
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Legendary Virtual Ranger
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Freeclimb, a good question :thumbs_up:

I do not have time now, as I have to leave for work. However, J J Kloppers and Hans Bornman have given a wonderful history of the line in their book "A Dictionary of Kruger National Park Place Names". If no one has responded by tomorrow, I will repeat what they have written.

There is also some fascinating mention of the line in Harry Wolhuter's, "Memories of a Game Ranger".

I don't have time to look now, but I think that Glsmit also speaks of the line in his excellent threads on the history of Kruger.

I do know that in the early days, Hamilton Stevenson was fired on by people travelling on one of the carriages. They must have mistaken him for game.

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 Post subject: Re: Questions on Selati Railway, Kruger Park
Unread postPosted: Sat Oct 03, 2009 8:29 am 
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The line was approved in 1890 by the ZAR, mainly to connect moz with the Eastern Transvaal (now Mpumalanga) There was 2 guys who wanted to build the line originally- BJ Vorster and Eugene Oppenheim. Oppenheim convinced Vorster to sell his concession to him for 40 000 pounds. In those days the English wasn't the favourates of the boers, so Oppenheim, a frenchman was given the go ahead to start construction. He had to give gaurantees that he has a company with at least 500 000 pounds as working capital- which he never had, but with his charm and smile, he managed to conn the then government that he had in fact the money.
As soon as Oppenheim registered a company in Brussels without capital, he asked the government for the first 500 000 pounds to start building.
The building contract was subcontracted to Loius Warnant. In his turn he subcontracted again to an English company- Westwoos and Winby from London.
The first railway line plans was approved in 1893.
The line would have been 307 kms. It should have been finished within 3 years at a rate of 6000 pounds per kilometer. During July 1893 the first 40 km was finished- but then the railway commisioner smelled a rat. In August 1894 120km was built and the project stopped.
It is said that empty beer bottles and equipment was lying in the fields as far as the eye could see. So naturally when the building work stopped everyone could take building material as they pleased- because officially the site belonged to no one.
In the meantime the Anglo Boer war started. Two places of interest was used on the line as commando posts- Gomondwane and the other on Steinaecker's Horse at the Sabie bridge. This is just east of the bridge at Skukuza. Today its known as Skukuza.
In other words the place we know as skukuza today actually evolved because of the bridge and the war alltogether

Anyway in 1909 the new head warden of the Sabie reserve, Stevenson-Hamilton, hwas told by the ZAR that the railway line will be demolished. The decision was changed in the meantime and Stevenson-Hamilton reckoned that if the Sabie game reserve would survive, it needed to generate income. During 1912 the bridge at Skukuza was finished and they started connecting the line to Tzaneen. It cost less than 200 000 pounds to finsh the raimaining 150 miles, but the original 75 miles cost the ZAR more than a million pounds.
The Railway company- SAS started marketing a nine day excursion through the Sabie reserve, which proved to be very popular. It started and ended in Joburg. It became so popular the a ranger was given at a later stage to accompany the guests and walked with them in the bush. He also spend some time telling stories around a camfire near the current Skukuza.The reserve was proclaimed in the meantime in 1926.

Gold prospects didn't look good anymore, so the ZAR gave licenses to mine coal alongside the railline.
Stevenson-Hamilton was kind to the train drivers, but knew that they were poaching. In 1929 drives were started from Croc bridge. There was no almost no roads, and the ones that was there, was in a bad shape.

At one stage it became very expensive to maintain the line and more and more animalss were killed by the train. On new years evening 1970 the worst accident happen since the reserve was proclaimed. A goods train drove into a still standing passenger train 4 kilometres from Croc bridge. Most of the two trains was written of and mangled. The one driver and 13 passengers got killed, and it took days for the line to be opened again for traffic. in 1973 the last train drove through the park, as a nea line was built just outside the park, and a new tourist road from Hazyview to Skukuza was built.
The last loco that drove through the Park, stands at the Selati restaurant today. Originally it had three carrages, which was used as a restaurant. Unfortunately two burnt down in the 90's, but the renaiining one and loco still remains intact.
There is a pumptrolley that was still used by Stevenson-Hamilton, but stands at the airport, though.
The line is what made the decision at one stage that the Park could generate income and sustain itself. Many parts of the track can still be seen throughout the park.
I had the privelage of meeting the last driver of the train in 2002. He and his grand and great grandchildren come to the park once a year to polish the loco from back to front.

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