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The Beginning

The railway system dates back to the late 1850s when the concept of rail transport was proposed for the Cape and Natal colonies. Private companies pioneered the first railway systems with the building of a 92-kilometre line from Cape Town to Wellington and the Durban-Point line.


On June 26 1860, passenger commuter rail services was born in South Africa with the opening of a two-mile (3,2 km) stretch of railway line between Market Square and the Customs Point in Durban. George Russell, the first stationmaster, reported that more than 800 passengers were transported on that first day.

Three years later the Railway Service in the Cape commenced with the introduction of the Cape Town - Wellington section, via Eersterivier. The first passenger commuter train to operate in the Gauteng area was introduced on 17 March 1890, commissioned to run the 20 km between Braamfontein (Johannesburg) and Boksburg. That same year saw the introduction of the rail passenger services between Maputo (Lourenco Marques) and Pretoria. This train was known as the "Rand Tram". The Rand Tram is now a proud exhibit at the Pretoria Station.

During these first years of Rail Passenger Commuter Services the "competitive market" was considered to be horse-drawn carriages. Road passenger transport only started in 1912. The "Muizenberg Flyer" was introduced in 1880 on a wide gauge (4'8") track to increase the speed of trains. It is interesting to note that the South African Railways later standardised on the narrow (3'6") gauge.

Discovery of diamonds and gold

  The discovery of diamonds in Kimberley in 1867 brought a new impetus to the planning & construction of the railway system. Because of the high cost & the importance of the railway system, the South African Government took over all the rail initiatives. The pioneer railway systems in the Cape and Natal became Government property in 1872 and 1877 respectively. No sooner had the government initiated a massive push towards the development of the railway system to Kimberley, than rumours began to surface about the discovery of vast gold deposits in the Transvaal Republic. This led to the shift of economic power from the colonial south to the republic north.  Read More...

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