Railways

The railways were of significant to the movement of British troops and supplies during the South African war 1899-1902. The wealth of minerals at Kimberley and Johannesburg had led to the construction of railways from Cape Town to Kimberley and on to Mafeking and Rhodesia, from Port Elizabeth to Bloemfontein, Johannesburg, Pretoria, and in the far north, Pietersberg and from Durban to Ladysmith and north to Johannesburg. The eastwards connection from Pretoria to Delagoa Bay was newly completed. These lines had few cross-connections. The most important from the British point of view were the lines from de Aar on the Cape to Kimberley line to Naauwpoort on the Port Elizabeth to Bloemfontein line and on to Rosmead and Stormberg JUnctions on the lines up from Port Alfred and east London. These were great distances. From Cape Town to Kimberley is some 650 miles (1,045 km) and to Pretoria by rail is over 1,000 miles (1,600 km). Durban to Ladysmith is about 190 rail miles (305 km) and challenging miles they are, up through the rumble of hills that separate Pietermaritzburg from the sea and then on over high, rolling country before winding up the hills north north of the Tugela to Ladysmith with still another 320 miles (500 km) on to Pretoria.

Boer Commandos found it difficult to resist attacking trains which could be easily halted by the demolition of a bridge, or otherwise derailed. Armoured trains helped to stem the trend. Armoured trains had the engine in the middle and the trucks were used by infantry.

Source: The Boer War South Africa 1899-1902 by Martin Marix Evans

Above, a heavy caibre gun used as defence on an armoured train.
Below, a steam locomotive circa 1900 with signs of heavy shell damage and massive ramming at the front.

Above: Bridge at Fort Wylie destroyed by Boers 1901
Click on image to enlarge
Railway Bridge R44 Hermon
Railway Bridge Laingsburg
Railway Bridge Laingsburg
Railway Bridge No1 Wolsley
Railway Bridge No2 Wolsley
Railway Bridge with Talana Memorial in the Background

Last updated 14 May, 2009

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