Winterskloof Railway Tracks

The western boundary of Worlds View Conservancy is the main Transnet railway line between Durban and Johannesburg. It disappears into the twin Cedara Tunnels to reappear over 6km further on near Cedara College.  These are the second longest railway tunnels in the southern hemisphere.

Cedara Tunnels Southern Portals

Cedara Tunnels southern Portals

The Conservancy is also crossed by the tracks of two old railway lines that were used for many years, many years ago.

The first railway to be built, known as the Natal Main Line, was completed in 1884 (that’s 128 years ago !!) and wound its tortuous way from Boughton to Hilton passing through Blackridge, Sweet Waters and Winterskloof and the northern parts of the Conservancy, to cross Old Howick Road 700m above the Worlds View Road intersection.  It was, by railway standards, very steep, rising 344m in 15km, an average gradient of 1:43, but in places much steeper than this.  This steepness limited the amount of traffic it could carry, both up and down, but this line was for nearly 60 years the main commuter line between Hilton and Pietermaritzburg and the main line from the Portof Natal(Durban) to the Johannesburggoldfields.  The last scheduled train was in 1968, the last train to travel on the line was on 23rd November 1975 and the tracks were lifted in 1987.  This old track is now quite difficult to find as it has become very overgrown, but if you are looking for it – start from where it crosses Old Howick Road at No.288.

The second railway to be built was the Town Hill Deviation completed in 1915.  The route crosses Old Howick Roadabout 700m below theWorlds View Roadintersection and runs south, almost parallel to Old Howick Road, to the Clarendon Reservoir where it takes a 90º bend to pass under the Old Voortrekker Road.  It then carries on westward through some delightful patches of indigenous forest, through a 94m long tunnel then onwards for about another 2.5km to reach the existing Transnet main line about 300m below the Cedara Tunnels.  This line was the main line from Durban to Johannesburg from its inception in 1915 until 1960 when the Cedara Tunnels were commissioned, it was then abandoned and the tracks lifted.  It is easy to find and it is kept cleared as a forestry road.

Tunnel at Town Hill deviation

Tunnel on Town Hill Deviation

On both lines evidence can be seen of the concrete gantry foundations for the overhead electric cables installed in the 1920s and exquisite hand-packed dressed dry-stone walling acting as slope protection.  On the Town Hill Deviation the platform at Ketelfontein Station can still be seen as can the remains of an un-named station about 1km below the tunnel.

When these railways were in operation there were no plantations, just pockets of indigenous forest in the kloofs and pristine grassland covered in Hilton daisies.  The views as you chugged along very slowly, because of the track’s steepness, must have been magnificent.

Guided Tours of Worlds View Conservancy

Guided tours of Worlds View Conservancy can be arranged in a reliable 4×4 for interested residents of Worlds View and elsewhere.  Contact the WVC Secretary at howardr@clubafrica.net for a one-hour tour.

World’s View Conservancy blog:   http://worldsviewconservancy.wordpress.com/

 

 

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