On 27 January 2012 I visited the town of Heidelberg in Gauteng to do some gravehunting, My intention was to also visit the transport museum in the town to see what the status was of the railway exhibits in its care. I will not dwell on the history behind the museum, or the events that led to its closure at the end of 2003, that is dealt with by Piet Conradie in his blog
. I am just dealing with 27 January 2012.
The museum is housed in the old station building which originally opened as a station in October 1895 and served as such till 1961. It is a beautiful old building, but in dire need of restoration. The last restoration being done in 1975 when the original transport museum came into being.
Street side of the station building
The railway coaches are housed in a long shed that was erected over the platform area of the station. There are 5 coaches in total, 2 of which are passenger saloons, 2 are dining saloons, and one is a baggage/parcels van. All are painted brown and with the exception of the bag van, are in a very good condition. A steam engine, class 16CR-816 is at the head of the short train in the first row. The first coach behind the locomotive is 1st/2nd class D-15 mainline passenger saloon 1044. This coach is in a beautiful condition inside and so many of the interior fittings are intact.
The 1st class compartments were fitted out with blue upholstery, while 2nd class had green. The coach has a gap in the middle where the corridor crosses to the other side. This view of a 1st class compartment is taken from the window side, note the reading lamp in the top corner as well as the woodwork in the coach. The coach still has a feint smell of wood and leather that was unique to the old coaches used on the SAR/SAS. I recall travelling down to Bethlehem in coaches like this when I was young, and they do not compare to the later steel bodied saloons with their formica and paneling.
The images above show a 1st class coupe, as well as the corridor on the first class half. Just imagine standing in that corridor while traveling to your destination.
The next coach down the line is the A-18 diner “Liesbeek”, which carries the number 167. She was in service from 1914 till 1976.
Like many of the older dining saloons, half of her is a kitchen and the other half is the dining area, and she is a magnificent example of the pillared dining saloons that we used to have. The demise of the clerestory roof coaches would also be the demise of the pillared diner. Loose chairs tended to be unstable when the train was in motion or coming to a halt, the use of them was discontinued in later diners.
The last coach in the front row is a K-36 baggage/parcel van, number 4233. Unfortunately the exterior of this coach is in a poor condition on the one end. The roof of the platform area did not extend far enough to protect her so she will need a lot of renovation.
Behind this “train” are two more coaches. The coach next to the 16CR is another A-18 pillared diner “Illovo”, number 166, built in 1914. She is a sister to 167 Liesbeek, and is also in a very good condition.
Behind her, and shadowed by a building is a C-16, first class balcony coach 737, built in 1921 by Metropolitan Carriage and Wagon Company in England. She is very dark inside and my camera really struggled to work in her, a torch should be on your agenda if you intend visiting the museum. Like the other passenger coach, she looks very intact on the inside and her compartments and woodwork are beautiful.
The last major piece of rolling stock is the Class 16CR-816. Cosmetically she is in a reasonably good condition because she has been under cover, unfortunately the usual copper theft has robbed her of many of her pipes, and her cabside plate, but her cab is intact.
The assistant curator at the museum took me around and was very eager that more people come to visit it so that it can be put back on the map. Usual office hours apply, although the museum is closed over a weekend. Potential visitors are asked to call the museum first at 016-341-2091, and ask to speak to Sipho to arrange a visit. I do advise taking a torch along, especially if you wish to see the interior of 737. The coaches are very dusty inside, and everything is not perfect, but I live in hope. The fact that we still have these coaches is a good enough reason for the museum to reopen.
Special thanks must go to Sipho who showed me around, to Piet Conradie for his excellent blog, and to Carlos Das Neves Vieira for his information about the coaches.
© DRW 2012-2017. Images recreated 22/03/2016