The South African Constabulary Reserved Coach on the West Rand

Its very rare to find an old classic like this, especially in such a good condition. This beauty was built in 1893 by Brown Marshalls & Co. England, and saw service in the Boer War. According to a plaque on it, it was used by  Lt-Genl Baden Powell as well as Genl Jan C Smuts and D Leyds, Secretary of State. Later, it was used as a clubhouse at Modderfontein and is now permanently in possession of the Scouts. There are no interior fittings and the coach has been re-roofed and some of the side panels have been replaced as well as the light fittings. Overall its in an excellent condition, and out of sight from anybody who would like to harm it.    In 2010 I was fortunate enough to come into contact with the original author of the article I read about this coach and have received his permission to publish it. The colour images reflect the coach as I saw it in 2010, it may no longer be in this condition. 

By a former policeman, Hennie Heymans, Brigadier (SAP) Retired.

A photo of a coach marked “South African Constabulary” has come into my possession. The original was obtained during c. 1989 from the former South African Police Museum in Pretoria. Somebody who knew that I was “interested in trains”, gave me a copy of the photo. There was no information available about this coach in the museum.

Coach built by Brown and Marshall, Birmingham, 1893

The beginning of the Search:

A photo thereof with a request for further information appeared in the SA Rail and Harbours. No information was offered.
Enquiries were made at Railway Head Office, which drew a blank. The history of the coach remained unknown. I spoke to Mr. Mervyn Mark and followed the enquiry up by sending a fax to fellow enthusiasts, without avail.
I learnt of the Railway History Group (RHG) in Cape Town, and I joined them. Later I sent them an enquiry about the coach. Again no information was obtained!
Later I thought that the photo was a propaganda photo taken during the Anglo-Boer War or that it was used for recruitment purposes. But I did not give up hope!

Breakthrough during a chance encounter:
One day I bought a few boxes containing old SA Railways and Harbours Magazines and old SAS-SAR’s. While paging through a 1959 copy, not looking for anything in particular, I came across an article by a certain Mr. Holtz. He has the following to say about a coach used by Baden-Powell:
“At Modderfontein [Modderfontein was the first HQ of the SAC], near Johannesburg, a disused railway coach with a background [What’s the background referred to?] can be found, minus its wheels and resting on a brick foundation, in the recreational area of a huge chemical and explosives plant. This old coach was used by the late Field-Marshall Smuts when secretary (sic) of the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek. Later, the coach was used by Robert Stephenson Baden-Powell of Gilwell [Apart from Baden-Powell’s own Gilwell the HQ of the Scouts on the West Rand is also called Gilwell], the founder of the Boy-Scout movement. Incidentally, Baden-Powell was the god-child of Robert Stephenson, son of the father of railways” [See South African Railways and Harbours Magazine March, 1959, p 226 –227[

Comment by Investigator:
To date (1999) no identifiable reference of this coach can be found in the CSAR information that I have collected.

1. If this coach was indeed used by General Smuts, it seemed logical that the British Army took possession of it as part of the spoils of war. President Kruger’s coach [later CSAR No. 20003 / SAR No. 17] went to the GOC, Lord Roberts, so why not General Smuts’ coach to the Inspector-General [i.e. Commissioner] of the SAC? Some form of poetic justice? Or maybe there is some ancient Law of Military Succession that provides for this type of eventuality? [Staatsprokureur J.C. Smuts was de facto and de jure overall in charge of the ZARPs [The police of the South African Republic (later the Transvaal Colony)]. and in a functional way then General Smuts was succeeded, as Attorney-General of the former South African Republic, by Lieut. -Gen. Baden-Powell.]

2. The Imperial Military Railway [IMR] controlled the railways in the conquered ZAR and OFS. Lt.-General Baden-Powell was a living hero, so it presented no problem! In war anything is possible! Soldiers are normally known for their fighting prowess and not for their literary ability! In war not everything is recorded.

3. Later the coach was staged at Modderfontein and finally it ended up as a club.

4. I feel we have solved the riddle of the SAC coach, but now we have to prove it!

Further Investigation:
I made several phone calls to the Modderfontein Dynamite Factory. There was a super lady on the switchboard, Ms Susan Kruger, who knew everything I wanted to know. She referred to me to a few people who “knew something about trains.” Speaking to a particular gentleman one day, a lady in his office by chance overheard our conversation and she, later identified as Ms Suzette Kotze, volunteered some information to assist with the enquiry. Ms. Kotze was the historian and she worked in THE DYNAMITE COMPANY MUSEUM, Modderfontein.
We had a few chats but the bottom line was the coach had been donated to the Scout Movement somewhere on the West Rand near Florida.

On the 20th of October 2000 she wrote me a letter. Attached to the letter, as an annexure, was a document entitled: SOME ASPECTS OF LORD BADEN-POWELL AND THE SCOUTS AT MODDERFONTEIN by KARL KOHLER [Mr. Kohler was most probably a scoutmaster and employee of the Modderfontein Dynamite Factory] dated 12-9-87.
I have taken the following excerpt from Mr. Kohler’s notes she sent me:
“As the pace of training and posting out from Modderfontein increased more districts were provided with police coverage and it became necessary for General Baden-Powell to visit them and inspect their activities and establishments.
Lord Roberts had gained considerable quantities of railway rolling stock when he captured Pretoria and assigned the Transvaal’s State Secretaries’ [NZASM and CSAR No.’s unknown at this stage] coach, which had been used by Dr. Leyds [Refer to “Kruger se Regterhand – Biografie van Dr W.J. Leyds”, by LE van Niekerk] [see photo below] and General Smuts, to General Baden-Powell. This coach was extensively utilized on regular inspection trips to the far distant ramifications of the Orange Free State and the newly conquered districts of the Transvaal. There was an arrangement with the newly re-instated railway systems that this coach could be shuttled through any system as required by the General.
Eventually when he had completed his two tasks at Modderfontein he donated the coach to the factory where it was used for several years to provide transport for employees and their families between Modderfontein and Kempton Park Station. Later its wheels were removed and it was installed as the Bowling Green Pavilion at the sports grounds, and fitted with a suitable plaque [Two plaques were eventually fitted onto the carriage. See outcome of visit to Gilwell Estate] commemorating its previous history.
In 1959 a second bowling green was constructed and a larger pavilion was required. The Factory Manager at the time, Mr. E. K. Gibson, who was also a keen scout, obtained permission from the board of directors to donate the coach to the scouting establishment at Gilwell Estate, at Florida on the Witwatersrand, where it has been beautifully restored and is the centre of attraction and highly regarded because of its tangible association with Lord Baden-Powell, the founder of the Boy Scout movement.” [Kohler p. 3 – 4]

The next thing to do was to phone the Scout Movement in Pretoria who referred me to their Head Office in Johannesburg who in turn referred me to the Warden at Gilwell Estate, Florida.

Photo of the carriage used as a clubhouse at Modderfontein

Here is a photo of Dr. and Mrs. Leyds on an official tour by Railway. However, the windows don’t match the SAC coach. The chairs and windows have the appearance of Pres. Kruger’s coach

Visit to Gilwell Estate at Florida on the West Rand
On the 20th of November 2000 I visited Gilwell Estate, Hamberg Rd., near Florida Lake on the West Rand. The Warden was not available and spoke to the Warden’s son, Michael Minnaar, who is also a Boy Scout. He took me to inspect the remains of the preserved carriage. It has no wheels and is set on the ground. The carriage did not have balconies at either end. A little roof is built over the carriage to protect it against the elements. It is set amongst some trees. Here is a rough sketch of the carriage:

a rough sketch of the carriage by the author

The carriage has eleven windows on the side and two doors, one in front and one at the back. Each door has a window on each side. There is no balcony.
How the windows open remains a mystery to me. The top part of the window has a pane around the glass while the bottom part appears to move down. The carriage was locked and I could not inspect the inside. No visible number or maker’s plate, however there were the following:

Plate “A”: A silver plate above the door reads:

Oval Plate “B”:

This is an example of a Pretoria-Pietersburg Railway carriage. It is not the same carriage but it is no doubt a “Reserved” or “Private” carriage. The windows, paneling and the air vents are similar to the SAC carriage.

There is ample evidence available that Lord Baden-Powell used the Railways on official SAC business. “ He set about performing this inspection by train … had travelled a distance of 13,503 miles by train …” [Hillcourt p 230]

The coach in question could be any of the following reserved saloons:

The (new) S. A. Railways / Central South African Railways Re-Numbering List:

National Monument:
It is a pity that this coach, which is part of our national heritage, has not been declared a National Monument. It is in the national and international interest to do so. I think that the coach has great potential as a tourist attraction. The Scouts should receive recognition for their good work in preserving the coach. The coach should be utilized as a museum for either South African Constabulary or the Scout Movement or to remember Lord Baden-Powell by. This country needs the special values and virtues for which this great soldier, policeman and scout proudly stood for. I salute his memory!


Article by Mr. Holtz in South African Railways and Harbours Magazine, March, 1959. P 226 – 227.
Conradie, Eric: Support i.e. various letters, photographs, and diagrams on this subject.
Hillcourt, W: Baden-Powell – The Two Lives of a Hero, Heineman, London
Kohler K: SOME ASPECTS OF LORD BADEN-POWELL AND THE SCOUTS AT MODDERFONTEIN. Attached to a personal letter received from Ms S Kotze, Museum Curator, Dynamite Co. Museum, to the Author dated 20-10-00.
Rhind, D. Interest through various letters and discussions on this subject.
Van Niekerk, L.E. KRUGER se REGTERHAND – BIOGRAFIE VAN DR W.J. LEYDS. JL van Schaik, Pretoria, 1985. ISBN 0 627 01430 5.

Images: (open in new window)​


© DRW. 2009-2021. Created 23/05/2009. Updated 06/03/2010. Moved to blog 10/01/2015. Thanks to Carlos Das Neves Vieira for the information and Hennie Heymans for permission to republish his article. Colour photographs by Derek Walker.

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