The South African
Military History Society

Die Suid-Afrikaanse Krygshistoriese Vereniging

Military History Journal
Vol 14 No 2 - December 2007


by Richard Tomlinson, Port Elizabeth

In 1989, the new direct rail route and tunnels from the Hex River Valley up onto the Touws River plateau were opened on the Cape TownDe Aar Railway. This cut off a 25km loop of the old railway dating from 1877, which has been taken over by Stephaan Jordaan, an enterprising table grape farmer from the Hex River Valley who runs weekend tours up the old line using a converted agricultural tractor and trolleys with bench seats (and drop sides, in case of rain).

This very vulnerable loop of rail line between De Doorns and Matroosberg stations, was defended during the Anglo-Boer War by members of the West Yorkshire and Gloucestershire regiments and they have left copious evidence of their stay, including many drystone fortifications and personal graffiti. In the upper reaches of the line is a memorial to the Kaffrarian Rifles, who lost ten NCOs and privates killed and 103 seriously injured when a train carrying them from the Eastern Cape to Cape Town en route to fight the Germans in South West Africa derailed on a bend on 11 September 1914.

Stephaan is a fund of knowledge, not only on the railway and its military connections, but also on the geology, plants and birds in this wild piece of the country. For further information, see the website at

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