On the 8th of November 1912 a railway line connecting the border town of Komatipoort with the gold fields at Tzaneen in the north-western Lowveld of South Africa, cutting across the Sabie Game Reserve for a distance of approximately eighty kilometres, was inaugurated. Known as the Selati Line, it played an immense part in the history of the Kruger National Park.
In 1923 the South African Railways introduced a nine day train tour through the Lowveld, incorporating the “Reserve” halt at Sabie Bridge on the Selati Line, where the train would park for one night and depart again an hour after sunrise. The stopover in the game reserve quickly became the highlight of the tours (which also included the beaches and night clubs of Lourenco Marques in Portuguese East Africa (today Maputo, Mozambique)), swinging public opinion in favour of the protection of the reserve and its subsequent proclamation as South Africa’s first National Park in 1926.
Construction of a new railway line running around the borders of the Park commenced in the late sixties, as the number of trains passing through the Park – up to 250 a week – was causing a huge number of animals to be maimed and killed on the tracks. The last train steamed through “Reserve” siding in September 1973.
Today, Sabie Bridge is called Skukuza, the Kruger National Park’s headquarters and biggest rest camp. The two metal train bridges across the Crocodile and Sabie rivers stand silent witness to a long departed era of Kruger Park’s history. In 1978 “The Railways” donated steam engine 3638, named “Skukuza”, to the then National Parks Board for permanent display at the replica station inside the camp. Hitched to “Skukuza” are three coaches that today serve as the Selati Restaurant – a unique and nostalgic dining experience in one of the world’s most famous conservation areas.
This post was inspired by this week’s WordPress photo challenge: Nostalgic.
A big thank you to my sister Ansie for allowing us to include her great photos of the locomotive and the signs on the platform at Skukuza!