Nostalgic: The Selati Line

Crocodile Bridge

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.

The railway bridge over the Sabie River, seen from Skukuza Rest Camp

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.

SELATI_3158

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.

Skukuza station

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.

Steam engine "Skukuza"

 

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!

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34 thoughts on “Nostalgic: The Selati Line

  1. Pingback: Skukuza Rest Camp, Kruger National Park | de Wets Wild

  2. Pingback: Crocodile Bridge Rest Camp, Kruger National Park | de Wets Wild

    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      Thanks for another positive contribution AJ Vosse!

      What I wouldn’t give to be able to steam across the Sabie River over that old metal bridge like those first visitors back in the 1920’s, perhaps over a herd of hippos among the reeds below with the sun setting towards the west and the campfires ahead welcoming us to “Sabie Bridge”. I can totally understand why this part of their itinerary was the highlight of their tour – the nightclubs and beaches at Lourenco Marques pales in comparison to the tranquility of a true African wilderness…

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    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      Thanks very much Marie! The photographs of the platform signs and the locomotive are courtesy of my sister Ansie – her’s was just so much better than any we had in our collection and so I was very thankful that she agreed for them to be included in this post.

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  8. Beauty Along the Road

    You stole my idea! I was thinking about a post including an old-timey train line that actually still runs….But I think we can co-exist in the blogosphere with similar ideas, different execution 🙂

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  9. mjculverphotography

    Definitely “nostalgic” by definition. I remember going to Lourenco Marques when I was a kid (long, long time ago – before dinosaurs). I really wish they hadn’t renamed the Sabi Bridge ……..Then I wish they hadn’t renamed a lot of things I remember and hold dear. Baie mooi fotos and a great informative post from the de Wets!! Have a great weekend.

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    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      I think I would have enjoyed travelling through the Park on the Selati Line Joey, though I expect that the people of those bygone days wouldn’t have thought it quite so special as I suppose travelling by steam train was the norm and not the exceptional experience it is considered these days.
      Hope you’re having a good weekend and please give our regards to Marks as well!

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      1. mjculverphotography

        I agree Dries, Progress is not always the best solution but we’re pretty much stuck with it. I always loved travelling on steam trains (except for the loos which were awful). My daddy had a special love for steam trains and the African bush and wildlife.

        Hope you, Marilize and Joubert are enjoying the weekend.

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