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NZASM Rand Tram
Johannesburg district, Gauteng

NZASM: Nederlandsche Zuid-Afrikaansche Spoorweg-Maatschappij: Architect

Date:1890-1899
Client:NZASM
Type:Railway Line
Status:Extant

The development of the Witwatersrand gold-mining industry after the discovery of the gold-bearing reef in 1886 created a pressing need for infrastructure, especially transport facilities, on the Rand. The ox-wagons - the only means of transport - could no longer cope with the needs of the mines as regards the conveyance of coal for use in the steam-driven ore crushing and hoisting machines. The nearest coal-mine was situated at Boksburg some 27km to the east of Johannesburg.

The ZAR government was therefore faced with a dilemma: for political and ideological reasons it had given precedence to a railway between the seat of government, Pretoria, and the east coast. Now the exigencies of the mining industry demanded the provision of a local railway on the Rand to the south of Pretoria. The clamouring for such a railway by the Uitlanders could not be ignored, having brought prosperity which swelled the state coffers.

At this point the long standstill on the Delagoa Bay Line had become extremely frustrating to the NZASM.

Cluysenaer, director of the NZASM, realised that this was an opportunity for the NZASM to get involved in what promised to be a very profitable enterprise. He submitted a tender for the construction of the line. Two other tenders were also served before the Volksraad. Kruger took up the cudgels for the NZASM and in July 1888 the government was authorised to enter into a contract with the Dutch company and it allowed the government a say in the fixing of rates. At the same time Cluysenaer had asked for the right to exploit the Boksburg coal fields and this was granted.

The 'Rand Tram', as this short railway came to be known, a euphemism to disguise its true character since the ZAR could be seen as in breach of other contractual arrangements with neighbouring governments, was opened for traffic on 17 March 1890. The working of the line proved extremely lucrative. This became even more so when the extended line from Springs in the east to Krugersdorp in the west was opened on 10 February 1891 - which increased the total length of the line to 81 km.

The construction and working of the Rand Tram provided the young Dutch company with valuable experience. Serious logistical problems had to be overcome with regard to construction. All building materials and rolling stock had to be transported by ox-wagon from Kimberley or from Ladysmith, the Natal railhead that time. The working of the line proved just as difficult. The amount of traffic exceeded all expectations. In the first year of operation three times the anticipated amount of goods had to be transported.

The Rand Tram, despite its relatively short length (81km) had proportionally the greatest number of stations and halts, compared with the other NZASM lines. The stations or halts on the Johannesburg-Boksburg route in 1890 were:
Johannesburg (today Braamfontein)
Park (today Johannesburg)
School (today Jeppe)
Jumpers (today Cleveland)
Elandsfontein (today Germiston)
Knights (now disused)
Heidelbergerpad (today Angelo) and
Vogelfontein (today Boksburg).
Roodepoort and
Maraisburg were once halts.
Langlaagte,
Florida and
Witpoortje
were merely stopping-places with the usual shelters.

Between 1891 and 1896 nine additional stopping-places had to be provided to cope with the growing volume of traffic in passengers and goods. These included
Fordsburg
Doornfontein and
George Goch.

In 1896 a halt, named Schapenrust, was established between Springs and Brakpan, In 1893 the Kazerne goods station was established at Braamfontein.

If the size and quality of the design of these station buildings are anything to go by, the centre of the Transvaal railway system was Johannesburg and not Pretoria, despite President Kruger's political motivation concerning a railway connection to the sea.

During 1896 the NZASM embarked upon an extensive programme intended to upgrade most former Rand Tram stopping-places to halts. Simple halt buildings were erected at Luipaardsvlei, Witpoortje, Florida, Langlaagte, Fordsburg, Doornfontein, George Goch, Cleveland, Geldenhuis, Simmer & Jack, Knights, Heidelberger-pad, Oostrand and Vogelfontein. In most cases only a single structure containing waiting-room, office and station-master's accommodation was provided. At more important halts like Doornfontein storage space and a waiting-room for coloured persons were added. These halt buildings were simple, rectangular corrugated iron structures with gables and low-pitched roofs and lean-to platform canopies. Except for a replica of Doornfontein Halt at Johannesburg's Gold Reef City, these buildings no longer exist.

[Extracted and transliterated from De Jong et al, 1988: various pages.]

Other structures constructed along the line were:

 Culvert Springs Geduld
 Culvert Tweedy Road
 Culvert West of Boksburg
 Culvert East of Apex
 Row houses, Boksburg
 Victoria Street Bridge, Germiston
 Culvert at Georginia
 Station, Krugersdorp
 Semi-detached houses, Krugersdorp

All truncated references not fully cited below are those of Joanna Walker's original text and cited in full in the 'Bibliography' entry of the Lexicon.


Writings about this entry

Anonymous [Nederlandsche Zuid-Afrikaanse Spoorwegmaatschappij]. [c.1909]. In Memoriam N.Z.A.S.M. Amsterdam: JH De Bussy. pg 17, 33-37
De Jong, RC, Van der Waal, GM & Heydenrych, DH. 1988. NZASM 100 : 1887-1899, the buildings, steam engines and structures of the Netherlands South African Railway Company. Pretoria: C. Van Rensburg Publications on behalf of the Human Sciences Research Council. pg 69-103
Nederlandsche Zuid-Afrikaansche Spoorweg-Maatschappij. 1888. Contract (tusschen de regeering der Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek en de Nederlandsche Zuid-Afrikaansche Spoorweg-Maatschappij voor den aanleg en de exploitatie van een tramweg over den Witwatersrand en voor de ontginning van het Boksburger steenkolenveld. Amsterdam: Ellerman, Harms. pg All
South African Transport Services Museum. 1990. Nederlandsche Zuid-Afrikaansche Spoorweg-Maatschappij. Rand Tram 1890-1990: 100. Johannesburg: SA Transport Services Museum. pg All
Van Winter, PJ. 1937. Onder Krugers Hollanders : Geschiedenis van de Nederlandsche Zuid-Afrikaansche Spoorweg-Maatschappij. Eerste Deel. Amsterdam: JH de Bussy. pg Ch 11: pp. 209-219