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Rail Bridge over the Great Kei River
Komgha district, Eastern Cape


Type:Railway Bridge
Status:Destroyed 1917


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32°30'32.83" S 27°58'53.06" E Alt: 159m

Wooden bridge. Destroyed in a flood on 3 October 1917. The concrete piers still remain.

The bridge formed an integral part of the original Khomgha - Ndabakazi Section of the Amabele - Butterworth Railway.

On the south bank of the Kei, at the approach to the Rail Bridge, the original arrangement of the railway line had the unusual name of Zig-Zag siding. The name derived from the reverse manoeuvre the train had to follow in order to get onto the bridge. This manoevoure was required in order to deal with the significant change in level between the railway line approaching the Kei and the railway line on the timber bridge itself.

The possible layout of the Zig-Zag siding has been considered in detail and a sketch drawing has been prepared to record this - see alongside. The radius used for the nearby Spiral Loop (probably a minimum radius for this gauge of railway line) was used as the basis for the curve. When the curve of the Spiral Loop was overlaid it fitted perfectly over the 'memory' of the Zig-Zag siding still visible on the ground and clearly visible on Google Earth aerial photographs.

The two accompanying black and white photographs record that the timber Rail Bridge was actually intended as a "Temporary Bridge" and that the Zig-Zag siding was on the south bank of the river.

Following the destruction of the timber Rail Bridge in a flood on 3 October 1917, the Zig-Zag siding was decommissioned. The railway line was then diverted over the adjacent Great Kei Road Bridge. This dual arrangement of road and rail remained in place until 1949 when the Great Kei Rail Bridge was constructed further upstream. The positions of the various affected bridges and the line of the railway line over time has been recorded on a second sketch drawing titled 'Valley of the Bridges' - see scanned copy alongside.

Transactions of the Cape Society of Civil Engineers. "Notes on Construction of the Komgha - Ndabakazi Section of the Amabele - Butterworth Railway" by R.E.Wright AMICE Resident Engineer, 4th Meeting 11 April 1906.

(William MARTINSON, June 2015)

Writings about this entry

Walters, Dennis. 2014. Bridging the Eastern Cape : the life and work of Joseph Newey. East London: Coral Tree Press. pg 69