South Western Railway Co. Ltd

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The Two-foot Narrow Gauge Forest Railroad in Knysna - South Africa

Introduction

The South Western Railway Co. Ltd. operated between Knysna and Deepwalls from 1907 to 1949 in the Southern Cape of South Africa. This unique 2-Ft. narrow gauge railway line brought timber (mostly Yellowwood Podocarpus spp.) from Deep Walls to Knysna for milling into sleepers, creosoting and shipment.

Extract from "Looking Back", Port Elizabeth Historical Society, by Margaret Parkes:

"A rather 'Emmet' looking train as affectionately known by people of Knysna as the 'Coffee-Pot', but is was registered under the grand title of 'South Western Railway Company, Ltd'. It ran three times a week 22 miles into the forest, to Deep Walls and back. The company was owned by local businessmen, Thesen, Parkes, Templeman, Morgan, Noble, and others, with assistance from a Government subsidy.

The railway was built n 1904 by Carl Westveldt, a Swede, and its completion in 1907 was celebrated with a grand function. The photograph below shows Noreen, the manager, Grandfather Parkes in a cloth cap, Dr. Hain, (Mrs Perrins' father), in a bowler hat, and Father McNamara, all standing on the platform.

South Western Railway - 1907
Standing on the platform 1907:
Noreen, the manager, Grandfather Parkes in a cloth cap, Dr. Hain, in a bowler hat, and Father McNamara.

The company has been formed because of ox-wagons could not meet the demand for timber required by the saw-mills, and it functioned until 1949, when transport by motor-lorries was found more satisfactory. The loco driver was Tom Kennet and, much to our amusement, had for sons named Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Noreen, the manager, was followed in time by Alec Wilson, who was ticket collector, engineer and general factotum.

The railway afforded a wonderful means of entertaining visitors. H.M.S. Londonderry came in at a time when the Mayor had himself to pay all costs of entertaining visitors. Mr Fraser (my father), who was in office, met the situation by hiring the whole train and staff at a cost of 5 and sending the crew with beer and sandwiches to Deep Walls for the day. Visitors at the hotel who wished to go on the train were provided with packed lunches, and grass chairs for their use were sent down by staff.

The route ran from Parkes' Mill in Knysna to Thesen's and then to the jetty for loading on coasters. There were three stops in the forest, Bracken Hill, Parkes Station and Deep Walls. When the train was sold inn 1949 to a sugar mill in Natal, Knysna lost one of its quaint old characters." - updated 11 May 2010

South Western Railway - Map
Map of the South Western Railway Line in Knysna South Africa
as drawn by Sydney Moir.

History

Millwood House Museum in Knysna published two historical newsletters written by Mrs. Margaret Parkes and V.M. Williams describing the history of the little 2 ft. narrow gauge railway also known as the South Western Railway - the Forest Train or, as more affectionately known, the "Coffee Pot": Newsletter No. 36 of November 1990 and Newsletter No. 37. of February 1991
- updated 14 August 04

Yellowwood log
Yellow wood logs on a SWR Co. timber truck type NG 8-E-3
Trucks supplied by the Hungarian Railway and Wagon works
Note the chain connection between the trucks
Photo Millwood House Museum, Knysna
Photo added 19 May 05

Sleepers
Knysna 1929
Yellow-wood sleepers awaiting despatch from Knysna station
Photo from "The Knysna Story" by Arthur Nimmo
Photo added 19 May 05

Knysna Harbour
Knysna Harbour - December 2005
The 2 foot rails of the SWR Co. are still visible and should be preserved
Photo added 8 January 2007

Locomotives

SAR class NG3 4-6-2T
SAR class NG.3 No.4
The South Western Railways ex Natal Government 2 foot Railway narrow gauge 4-6-2T
- SAR class NG.3 No.4 - is seen here with a load of timber from the Knysna Forest.
Image used with permission from the Transnet Heritage Foundation. Neg. No. 049638

The origins of the locomotives have been establised and verified with the help of a number of people around the world!
There were four (4) locomotives:
- Orenstein & Koppel S/N. 1775 50HP Wood burner 0-4-2T of 1906 - SWR Loco No.1
- Orenstein & Koppel S/N. 2240 100HP Wood burner 0-6-2T of 1907 - SWR Loco No.2
- Orenstein & Koppel S/N. 4880 150HP Wood burner 0-8-0T of 1907 - SWR Loco No.3
- Hawthorn, Leslie & Co. S/N. 2687 Coal burner 4-6-2T of 1907 - SAR class NG3 No.4
Purchased 2nd hand from SAR in 1934

O&K 0-8-0
The Orenstein & Koppel S/N. 4880 150HP Wood Burner 0-8-0 of 1907
photographed in front of the Knynsa Station
Image courtesy Hannes Paling
- new photo 21 February 05

Sydney M. Moir used different pictures of the locomotives in both (editions) of his book "24 Inches Apart" which confused me totally!. His first edition shows all four different locomotives clearly. They were however, omitted in the second edition (the one I have). It is believed that the O&K 0-4-2T was used for shunting in Knysna while the other O&K's and SAR NG3 locomotives (see picture of the SAR NG3 above) operated between Deep Walls and Knysna.

A short history and some more photographs of the locomotives can be found here - updated 8 January 07

Any suggestions and feedback on the locomotives will be appreciated

H0n30 Modeling

This is South Africa first and only narrow gauge forest / logging railroad and begs to be modeled (not historically correct as another existed called the Evelyn-Pirie Forest Narrow Gauge Railway near King Williamstown in the Eastern Cape between 1910 and 1917). My modest approach would be to model in HOn30 (also known as HOe) which is HO scale on N track.

I have started on my first ever portable "micro / mini" HOn30 layout - so please view my efforts! - new 18 September 04

Links, Model Railway Clubs & Personal Pages
A new seperate page has been created - please go to the Links Page - updated 21 December 08
A page on Konigsberg has been created - please go to Konigsberg - East Prussia - new 2 August 2010
A New South African Model Railway web site has been created - please click here - new 11 August 2010
A New Saturday Afternoon Group web page for 2010 has been created - please click here - new 11 August 2010

Download Pages
A new seperate page has been created - please go to the Download Page - updated 10 May 07

Acknowledgements and Thanks
My 'journey' to obtain all the relevant information is continuing and I wish to thank everyone for their contributions so far:

  • The Book:
    24 Inches Apart / The two-foot gauge railways of the Cape of Good Hope / Sydney M. Moir / Second Edition (Revised) / 1981
  • Lionel Penning (provider of "24 Inches Apart" - second edition)
  • Craig LeVay (feedback and the pictures from Sydney Moirs first edition of 24 Inches Apart)
  • Eurika Deminey of the Transnet Heritage Foundation: Transnet Heritage Library (Neg. No. 049638 of the SAR NG3)
  • Mrs. Margaret Parkes of Knysna (Personal communications and Millwood House Museum Newsletters)
  • Hannes Paling (feedback and some stunning photographs!)
  • Wally Greig (Information and feedback)
  • Christo Kleingeld (feedback and a range of narrow gauge drawings)
  • Dr. Martin Murray (initial identification of the Orenstein & Koppel locomotives)
  • Philipp Maurer (valuable feedback)
  • Mike Morton / James Balantyne (O&K information)
  • John Young (feedback and information)
  • Bobby Sharp of Woodmill Lane for the information on Woodmillane in Knysna
  • Dirk Winterboer. See Links Page
  • The Saturday Afternoon Group (SAG). See Links Page (Mervyn for posing the question which started this endeavour!)
  • Mike and David from Integrated Technologies for hosting the website
  • To my family for the 'understanding'!

Contact
If you have any information or would like to comment, please send me an e-mail to: herman (at) rula.co.za

Webmaster: Herman Steyn
Pages Updated On: 21-February-2011
©Copyright 2004 - 2010

| SWR Co. Home Page | Historical Newsletter 36 | Historical Newsletter 37 | SWR Co. Locomotives |
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| New South African Model Railway Web Site | New SAG webpage 2010 | Saturday Afternoon Group - Archive 2006-2008 |