Umgeni Steam Railway

N3 Gateway / Umgeni Steam Railway

.The Railway Society of Southern Africa was created in an effort to preserve the rapidly disappearing local railway heritage.  The organisation is managed and run entirely by volunteers and is self-funded.  Relying almost exclusively on revenue generated from operating public and charter trains in order to preserve our railway history.  Over the years Umgeni Steam Railway. has managed to collect a sizeable array of historically significant rolling stock. These include approximately 10 locomotives (the oldest of which is an 1892 Dubs A Class which is at present in pieces awaiting re-building); 50 coaches and a variety of goods wagons.

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One of the locomotives, “Wesley” (Class 19D no. 2685) is a regular performer on the Kloof – Inchanga run.  Built by the Borsig Locomotive Company of Berlin, Germany in 1938.

Trains travel 25 km. through the picturesque Valley of a Thousand Hills between Kloof and Inchanga on the last Sunday of each month. Additional trains run during school holidays and for special events, such as “Carols by Candlelight”.  The trip from Kloof to Inchanga takes about 1 hour.  At Inchanga station the local Conservancy hosts the Inchanga Community Craft Market whenever U.S.R. trains are run.

The Inchanga Railway Museum in the old Station Master’s house (built in 1895) above Inchanga station is currently under refurbishment. It is run by volunteer members of the Railway History Society and is open on running days. Passengers are welcome to make their way up the steps next to the picnic area to view progress.

Route:

The train largely follows the route of the original Natal Government Railway Main Line. From Durban to Pietermaritzburg. This was opened officially in December 1880.  Today the line is considered something of an engineering feat (and an operational challenge!) due to the tortuous topography it has to traverse. With an abundance of 1 in 30 gradients and many curves of 90m radius.  It was regarded as a mountain railway by the surveyors. And major engineering challenges along the way included a pass with almost sheer cliffs between Padley’s and Botha’s Hill (providing breathtaking views over the Inanda Valley!); a short 52 m. long tunnel near Drummond (under the old wagon track) and a spectacular cast iron viaduct over the Sterkspruit Valley just before Inchanga.  This notorious viaduct, 173 m. long, apparently swayed so badly in the wind that passengers were required to alight and walk ahead of the train during inclement weather!  It was however by-passed by a deviation in 1892.  Photographs of it are on display at the Inchanga Railway Museum.

This line remained the main transport artery between Durban and the Reef until the “New” Main Line was opened in 1921.  Sufficient trains continued to use the “Old Line” to warrant electrification in the late 1950’s. Although declining traffic levels eventually saw this infrastructure removed some forty years later.  A suburban passenger service still operates from Durban to Pinetown.

Even the original “Mountain” type steam locomotives with their 4-8-2 wheel arrangement, created for this rugged terrain, sometimes still struggle (especially in wet weather!).  As you can imagine, running a locomotive which is 80 years old can at times present a few problems!

Thank you to:

It is thanks to our dedicated volunteers that U.S.R. continues to operate. As with most volunteer organisations, it is always in need of new members.  If you would like to join, there are numerous positions available. These include working on maintaining/repairing our steam locomotives; maintaining/repairing coaches and wagons; manning the Museum, maintaining the Library, recording archival records and many more posts. If you have time to spare speak to one of our volunteer staff members who will be pleased to explain to you our operation. Find out where you would be best suited.  No experience is required as you will be taught what to do. Although if you have specific relevant skills, we will be happy to put them to good use!

Famous people who have travelled on the Old Main Line include Mahatma Gandhi, Winston Churchill and Nelson Mandela.

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Bothas Hill, Outer West Durban, South Africa

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