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The locomotive breaks the ceremonial ribbon at the opening of the Pretoria-Pietersburg railway line on May 1, 1899. See the roof trusses of the station building at the then Pietersburg. This whole building was later dismantled and re-assembled where it stands today, at the Louis Trichardt station.

Is Louis Trichardt station the oldest building in town?

Date: 24 August 2007 By: 

"Which is the oldest building in everyday use in Louis Trichardt?" Local historians are speculating about the answer to this question and invite the community to give their input.

Charles Leach, for one, would all but put his head on a block that the oldest building still being used is the railway station building.

"This beautiful old granite building was the very one that saw the arrival of the first steam engine from Pretoria to Pietersburg on May 1, 1899," said Charles. "The Pietersburg station was dismantled block-for-block and rebuilt in Louis Trichardt!"

At the Louis Trichardt station the red post box mounted in the granite wall bears the letters ER with a king’s crown in between and the Roman numerals VII below, indicating the British monarch - Edward Rex- or King Edward VII, the same man after whom Fort Edward was named. The roof trusses of the Louis Trichardt station bear a remarkable similarity to the trusses seen in a picture of the old Pietersburg station.

When Pietersburg received a new station building, civil engineer H F Greaves, the grandfather of resident John Greaves, was tasked with the block-by-block dismantling of the old building and re-assembling it where it stands today.

Charles explains the events preceding the literal moving of the station from Pietersburg to Louis Trichardt. The very same granite stones have stories to tell and witnessed many of these events:

Pietersburg was the end terminal of the Pretoria-Pietersburg Railway – the PPR. The line had been constructed by a British construction company engaged by the ZAR. According to Messrs Boon Boonzaaier and Hennie Heyman - both well-known and enthusiastic authorities on the railways of Southern Africa - the railways in the ZAR were taken over by the Imperial Military Railways (IMR) during the Anglo Boer War.

The railway lines were crucial to the movement of troops and equipment and for that reason, during the final phase of the war, the PPR became the target of "train-wreckers"- as the British called them - like Jack Hindon, who operated effectively on the line. One of the devices used by Hindon is on view at the Lalapanzi Museum.

After the war and during the inter-colonial period, the railways in the ZAR and Orange Free State were managed by the Central South African Railways. From 1910, management shifted to the SAR, but it took some years to amalgamate the various railway administrations.

So it was that, during the Anglo Boer War, the Pietersburg railway-station was the arrival point of most of the British troops and equipment that were to see action in the Zoutpansberg, Spelonken and Haenertsburg areas, as well as to the south of Pietersburg in the Maliepspoort Mountains.

The same station was the departure point of many of the captured Boer combatants from mainly the Zoutpansberg and Waterpoort Commandos, who were dispatched to prisoner of war camps all over the British Empire.

It was also the point of departure for many of the surviving Boer women and children who were transferred from the Pietersburg concentration camp to other camps further afield.

It would have been from that same building that the infamous Bushveldt Carbineers, Lts ‘Breaker’ Morant, Handcock and Witton, departed from the Zoutpansberg for execution and burial in Pretoria and Witton for life imprisonment in England.

The temporary station at Gertrudesburg, on the Ledig road, was vacated when the wetland in between was dry enough to traverse and the station at Pietersburg was literally moved to where it stands today.

The dates indicating the progress of the railway are: Pretoria to Pietersburg on 1 May, 1899, Pietersburg to Munnik (61 miles) on 9 May ,1911, Munnik to Bandelierskop (53 miles) on 15 August, 1911, Bandelierskop to Louis Trichardt (35 miles) 3 March, 1913.

"It is unlikely that any substantial building remained after the British troops under Col. Colenbrander set fire to Louis Trichardt on May 9, 1901. Can any of the readers help on this point?" asks Charles.

"Is it not then time to have this grand old building – the oldest in Louis Trichardt? – declared a National Monument?" he adds.

 
 
 

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