The NZASM and its heritage.

Nederlandsche Zuid-Afrikaansche Spoorweg-Maatschappij.


Robert de Jong lecturing the group. (Do you recognise some of the heads in the fore ground?)

Cullinan Conservancy was privileged to host a lecture by Dr Robert de Jong on the railway lines built during the late 19th century. Dr de Jong describes himself as a ferro equonologist.

Of particular interest to our Conservancy was the railway line from Pretoria to Delegoa bay, as it ran through our conservancy and we have many relics in the area which we conserve.

Stations and halts in the Western area, some of which is in the Cullinan Conservancy area.

Because the steam engines needed to cool down and take in water they had to make frequent stops to take in water.

  • Pretoria ( station)
  • Koedoespoort (halt)
  • Silverton (halt)
  • Eerste Fabrieken (station)
  • Pienaarspoort (halt)
  • Van der Merwe (halt)
  • Elandsrivier (station) now Rayton
  • Schietpoort (station) now Forfar
  • Bronkhorstspruit (station)

Dr de Jong elaborated on the difficulties that were encountered by Paul Kruger whilst executing his vision of being independent from a British-ruled port for trade links by building the railway line to Lorenco Marques. The presentation gave an overview on the economical and political reasons why the Transvaal Government wanted the railway line built. After Pres. T.F. Burger failed to get overseas funding 1872-1877 the railway line was put on hold. When Pres Kruger became head of state in 1883 he went on a mission overseas to source funding for the railway line. In 1887 the NZASM was established with funding from Dutch and German banks. 

Preliminary designs and negotiations had started long before the actual “active” commencement of the construction period 1890 to 1903. The railway line had to link Pretoria to the then Lorenco Marques (now Maputo) at Delagoa Bay in Mozambique. for this to start the line from the harbor had to be built to the border post of ZAR, to be able to ship and transport building materials and supplies to the “building front”.

Robert shared interesting facts on the difficulties to find funds, contractors, correct designs, accommodating harsh climate and difficult terrains, laws to allow this whole operation to happen, staff, time constraints, political rivalries and underhand play, etc. Research was done in local and Dutch archives for the thesis, and on-site photo documentation of interesting structures, of which some have now been destroyed.

Thanks to Robert for highlighting the Pienaarspoort section, which is of special interest to us, living on and along this line. Rayton was not even on the map then!

Noteworthy is the fact that the original line passed through the property of Michael, our host! Wet conditions prohibited us from visiting the bridge and culverts that still exist just a few 100 yards from the lecture venue. alas!

The original line was diverted to the present one in Elandshoek, where the present VAN DER MERWE station is now situated. This was done in the sixties, to even out awkward sharp curves and gradients.

The  distance from water – to – water was about 45 km, which explains the enormous amount of halts, of which not all were proper stations. I can imagine the difficulties of traveling at max speed of 45 km/hr in a jolting, puffing steam train.


Construction material for tracks were imported from Germany and Indonesia, other building materials were sourced locally. Traction (steam engines) were imported from Germany and the Netherlands.

The Eastern line

It was interesting to hear that the building of the line actually started on the eastern side at the border (Transvaal and Mozambique border) in 1890. The western side started in 1893. From the border to Maputo problems arose as this section was controlled by a different company and Mozambique authorities.

In June 1894 the railheads met near Brugspruit (Clewer) Ceremonial tightening of the last screw by Pres. Kruger near Wilge river station in November 1894.

January 1895 the railway line became fully functional.

As these were all steam trains they had to stop very frequently to fill up with water and coal. This resulted in many halts and stations along the line. It took about three days to get from Pretoria to Delegoa bay.

Anglo-Boer War 1899

With the outbreak of the Anglo-Boer war in 1899 the NZASM was mobilised to assist the ZAR’s war efforts. Troops, artillery, provisions, ammunition and horses were transported by rail. It also transported wounded soldiers, the so-called hospital trains. It even became the temporary ZAR Government offices (government on wheels).

During the war, tracks, bridges, wagons, locomotives and signals were often demolished to slow down the British invasion of the Boer republics.

When Pretoria was occupied by the British forces in 1900, the British seized all documents and transferred the NZASM to the Imperial Military Railways. This proved to be a difficult liquidation, but it was finalised in October 1908.


On June 5th 1900 Pretoria was invaded by the British forces. All documents and assists were seized by the British forces and transferred to the Imperial Military Railways.This was a difficult liquidation but on the 13 October 1908, the formal liquidation took place.

Did you Know?

  • It was one of the most significant European (Dutch, German, Belgium and Scandinavian) contributions to the South African economy in the late 19th centuary.

  • The motivation was that the Transvaal government wanted a link with a sea port to promote economical and political independence from the British ports of South Africa. Maputo (Delegoa Bay) in Mozambique.

  • 1872 President T.F. Burger attempts to establish a railway line but fails.

  • President Kruger becomes head of state in 1883 and designs a plan to promote the ZAR’s economical development. A plan is to import Dutch officials and teachers, Dutch financing of banks and railway development.

  • Political and economical climate in Netherlands positive in the wake of moral support for the Transvaal to regain independence 1880-1884.

  • In 1887 the ZAR establishes the NZASM with funding from Dutch and German banks

  • The NZASM was a private company with a Government consession to build and operate a railway line in the Transvaal during the late 19th century.

  • With the discovery of gold on the Witwatersrand the eastern line is delayed to build railway lines to transport coal from Boksburg to the gold mines.

More facts on the Eastern Line: Pretoria to border

  • Construction from the eastern side started in 1890 at the border and from the western side in 1893
  • First sections of the eastern line were awarded to a Dutch contractor but due to a lack of knowledge of the local conditions, he was not very successful.

  • Local contractors built all the other lines according to NZASM plans and specifications.

  • Constructional material for tracks were imported from Germany and Indonesia.

  • All building materials for bridges and culverts were sourced locally

  • Railheads met near Brugspruit (Clewer) in 1884.

  • The ceremonial tightening of last screw was done by Pres. Kruger near Wilge river station in November 1894

  • Traction (steam) engines and wagons were imported from Germany and the Netherlands.

  • In January 1895 the line became operational.


As a closing remark Dr de Jong said “the minimum that should be done, is to document what is left before it disappears”. If you have any pictures or know more about the history, please email or contact us.


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