Peter Ball

The fateful year of 1896 is one of the most momentous years in the history of South Africa, the reason being the coming together of events which provided the “Perfect Storm”.

The year started badly with the Jameson Raid, a blunder of epic proportions which polarised the attitudes of both Boer and Briton. However there was worse to come in the form of drought and pestilence, which would have an effect on all the people living in South Africa.

 

The competition between Structural Steelwork and Reinforced Concrete in the realm of building construction can be likened to the rivalry between the Springboks and the All Blacks, in the sense that each continually attempts to better the other. The rivalries both on the construction site and on the rugby field have been going for nigh on 100 years and both have their die-hard fans. Fortunately the competition has largely been a healthy one bringing out the best in both.

This article was prompted by my reading of a back number of the “Continental Modeller”, wherein there was a sparkling article entitled “Wanderings in the western Cape -  South African scenes to inspire modelling”, which whetted my appetite to find out more.

 

The development of structural steel as a building material and its attendant fabricating industry has played a major role in the growth of the industrialised world and has helped to create our modern way of life. Without structural steel the building of the railways, the building of bridges, the opening up of mines, the construction of factories for the manufacture of goods, and the production and transmission of power would never have progressed to the stage we are at today.

The railway line that connects South Africa to Namibia is now 100 years old and owes its origin to the outbreak of the First World War in August 1914. The cross border stretch between Prieska, Northern Cape and Karasburg (formerly Kalkfontein), Namibia was hastily built as a military railway to give logistical support to General Louis Botha’s troops in his 1915 invasion of what was then German South West Africa (a colony twice the size of the Fatherland).

In 1975 the singer-songwriter, Chris De Burgh released his second album entitled “Spanish Train and other Stories”. The title track was immediately banned in South Africa on sacrilegious grounds, due to the mention of the Devil playing poker for souls of the dead with Jesus Christ and the album was re-titled and issued here as “Lonely Sky and other Stories”.

The catchphrase “Cape to Cairo” was first coined in 1874, by Edwin Arnold (editor of the Daily Telegraph) and was taken up by Cecil John Rhodes as a call for the “Civilisation” of Darkest Africa. To Rhodes civilisation meant the exploitation of the mineral wealth of the vast interior of the African continent. He was a controversial figure in his day and remains so today.

Peter Ball continues his epic History of Southern African Railways series with this superb piece on the line from Mossel Bay to Oudsthoorn. He sets the historical context, highlights the incredibly difficult terrain for railway building and concludes that it is remarkable that the line was built at all.

Thousands of people in South Africa and abroad dream of the day when the famous Outeniqua Choo Tjoe will run again. In the article below Peter Ball sketches the history and potential future of this world in one branch line.

Peter Ball returns with this fantastic article on narrow gauge railways in South Africa. He believes that the line from Port Elizabeth towards the Langkloof, which can be reopened in stages, is the most viable preservation project in the country and argues that we should look to the Welsh experience over the last sixty years for inspiration.

In the previous installment of the History of Southern African Railways series Peter Ball explored the politics and economics of the Benguela Railway. In this edition he heads east and unpacks the complexities of the Tanzania-Zambia Railway.

On the 14th July 1976 the Chinese officially handed over the TAN-ZAM Railway to the Governments of Tanzania and Zambia. It had taken just five years to build and its commissioning would change the pattern of economic dependencies in the region.

In this article Peter Ball jumps across a few borders and looks at some of the history and politics of the Benguela Railway which runs for over 1300km across Angola.

This installment of the History of Southern African Railways series looks at the demise of the branch line network and will be relevant to many in the heritage community. Over the last few decades many lines have been closed and the heritage assets associated with them have fallen into disrepair. We certainly hope that Transnet's strategy to revitalise the branch line network will go some way towards turning this situation around.

In the previous installment of the History of Southern African Railways series Peter Ball looked at the role of the railways during the South African War. In this piece he looks at post war reconstruction, the completion of various lines and the contribution of the railways to political union in South Africa.

Following hot on the heels of the 'Race to the Rand' here is the third installment of the History of Southern African Railway Series by Peter Ball. The article looks at the role of the railways during the South African War (the Second Anglo-Boer War).

In the first installment of the series on the history of Southern African railways, Peter Ball described some of the earliest railways in the country and the extension of a number of lines into the interior. In this article he looks at the fascinating politics and economics of the 'Race for the Rand'.

[Originally published in 2014] Over the coming months we will be publishing a series of articles, compiled by Peter Ball, on the history of Southern African railways. The first installment looks at some of the earliest railways in the country and the extension of various lines into the interior (driven by the great mineral discoveries of the second half of the nineteenth century).

The county of Cornwall, in England’s south west, is a well known holiday destination renowned for its scenic beauty and it comes as a surprise to many a visitor that the county has an industrial past. From the mid-18th century Cornwall was as industrialised as the Midlands and North of England and it was one of the most important metalliferous mining areas in the world. In fact the metal Tin had been exploited in Cornwall by the Romans in the 3rd & 4th centuries AD, after their previous source - the Spanish tin mines, were worked out.

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