The Cape Government Railway’s [CGR] construction of a railway from Cape Town to Kimberley (1875-1885) was governed by the imperatives of rapid construction and the limitation of costs. Consequently the alignment followed contours and minimised cuttings and embankments. Sections of this alignment became inadequate as traffic increased and faster times for train operation were demanded. Consequently the re-alignment of certain sections became imperative for operating and cost efficiencies. This work was tackled piecemeal when funds were available.
In the article below, James Walton tells the story of the soap houses of the Karoo and their importance to the local economy for many years. The article was first published in the 1983 edition of Restorica, the journal of the Simon van der Stel Foundation (today the Heritage Association of South Africa). Thank you to the University of Pretoria (copyright holders) for giving us permission to publish.