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First Train arriving in Kimberley - 28 November 1885

TODAY IN KIMBERLEY’S HISTORY 20 APRIL

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UPDATED: 20/04/2017

20 April 1886, Gladstone Hotel near the railway station opens.

DID YOU KNOW

The arrival of the railway in November 1885 changed forever the way citizens of Kimberley would travel and sounded the beginnings of the death knell for wagons and carts. This would be accelerated in July 1901 with the arrival of Kimberley’s first motorised vehicle.

Travel to Cape Town would be much quicker and more luxurious, and the train also allowed citizens to take weekend trips away to resorts such as Modder River where at least five hotels would be erected within a decade of the arrival of the railway.

Quite unbelievably, the Gladstone Hotel, catering for those arriving or departing from Kimberley by train, opened on 20 April 1886, some three months prior to the Railway station opening in July that same year.

It also created some problems. The soot and smoke from the steam engines made houses and homes in the vicinity of the railway line a nightmare for housewives with the washing and drying of clothes. A fine layer of soot covered everything in the house too and letters to the various local newspapers appeared regularly complaining most bitterly.

The De Beers Consolidated Mines directors were also not very happy. All vehicular traffic had to halt, sometimes for up to 30 minutes, while shunting operations took place in the station region. Given the position of the De Beers Mining Company Boardroom and the De Beers mine itself, one can only imagine how this affected business. Despite money being made available from the Cape colonial government in 1888, the railway bridge was only erected in 1891. But it did allow traffic to flow unhindered across the railway line.

In time over the next few decades, the railway station complex was beautified, with the McHardy memorial fountains opening in late 1965, and a restaurant was opened on the platform in the late 1950s. This restaurant today is the Transport Museum – well worth a visit.

The railway line to Bloemfontein was opened in 1908, and the line from Warrenton to Johannesburg was also finally constructed in 1906. Life, and especially travel, had improved most dramatically for the residents of the diamond town.

20 April 1886, Gladstone Hotel near the railway station opens.

DID YOU KNOW

That the De Beers suburb was first named Gladstone after the English Prime Minister of the time, the name being in use as early as 21 October 1871. By 9 November that same year there were 100 stands on sale at a cost of £14 each, the owners of the township being Ebden and Partners who had bought the land from the De Beers brothers. When named Gladstone, there was a lovely story in the Cape newspaper, the Standard and Mail, where a play on words changed the meaning to “Glad-stone”, meaning “Happy-diamond”. The name Gladstone has fallen by the wayside, being replaced by the name “De Beers”. Gladstone was generally accepted as the section south/west of Warren Street, while De Beers was north/east of the street.

From Kimberley Calls and Recalls on Facebook By Steve Lunderstedt

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