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Calitzdorp municipality had its own Coat-of-Arms which was registered to it in perpetuity. Calitzdorp Municipality no longer exists but legally no one else may use the Arms.
When electricity was installed in Calitzdorp in 1937, it was the smallest electricity supply setup in the country, the least costly installation and Calitzdorp’s supply price was the cheapest per unit in South Africa.
When built between 1943 -1954, the concrete road from Calitzdorp to Oudtshoorn - known locally as the \'sementpad\' - was the longest concrete road in South Africa. It was NOT the country\'s first concrete road, as is frequently claimed.
The last ever steam train on the Oudtshoorn-Calitzdorp line was a special Union Line day trip for steam train enthusiasts on 13 August 1997, four years after the official closing of the line. The loco was a class 19D No 2753
The Little Karoo was once an inland sea of approximately 14,500 square kilometers. It would have been a quarter the size of Lake Victoria, half the size of lake Malawi, 24 times the size of the Dead Sea and 87 times the size of the Sea of Galilee!
Huge Fossil bones found in the Calitzdorp district were thought by Hoffman in 1966 to possibly be those of the Giant Plesiosaur – the same as Scotland’s Loch Ness Monster, ‘Nessie’. However they were later identified as those of the sauropod Algoasaurus related to the Brontosaurus.
In the 1800s and early 1900s there was a thriving Jewish community in the Little Karoo. Many of their shops had no doors for customers - who climbed in through the windows!
Calitzdorp has South Africa’s largest Pale Chanting Goshawk bird population – the only polyandrous raptor in South Africa.
The Calitzdorp Nel’s river dam was the first mass-concrete agricultural irrigation dam wall built in the country.
The dam was built in 1913-1918, before modern equipment was available, and work was done with picks and shovels. Donkeys and mules did the hauling. There was one 36 BHP suction gas engine which ran all the major plant.
The Nel’s river which flows through Groenfontein valley and fills Calitzdorp dam was previously known as the Kango river and is shown as such on the original subdivision map of the Buffelsvlei farm, dated April 1834.
The word Kango comes from the Khoisan language – The Khoisan called the Swartberg mountains the Kango and the word means ‘place rich in water’.
A Surveyor General’s Map dated 25 Jan 1847 shows that Daniel Nel owned large sections of the Kango river / valley farmland, Probably why the river became known as ‘Nel’s river’.
Cape leopards still roam freely in the mountains around Calitzdorp. Extremely shy, and ranging over enormous territories, these rare, beautiful animals are seldom seen.
Calitzdorp sits on a geological fault line that runs for 300 kilometers along the southern edge of the Cape Fold mountains – proof being our local hot spring at the Calitzdorp Spa.
In the 1850s the town of George was a 50 hour trek by ox-wagon from Calitzdorp! This time did not include overnight stops and time for the oxen to rest and graze.
After their discovery, the Cango caves were known as \'die Druipkelder’. and only became known as Cango Caves many years later.
When Electricity was first provided in Bergsig, each of the smaller houses had one connection to a street light, and electricity was only available at night when the street lights were switched on.
Lucerne – a major fodder crop around Calitzdorp, came to South Africa from South America in 1861. Its introduction into the Little Karoo dramatically changed the ostrich industry
There are 34 internationally recognised biodiversity Hotspots in the entire world - and Calitzdorp is surrounded by four.
The plant biomes – areas of a certain type of plant growth - are identified as World Hot Spots because of the unique - and threatened vegetation, found nowhere else in the world.
Each of the four World Hot Spots around Calitzdorp –fynbos, thicket, remnant forest and succulent Karoo – has at least 1500 endemic plant species – each Hot Spot biome having more plant variety than the whole of Europe
Calitzdorp’s first cemetery is said to have been in the area of “The Queen of Calitzdorp” Lodge - but maybe this old cemetery was under the \'spookhuis\' - giving reason for its name? Long demolished, the police station now stands where the \'spookhuis\' once was.
During the world-wide ‘flu epidemic of 1918, Calitzdorp was not spared and the beautiful double-storey home at 1 Queen street was used as a make-shift hospital for the duration of the epidemic
More than eleven thousand hand-cut stones were used to build the Dutch Reformed Church. The raw stone was transported by ox-wagon from Swartkop at Vlei Rivier and dressed on the building site.
Because of its enormous size, the Dutch Reformed Church vestry table (5,2m) had to be made on site.
On 22 February 1991 the imposing sandstone Dutch Reformed Church and its surrounding fence was declared a National monument - now known as a Provincial Heritage Site.
The cast-iron fencing, erected around the perimeter of the Dutch Reformed Church grounds in 1899, is eleven years older than the church itself.
The five massive Dutch Reformed Church bells - three huge and two slightly smaller ones, cost £425 and were cast in Germany. They were donated by J J Grundling and his wife in memory of their grandson Jacobus Johannes Grundling Meyer
The magnificent Dutch Reformed Church organ - considered the best in the country at the time and said to have then had 942 pipes, was imported from Hamburg, Germany.
The Huisrivier Pass underwent major upgrading in 2012 and 2013. To the astonishment of workers at a stop/go point on the construction site, a leopard crossed the road right in front of them - in broad daylight!
The very rare, unusual, yellow Protea - Mimetes chrysanthus – was discovered in the Gamkaberg Nature Reserve by game guard Mr Willie Julies in September 1987.
Calitzdorp is on Route 62 – the longest wine route in the world.
Voortrekker road – or Route 62 – was firstly known as Bloekomlaan (Bluegum avenue) due to the number of gum trees which lined the road.
A number of original little houses were demolished on Voortrekker Road and the bluegum street-trees were removed to widen the road when Route 62 was built.
The house which reputedly stood on the land where the police station and magistrates\' court now stand, was known as ‘die Spookhuis’. Could the reason be - that just maybe - this might have been the site of Calitzdorp\'s first unmarked, unidentified cemetery?
Axe Hill winery was named after stone-age hand tools, from some 250 thousand years ago, found on the property when the farm was being established by the late Tony Mossop and his wife Lyn.
It is rumoured that Cecil John Rhodes gave a speech to Calitzdorp residents from the steps of the beautiful residence at 1 Queen Street, but so far we have found no proof of him visiting the town.
Old timers have suggested that the beautiful home at 1 Queen street was ransacked or torched by Boer Commandant Gideon Scheepers and his men during the second Anglo-Boer War. We have found no proof - but we do know that Scheepers was active in the Calitzdorp area at the time.
In 1922 when Howard Carter opened Tutankhamen’s tomb in Egypt, one of the first things he found was a perfect, 3,000 year old, ivory-handled ostrich feather fan.
In 1918 there were outlying schools in Groenfontein, Buffelskloof, Buffelsjagsfontein, Gamka-Oos, Gamka-Wes, Huisrivier, Janfourieskraal, Kruisrivier-Wes, Uitvlug, Warmbad en Warmwater, along with the Juta and Reenen school.
Spekboom - Portulacaria afra - takes in and uses huge volumes of atmospheric carbon – part of the global warming problem – and converts it into oxygen. How great is that? Plant some and help save the world!
\'Kougoed\' - the Kanna plant, Sceletium tortuosum of the Mesembryanthemoideae family - is a local ancient herb with mood enhancing properties said to rival Prozac! – but it is non addictive and has no side effects.
In 1869 Arthur Douglass invented an ostrich incubator , causing a stir in the Little Karoo where farmers now started fencing their lands to farm ostriches more intensively
In 1872 Mr Burdett opened Calitzdorp’s first shop
On the 3rd of July 2015, UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation), at a meeting held in Bonn in Germany, approved the elevation of the existing Rooiberg, Gamkaberg and Groenefontein Protected Areas, to the status of World Heritage Sites
Each return journey of the steam train between Oudtshoorn and Calitzdorp, burned up four tons of coal!
The first regular train from Oudtshoorn ran into Calitzdorp on Friday 14th November 1924 and the official opening took place a few days later on the 20th November.
Seweweekspoort peak at 2,352m is not only the highest peak in the Klein Swartberg range, it is also the highest in the Western Cape. Classified as an ultra prominent peak it is also the 8th highest peak in South Africa.
Endemic to Seweweekspoort, the first specimens of an unknown, rare Protea were collected by botanists T P Stoekoe and R Primos in 1928. Later thought to be extinct – this Protea Aristata was ‘re-discovered’ in 1953.
The survey for the new Huisrivier Pass was started in 1951. It took almost ten years to find a suitable route over the difficult, treacherous mountains to Ladismith, before construction of the Pass could start.
Seweweekspoort’s rare endemic red Aristata protea was proudly displayed on the 10 cent postage stamp of the South African 1977 Protea Series.
Calitzdorp became the Port capital of South Africa by accident. Years ago, Shiraz vines ordered and planted by the Nel family of de Krans, later turned out to be Touriga Nacional – the main port grape! What a happy mistake!
On 25 December, 2015 there was a full moon. Younger than 38 years old at the time? Then this would have been your first Christmas full moon. The last one was in 1977 and the next one will only be on 25 December 2034!
Everyone knows South Africa’s symbols – the flower symbol is the King Protea, the animal is the springbok, the tree is the Real Yellowwood and the bird is the Blue Crane. But did you know that we have a national fish? Believe it or not, we do! the Galjoen
Western Cape’s provincial symbols : The provincial flower is the Red Disa, the provincial tree is the Silver Tree. Our animal is the Bontebok and our provincial bird is the Cape Sugarbird
The ostrich is the world\'s largest flightless bird, followed in size by Australia\'s Emu and Cassowary.
The Cape Leopard is a small animal - probably the size of a large dog – and is half the size and weight of its Kruger Park cousins. The average weight of a male Cape Leopard is about 35 kilograms.
No longer viable, the Oudtshoorn - Calitzdorp train service was officially stopped and the line closed to regular traffic on 31 May 1993.


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20 November 1924 - the first train , railway line opening day Calitzdorp

20 November 1924 – the first train , railway line opening day Calitzdorp


The railway line between Oudtshoorn and Calitzdorp opened up a whole new era for Calitzdorp.

The steam engine on the Oudtshoorn to Calitzdorp line was a narrow gauge Garratt.

By the shape visible in the old opening day photo (right) it would appear to be a South African Class GB 2-6-2+2-6-2.

These engines were built to travel in either direction without the need for a turntable or triangle. However, Calitzdorp station did have a turning triangle – an arrangement of railway tracks with a switch or set of points at each corner to allow a railway equivalent of a three-point turn, to change the locomotive’s direction. Sections of this triangle were however tarred over with the upgrading of Station Road in 2016.


One of these Garratt engines (below), a Class GB no.1650, later renumbered no. 2166, was photographed in the railway yard at Voorbaai, Mosselbaai on 4 September 1997 (photographer unknown)


2-6-2 loco steam engine

2-6-2 loco steam engine


Maybe it was even the Calitzdorp original?

The sadly derelict railway line was built between June 1923 and November 1924 to connect Calitzdorp and Oudtshoorn. This branch line would then join the Willowmore, Klipplaat line to Port Elizabeth enabling the movementt of produce and the export of ostrich feathers from the Little Karoo to Europe. The old line presents a faint echo of great promise and expectation for the then rather isolated town of Calitzdorp.



Calitzdorp station

Calitzdorp station

The 31 mile, 21 chain line is a narrow gauge track, sometimes known as “Cape Gauge’ being 3ft 6” / 1,067mm wide.

There are twelve sidings along the line between Oudtshoorn and Calitzdorp.

The estimated cost of the line was £167,000 but it was completed at £20,000 below budget at £147,000. The line was built by the South African Railways under engineer, Mr Bromley and his team.

The train journey from Oudtshoorn to Calitzdorp took two and a half hours and seven minutes on its opening day trip. With loading of produce at sidings along the way, future trips would take much longer.

Each return journey burned up four tons of coal!


steam engine rear edited 1The first regular train ran into Calitzdorp on Friday 14th November 1924 and the official opening took place a few days later on the 20th November. A long list of dignitaries gathered to enjoy the occasion.

To start with there were stories of frightened children clinging to their mothers skirts at the sight of the noisy black behemoth rumbling down the tracks – and how their fear turned into wails of terror as the engine driver gave unearthly shrieking blasts of his whistle in friendly greeting to those living along the way!

Nothing can tell of the excitement around the launch of this train service better than the newspaper report of the time

Oudtshoorn Courant 21/11/1924

 ‘facts about the line’

Construction commenced in June 1923. It was intended as a purely agricultural line. It was constructed therefore as cheaply as possible, light rails being used and no stations being built between the O’hrn station and the little building which nestles beneath the towering krantz at the entrance of the township. White labour was used almost entirely for the construction of the earthworks and the line stands as a monument of what is possible for the poor whites to accomplish. They worked, especially on the sections on the Calitzdorp side, well and expeditiously. The first regular train ran into Calitzdorp on Friday last 14 November. The length of the railway between C’dorp and O’hrn is 31 miles, 21 chains. Three big bridges had to be thrown cross the Grobbelaars, Wynands and Vlei rivers respectively. There are scores of culverts. The valley through which the train passes is thickly peopled so that it has been necessary to construct no less than eleven sidings two of which are only a little more than a mile from each other, two others only being  separated by a couple of miles while the remainder are from three to six miles apart. The first stop, Kansas,is reached after  twelve minute run, the next Armoed 6 miles 57 chains away after 24 minutes, while seven minutes suffice to arrive at Wanhoop (Hopeless) from Wynands River which is 9 miles from the O’hrn station. The Kruis Rivier siding, 15 miles out is reached after a 67 minute journey. The 29th milestone is passed at 9.31 and the next 15 minutes with stoppages, occupy a few minutes over an hour, the train steaming into the C’dorp station at 10.37 or seven minutes over the 2 ½ hours, The steepest gradient is 1 in 40, and the most difficult stretch is from Grobbelaars bridge into the O’hrn station.  The Garrett engine used – a new type – which has driving wheels fore and aft, with tender in front is capable of hauling some 400 tons either way. The maximum speed allowed is 30 miles an hour; the load is not to exceed 300 tons. On the special occasion of the opening this was exceeded. There is no provision for water between O’hrn and C’dorp, and none at C’dorp itself, so that the engine which is capable itself of taking some 1,700 gallons in its tank, has to draw its further supplies from a 3,500 gallon tank hauled there and back. Two tanks of supplies had to be utilized for yesterday’s great event. Four tons of coal are consumed in the return journey.


Yesterday dawned hot and sunny. From an early hour yesterday morning Calitzdorp was astir and people from far and near streamed into the village from all sides. It was shortly before  nine, although the train bearing the Minister of Railways was only expected at 11, that there were batches of two and threes making their way down the long tree lined section to the station and then shortly after, motor cars veritably made the old dorp hum with life.  The shops and offices closed at 10 o’clock and thus, at shortly before 11, practically every man, woman and child, except those who were engaged in preparing the lunch at the zaal, had repaired to the station.  Here there was a great throng, and they possibly numbered well over 2000 and were later augmented by some 500 school children and 350 others who had boarded the train from Oudtshoorn to Calitzdorp. The school children travelled free. There was a regular fleet of motor cars from Oudtshoorn and Ladismith. So that altogether there must have been quite 3000 present at the ceremony. The Minister of Railways’ special coach, Voorspoed, was immediately behind the engine, with half a dozen bogeys and guard’s van and as the engine hove in sight round the sudden curve in a deep cutting there was great excitement. The front coaches sped right past the platform and after the largest train that Calitzdorp will probably see for many years came to a stop, its human freight literally poured out. After several preliminaries the train steamed back whence it came and near the platform, Mr Bromley, assisted by another, suspended a bottle of champagne by ribbons tied on to supports on each side of the line. Again the train began to move slowly into the station but this time midst the loud reports of detonators placed on the line. Then gliding along at half speed – all eyes being fixed on the bottle of champagne (the sun had become very hot) the buffer of the engine crashed into the bottle, sent the pieces flying and the sparkling vintage was precipitated over the whole of the cow-catcher, the while the police and others got the crowd back from the very brink of the platform.” 

railway opening day menu - click to enlarge

railway opening day menu – click to enlarge.   Photo courtesy of Calitzdorp Railway Station



The newspaper report goes on in great detail about the speech given by the Minister of Railways, the Hon. C. W. Malan. Malan was the first Minister of Railways of General Hertzog’s Nationalist Party, (which won the election of 1924). He gave a lengthy, rousing congratulatory speech and declared the line open. The crowd thinned, but many lingered to watch the school children board for their free ride.


The Zending Bond did good business selling refreshments at the station and a sit down luncheon for 80 guests was hosted in the Zaal.




railway opening day menu - click to enlarge

railway opening day menu – click to enlarge. Photo courtesy of Calitzdorp Railway Station


Official group photo - unfortunately not identified. Courtesy Calitzdorp Railway Station

Official group photo – unfortunately not identified. Courtesy Calitzdorp Railway Station. Click to enlarge

The newspaper report also tells that :

“The personnel, who took the Minister’s train in, and who took some 600 children out at 12.30 as far as Kruisrivier Siding from the Calitzdorp station and back, were; Ticket Inspector Turner, Ticket Examiner Garner, the guard, S Burns. The driver of the train was Mr Billy Turner, who had been resident here for nearly 20 years, and is now shuntman; the fireman being F Gertenbach who will be the future driver of the train. One and all worked hard to make the day a great success.

Some 350 passengers paid their fares en route from Oudtshoorn to Calitzdorp.”

It was a wonderful, memorable day – heralding promising times for the little town of Calitzdorp.

A mixed train for both passengers and goods ran three times a week and extra goods trains ran when needed. In 1928 approximately 6 500 tons, mainly fruit and Lucerne for other provinces, was hauled and in a 1988 review this had increased to about 22 000 tons – a very modest amount. At this point cost recovery was a mere 10%.

No longer viable, the Calitzdorp line was officially closed to regular traffic on 31 May 1993.

Last ever steam train on the Calitzdorp line

Last ever steam train on the Calitzdorp line


There was, however, one last-ever steam train run from Oudtshoorn to Calitzdorp. This was a special Union Line day trip for steam train enthusiasts on the 13 August, 1997 – three months short of 73 years after the very first train travelled this railway line and just over four years after the official closing of the line.  The loco that day was a class 19D No 2753. This was also the last time a steam train used the Calitzdorp station triangle to turn around for its return trip to Oudtshoorn.


In 2001-2003 an attempt was made to rejuvenate the line with trolley trips in the so called Herrie Train’. A private entrepreneur in conjunction with Spoornet attempted to provide transport between the towns and boost tourism.  Unfortunately this venture was not successful and the line was finally abandoned and would then have been declared unsafe for any further traffic.

In June 2008 in an attempt to save South Africa’s branch lines – on which long list the Calitzdorp-Oudtshoorn line appeared – Transnet advertised for Expressions of Interest in Branch Lines. Strangely it had just prior to this made an announcement that responsibility for secondary tracks was to be handed over to the Department of Transport.  Nothing further has evolved.


Badshoogte windmill+water tanks

Badshoogte windmill+water tanks

There are no station buildings along the line between Calitzdorp and Oudtshoorn and the now deserted sidings along the way from Oudtshoorn, are as follows :

Oudtshoorn      Terminus    (Oudtshoorn railway station)
33°36′39″S 22°13′9″E / 33.61083°S 22.21917°E           Junction with Mossel Bay–Port Elizabeth line

1     Kansa                 33°37′10″S    22°9′37″E / 33.61944°S 22.16028°E

  • First siding from Oudtshoorn
  • 12th siding from Calitzdorp

Kansa was reached after a twelve minute run by train from Oudtshoorn

2     Armoed           33°37′35″S     22°6′13″E / 33.62639°S 22.10361°E

  • Second siding from Oudtshoorn
  • 11th siding from Calitzdorp

6 miles 57 chains away from Oudtshoorn
24 minutes by train from Oudtshoorn

3     Wynandasrivier    33°36′54″S    22°3′36″E / 61500°S 22.06000°E
Estimated terrain elevation above sea level is 259 metres

  • Third siding from Oudtshoorn
  • 10th siding from Calitzdorp

9 miles from the Oudtshoorn station

4     Hoopvol 33°36′26″S    22°2′43″E / 60722°S 22.04528°E

  • Fourth siding from Oudtshoorn
  • 9th siding from Calitzdorp

Seven minutes suffice to arrive at Wanhoop (Hopeless) from Wynands River

5     Kerkrand         33°36′16″S      22°0′26″E / 33.60444°S 22.00722°E
Estimated terrain elevation above sea level is 265 metres

  • Fifth siding from Oudtshoorn
  • 8th siding from Calitzdorp

6    Kruisrivier      33°36′30″S    21°58′17″E / 60833°S 21.97139°E `
Estimated terrain elevation above sea level is 253 metres.

  • Sixth siding from Oudtshoorn
  • 7th siding from Calitzdorp

5 miles from Oudtshoorn was reached after a 67 minute journey

Middelpad siding

Middelpad siding



7    Middelpad
      33°36′40″S    21°56′44″E / 61111°S 21.94556°E

Estimated terrain elevation above sea level is249 metres

  • 7th siding from Oudtshoorn
  • 6th siding from Calitzdorp




Vleiland siding

Vleiland siding


8     Vleiland       33°37′10″S     21°54′11″E / 33.61944°S 21.90306°E
Estimated terrain elevation above sea level is 233 metres

  • 8th siding from Oudtshoorn
  • Fifth siding from Calitzdorp






Grundell siding

Grundell siding



9     Grundell       33°37′6″S      21°51′48″E / 33.61833°S 21.86333°E
Estimate terrain elevation above sea level is 224 metres.

  • 9th siding from Oudtshoorn
  • Fourth siding from Calitzdorp





10    Dongas      33°36′59″S    21°50′32″E / 61639°S 21.84222°E

Estimated terrain elevation above sea level is 225 metres

  • 10th siding from Oudtshoorn
  • Third siding from Calitzdorp


Badshoogte siding

Badshoogte siding


11     Badshoogte      33°37′17″S    21°48′9″E / 33.62139°S 21.80250°E

Estimate terrain elevation above sea level is 228 metres

  • 11th siding from Oudtshoorn
  • Second siding from Calitzdorp





Remhoogte siding

Remhoogte siding


12      Remhoogte      33°34′21″S   21°43′19″E / 33.57250°S 21.72194°E

  • 12th siding from Oudtshoorn
  • First siding from Calitzdorp





train sign edited +sm wm IMG_1265



Sadly this lovely historic train crossing sign
was stolen from its post in December / January 2016/17
Does anyone know where it is now?
Please bring it home.





Calitzdorp Terminus      33°32′21″S    21°41′8″E / 33.53917°S 21.68556°E

Bust day at the station Photo courtesy Calitzdorp Railway Station. Click to enlarge

Busy day at the station Photo courtesy Calitzdorp Railway Station. Click to enlarge