Thursday Doors – Outenique Transport Museum: A train called ‘Roos’

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The train known as ‘Roos’, was built by Emil Kessler of Esslingen, Germany, in 1893. She was assembled in East London and worked for the Cape Government Railways on the line between Cape Town and Johannesburg. It is believed that she was used on the Pretoria – Johannesburg line during 1894.

Between 1 January 1895 and 1899 when the Second Anglo Boer War broke out, Roos is believed to have worked the Pretoria – Delagoa Bay line.

On the 17th of August, 1970 the Pretoria – Delagoa Bay railway line, which had been so important to President Kruger and the Transvaalers in their struggle for independence against Britain, celebrated it’s 75th anniversary. The ‘Roos’ was used to haul a special train from Waterval Onder to Waterval Boven. She was temporarily renamed ‘President Kruger’ for this commemorative trip.

In my book A Ghost and His Gold, about the Second Anglo Boer War, President Kruger, affectionately know as Oom Paul, would have fled Pretoria before the fall of the city, in a train just like ‘Roos’ as depicted in this short extract:

May 1900
Oom [Uncle] Paul’s deep-set eyes were underscored by pouches of dark, bruised-looking flesh and new deep lines had etched themselves into the skin of his face.

“Pieter, I’m confiding in you as one of my most loyal and trusted citizens. The government has decided not to defend Pretoria against the Khakis. I’m preparing to leave the city shortly with several my advisors. We’ll establish a provisional capital in Machadodorp.”

“Why has this decision been made, Oom Paul? We have our four forts that were specifically built to defend the city. Why are they not going to be used?”

Oom Paul’s shoulders slumped, and his large frame seemed to crumple momentarily. Then he pulled himself upright and straightened his shoulders. “The government fears that the British will destroy all our beautiful buildings in a bombardment if we attempt to defend the city. For this
reason, we have decided to abandon the city, as was done with Bloemfontein. Johannesburg will not be defended for the same reason and is expected to fall imminently.”

Pieter thought it was a strange decision, but he smiled at the elderly president. “I understand, what do you need of me?”

“I want you to take this, Pieter,” Oom Paul said, pointing to the two heavy sacks on the floor. “The Boers in your area will need it to rehabilitate themselves after the war, whatever the outcome.”

Whatever the outcome. Those are not the words of a man confident of victory.

“Thank you, Oom Paul.”

Two days later, on the 29th of May, Oom Paul had left Pretoria, travelling by train to Machadodorp, which was on the line to Delagoa Bay in neighbouring Mozambique. When it became known a day later that the government had left the city, rumours started to spread among the Pretorians and to the Boers living on the surrounding farms.

One rumour was that the President had made a secret deal with Lord Roberts to hand the city over to him in exchange for a huge financial reward. Pieter had scoffed at that one. The second rumour did not seem to be as groundless.

It was said that the President had taken all the gold from the National Bank with him when he left. This rumour led Pieter to reflect on the sacks that Oom Paul had given to him and to wonder if the Kruger coins they contained had come from the National Bank. He thought that they did.

What’s happened to the rest of the gold? Oom Paul must have given some to other Burghers and not just too me. It’s worth a fortune.

69 thoughts on “Thursday Doors – Outenique Transport Museum: A train called ‘Roos’

    1. Hi Dave, thank you. I find it easier to use a fictional MC as you can bend them to your will and plot, rather than the other way around. I have an idea for a trilogy about the 1820 settles to South AFrica and the Anglo Zulu War, but its all about time, or rather a lack of it, for me.

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  1. I always enjoy your history. I saw a movie last week that actually started out with a scene of the Red Cross visiting a prisoner camp in Africa during the Boer War.

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      1. While the movie was fiction – the writer/director took bits of history and made them fit. Rather violent at times but it was the prequal movie (of a series) The King’s Man.

        “One man must race against time to stop history’s worst tyrants and criminal masterminds as they get together to plot a war that could wipe out millions of people and destroy humanity.”…

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  2. You’re spoiling me, Robbie with more train doors and more delightful history in the extract. Thanks for sharing all of this with Thursday Doors . I hope you’re having a nice weekend.

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    1. Hi Dan, this is the last of the trains but there were some other terrific vehicles with doors. It was a very good museum. I am going to Groot Marico in late Feb for my birthday and I will have some more great pictures for Thursday Doors. I have enough for a good part of this year now.

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      1. KL Caley talked about trains in her post I read this morning as well. Trains are so much more sociable than planes of cars. Randy and I had three meals a day when we went to Chicago and met so many different people. It’s almost like being on a cruise without quite as many places to go.

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  3. I love trains the Orient Express is on my to-do list…It was great that you could bring it all together with some history and an expert from your work… it’s lovely that happens 🙂 x

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    1. We have the Blue Train here in South Africa, Carol. It is a very luxurious [and expensive] trip through the South African countryside. The Orient Express also looks interesting and always makes me think of the book by Agatha Christie.

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      1. Yes the Orient Express does indeed do that… There is a train here run by someone who worked on the Orient Express for 25 yrs which is a trip from Bangkok to the River Kwai which I know hubby would love.. I am hoping we can go on that one it sounds amazing.. x

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