Known as the railway that saved the Kruger National Park, the Selati line is one of the most expensive railways ever built connecting Komatipoort with Tzaneen during the gold rush heydays. The construction of the line started in 1892 and was only completed in 1912.
In 1923, the South African Railways took over and introduced a “Round in Nine” train tour through the Lowveld, with a stopover at Sabie Bridge, today called Skukuza. The tour soon became very popular for its game viewing, and Kruger was established as a national park in 1926.
Trains still ran through the park up until 1973 after which most of the tracks were removed, leaving the bridge as is and part of the Skukuza scenery.
The old South African Railway Class 24 steam locomotive number 3638 that sits at Skukuza has been stranded there for a while, with only one carriage in tow. This specific carriage has had a fascinating journey. After serving as a suburban coach from 1942, it was converted into a funeral coach and in 1950, it transported the last remains of General J. C. Smuts from Irene near Pretoria to Johannesburg for cremation. In 1967, the coach was repaired, outshopped and became the State Funeral Coach where during its service, it transported the last remains of the Hon. J. G. Strydom. It was eventually donated to the National Parks Board (SANParks), and from 1984-2014 it housed a restaurant. Originally the lounge was paired with a kitchen and dining carriage, but sadly these burnt down in 1996. What was once a beautifully-preserved train and purpose-built station has been off limits to visitors for a while until now. Thanks to the new Kruger Station – a unique lifestyle precinct that captures an important part of the park’s history, it will reopen for all visitors to the Kruger in 2020.