The Selati line was an expensive project in terms of human life and money. Intended to link the goldfields of the north-eastern Transvaal with the railway line from Komatipoort to Delagoa Bay, the construction witnessed so many tragedies that each sleeper on the line was said to represent one human life.
The Selati line goldfields had petered out and it became evident that the railway promoters never intended the line to reach the area. They simply set out to sell shares and make money. When the scandal was exposed in 1895 it was found that more than 40km of unnecessary bends and loops had been added to the line. Baron Oppenheim and his brother ended up in jail and the 120km length of line already built was left to rust.
The line was laid only as far as Sabie Bridge (Skukuza), a mere 80km from Komatipoort. During this period, thousands of labourers were employed, truckloads of liquor were consumed and tens of thousands of animals were shot. The line was abandoned for 15 years – used only by James Stevenson-Hamilton and his rangers who had a handpump-powered trolley which they used to get supplies from Komatipoort.
When Kruger was opened to the public in the mid-1920’s the line was used for tourist traffic. However, park authorities decided that the railway line was at odds with nature conservation and decided to close it down. In 1972 the line was used for the last time and was then lifted.