Trains of the Anglo-Boer War

Images of the rolling stock that was used during the time of the war

Unidentified Boer War locomotive

NZASM Locomotive, Boer War time period

Panzer Train

When Boer attacks on trains became too much, some engines and trucks were clad in armour plate, which provided effective protection against rifle fire.

Rail Panzer

When the blockhouse line system was introduced, it became necessary to be able to respond to Boer attacks on blockhouse lines with considerable speed. Accordingly, artillery guns were mounted on railway trucks, and protected by armour plate. This effectively turned the trucks into something relatively new in military history - rail panzers. The trains were able to respond fairly quickly if message was received that a blockhouse was under attack. With the aid of powerful searchlights the trains could rush to the scene of attack quickly, and return fire with deadly effect. The Boers went to a lot of trouble to try and avoid these rail panzers. There was, however, always the possibility that the track could be mined, which could have knocked out the rescue operation.

Locomotive on display at the Museum of the Boer Republics in Bloemfontein

Class 7-Steam locomotive no. 975 (originally 344) built by Neilson & Co. Glasgow, Scotland for the Cape Government Railways in 1893. During the Anglo-Boer War the engine was used for the transportation of British Forces and supplies. Restored and donated by SA Transport Services.

Interior of Locomotive on display at the Museum of the Boer Republics in Bloemfontein


Trucks on display at the Museum of the Boer Republics in Bloemfontein

Coal tender type ZC no. 489. Mass 24 tons 34 400kg. Capacity 5.5 tons (4 989 kg) coal and 2 600 gal (11 817 l) water. Trucks nos 7652 (type C-1) 1501 (type B-18). Respectively put into service in 1890 and 1920. Restored and donated by SA Transport Services.

Locomotive and coal tender on display at the Military Museum in Bloemfontein

Interior of the private coach of president Paul Kruger. The coach is on display at the Kruger House Museum in Pretoria.

Is this a Boer War-era locomotive? Picture taken at the old Johannesburg station, circa 1984/5.

One can almost imagine a Boer commando attacking what seems to be a regular covered freight waggon, only to find the sides lifted and a shout of: "Surprize!" This "armoured" train picture is provided by André van Rensburg, Australia.

Note: If you can add any detail or would like to submit more pictures for a more expanded train collection, please write to [email protected] 


Acknowledgement: Black and white photos reproduced, courtesy of the National Archives in Pretoria, South Africa
Colour photographs: H. Labuschagne