If you are looking for the largest transport museum in South Africa, look no further than the Outeniqua Transport Museum in George, Transnet’s homage to the history of transport in South Africa, and indeed, the history of Transnet itself. It is also just so happens to be precisely where I dragged my eager (camera-toting) dad, hapless mom and poor old Jessica to back in March last year.
Housed in what is essentially a huge hangar, the museum is home to a wide variety of South African transport history, with exhibits acknowledging the work of South African Airways and the Transnet National Ports Authority, but most important of all, the rich railway history of the country.
There are about 20 vintage locomotives standing around the grounds, with highlights including the diminutive Emil Kessler, Johannesburg’s first steam locomotive, the Braamfontein to Boksburg Rand tram, coach number 50 of the White Train (used by the British Royal family during their visit to SA in 1947), and Paul Kruger’s distinctive bright green coach and private saloons.
In addition to the trains, there is a collection of transport related paintings and photos on display, as well quite a few exhibits showing off the silverware, cutlery and crockery from various periods of the transport industry. Then there are the vintage fire engines, old ambulances, reconstructed train stations and ticket offices, and a nicely varied collection of privately owned vintage and classic cars, also all housed under the singular massive roof of the museum.
Plus, in the event that you get a little bored/peckish while visiting, there is also a little coffee shop/restaurant on site, its gimmick of course being that you chow down whilst seated in a train carriage. (We sadly didn’t take advantage of this on the day.)
Another particularly nice find: Housed in the almost twenty year old Ken Wheeler Model Room is the Outeniqua Railway Society’s massive Outeniqua model train layout, reportedly the largest such model train layout in the Southern Hemisphere.
Loads of local landmarks are lovingly recreated and these little trains motoring about were by far the most interesting thing of the day as far a “ever so slightly bored by now” Jessica was concerned!
In truth, the museum can probably do with a bit of an update and upgrade, but that said, I found it and its contents thoroughly fascinating, with the museum making for an excellent outing if you are looking to escape the weather or outside bustle for what could be a good couple of hours (if you enjoy the subject matter).
I liked it.
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Side Note: The awesome Outeniqua Power Van excursion departs from the museum – another highly recommended George tourist outing if you find yourself in the area!