The old Park Halt station, was built in the Netherlands in 1895 and was shipped to South Africa to become Joburg’s first station, until 1952. It now stands parked, preserved and pickled on a surprisingly well-designed concrete platform between the landmark Nelson Mandela Bridge (left) and Newtown and the city centre (right). The columns have the wording ‘Pletterij Den Haag’, which is the name of the foundry in The Hague that made cast iron gas lamps, bridges and stations for the whole Dutch empire – as well as this station and iron post boxes for the good old Zuid Afrikaansche Republiek. The structure was erected here in 1995 for a railway museum which was never finished.
I visited the old station at the end of the World Wide Photowalk though Newtown (here’s the group photo); the Transnet railway company who owns it sent a chap over to unlock the gates and to allow us onto the platform. The electric fencing around it has long rusted, but the vagrants living on the fields by the railway tracks don’t seem interested in camping out here anyway. It’s actually a miracle that the structure’s elegant rooftop twirls have not been ripped off to be sold as scrap metal.
The station and the surrounding area is just perfect for something grand; perhaps that railway museum, or perhaps otherwise a nice botanical garden with a park in front of it, using the station as a tropical greenhouse with a restaurant inside it like this one perhaps?