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1 Rooted in Time: Templeman Station. Knysna's Coffee Pot Railway


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Signboard on the 'Rooted in Time' self-drive tour of the Knysna forests in the Garden Route National Park.

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1 Rooted in Time: Templeman Station. Knysna's Coffee Pot Railway

  1. 1. Of course The Coffee Pot’s main function was to transport timber (mostly yellowwood) from Diepwalle to Knysna, but the 31 km (22 mile) route was so picturesque that the train became a popular attraction for tourists and locals alike. If the weather was good, the passengers would sit on benches and chairs set up on an open carriage. The route ran from Knysna to Thesen’s Shop and Sawmill at Brackenhil; then to Parkes Station at Veldman’s Pad (where Mrs. Perks, the ‘Forest Fairy,’ ran a little trading store), and finally to J.H. Templeman’s sawmill at Templeman Station, Diepwalle. The Coffee Pot transported about 28,000 tons of timber a year, and its rolling stock covered about 349,400 miles in total – all without a single serious accident. THECOFFEPOTROUTE A local explains how one could find their way when the line was still operational: “To such as I, this line is the lifeline to civilization, for should I stray but a short distance down any of the paths into the forest I would only have those gleaming metals to promise that I would ever find my way back to safety. One needs the instinct of a woodcutter and his knowledge of the sun and the stars to find a way through the maze-like growths of the forest.” Anonymous A LIFELINE THROUGH THE FOREST “The quickest way to get lost (in the forest) is to think you can’t get lost.” Words of the old people of the forest, in Dalene Matthee’s book, Dream Forest
  2. 2. Tom Kennet was the driver of the The South Western Railway Co. Ltd.’s Coffee Pot from the time that the line was opened in 1907. He was a cheerful man, and probably the only engine driver in the world who carried an axe to cut up trees pushed onto the line by elephants. He was always ready to stop the train and wait while his passengers picked flowers on the wayside, and he liked to point out particularly beautiful sites and vistas with a toot on the whistle. The journey from Knysna to Diepwalle was always a leisurely one: the train travelled at a maximum of about 9km per hour (6m/h). You didn’t have to wait at the station to climb aboard. The train’s pace was so leisurely Mr. Kennet would halt at unscheduled places too. Once when he stopped to offer a heavily-burdened washerwomen a lift, she answered, “No thank you. I’m in a hurry today!” driver of AND PASSENGERS Leighton Julyan remembered it this way: “The daily schedule for each weekday was for the train to depart from Knysna at 08:30am and to branch off from The Siding to Brackenhill where it would arrive at about 11:00 am and leave ten minutes later for The Siding from where it would arrive at Deep Walls at about 1.00 pm. At Deep Walls the locomotive would be turned around on the three-point switch and would then return with a diversion to Brackenhill, arriving in Knysna at about 5.00pm. Mr. Kennet, the driver of the train, was a familiar sight at about 5.30pm in stained overalls and a very greasy cap, carrying his lunch tin, walking up to his house near the upper end of Queen Street.”