Historical discovery

Train that washed away in 1940 slowly emerges from its sandy time capsule

Sharlien Tjambari

Soil erosion is exposing an entire train which washed away at Usakos in 1940. The train has been buried for nearly six decades now near a modern railway bridge and two people who were children at the time at Usakos had a fascinating story to tell to Namib Times this week over this vintage train which is slowly but surely emerging from its sandy time capsule.

Mr. Pieter Gouws and Mrs. Magriet Gouws who were kids during the time the train was washed away. Mrs. Gouws remembers the story her father told her about a train that washed away at the area where the train was discovered after so many years.
According to Mr. Gouws, he already discovered a part of this train back in 1980. He was attending school in Usakos and his family had a smallholding close to the bridge. Through the years his curiosity grew on the subject. He always wanted to know how the train ended up where it was, buried under the sand at the railway bridge.
Mrs. Gouws said her father, who used to work for the Railways back then, told her that the train was transporting a certain sister Ivalda other nuns from the missionary at Usakos to Swakopmund. “When it left the station, the train was on a downhill trajectory between the station and the river. On that fateful night in 1940 it was raining

On that fateful night in 1940 it was raining hard and the river was flowing. The railway line was established on a man-made embankment and the conductor, a certain Lucky Steenkamp, realised disaster was fast approaching if the train reached the railway line where the river already flooded the embankment.
Steenkamp attempted in vain to engage the train’s emergency brakes and soon it was also clear the railway line had already partly washed away, ex-plained Gouws.
The train derailed and one by one the locomotive and the carriages tipped over and fell into the water. The occupants of the train managed to escape before the train was complete into the water and it started to wash away in the strong current.
“I am not sure if this train that washed away and the one discovered by my husband are the same train. You can clearly see as a result of soil erosion the train is revealing itself. Albeit the largest part of the train remains buried in its sandy time capsule.
Could this be the train which derailed in 1940? Was there another loco-motive that derailed in those early years? The Gouws family says they reside at Usakos for the biggest of their lives and cannot recall another incident.
According to the Chief Executive Officer of Usakos Town Council Mr Ivan Lombard (on picture with the Gouws’), Trans Namib Holdings will at some point go and excavate the locomotive and other remnants, in order to pin-point its origins.
“We are excited about this. We can transform this into another visitor’s at-traction for our town. A Museum is soon to open at Usakos where the current town council offices are situated. A discovery like this will be a huge feather in our town’s tourism hat”, he explained.

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