Mrs Weiske’s memories of the coastal towns during an interview in 1966

Paying a short visit to Walvis Bay this week before leaving for Germany was Mrs Gertrud Weiske, whose husband was Director of Railways in South West Africa under the German Administration from 1906 to 1919. Mrs Weiske had been living in Windhoek but now at the age of 80 intends settling in Germany. Namib Times interviewed her in 1966, and this is the article that followed:

“Mrs Weiske said that she arrived in Swakopmund from Germany in September 1906. At the time Swakopmund was full of German troops on account of the Herero Wars, which were being waged up-country. For two weeks she stayed at the lighthouse there.
Her husband was responsible for building the original railway line from Swakopmund through to Usakos and Karirib on to Windhoek and down through Mariental and Keetmanshoop to Lüderitz. So pleased were the German Government with the work he did that they gave him a bonus of 15 000 mark in gold.
The trains of those days were anything but comfortable, Mrs Weiske recalls. Drawn by small locomotives, one of which is mounted outside the Windhoek Railway Station today, the train journey from Swakopmund to Windhoek took nearly three days. The journey on to Lüderitz then took another four to five days. At the time war was being waged against the Herero’s and Mrs Weiske remembers how the Herero warriors used to shoot at the trains when they passed, especially around Okahandja.
Recalling Walvis Bay and Swakopmund in those days, she said that they were really only villages.
Walvis Bay comprised of only a few houses while Swakopmund was a bit bigger. The streets and pavements of Swakopmund were just soft sand. She also recalls the epidemics, some of which in those days were the main cause of death among children.
Mrs Weiske is not forgotten by the South African Railways who in 1919 took over the railway system of the territory from the German Government.
Every year she receives a free pass to travel by train in South West Africa”.

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