Remnants of ancient railway resurface on beach in the Swakop rivermouth

For the past few weeks Swakopmund residents can only guess about the remnants of an old railway line on the beach at the Swakop river mouth, in the vicinity of the old concrete pillars. The tracks as well as some wooden sleepers surface during low tide and is a source of big curiosity, especially among railway enthusiasts and those interested in the town’s rich history.
The railway track is believed to be dating from 1915, constructed by the invading Union of South African forces that annexed German South West Africa in that year as part of its colonial commitment to Britain in the First World War.
Another possibility is these tracks are remnants of the 1928 railway line of which the bridge pillars are still visible today. This seems highly unlikely, says those consulted over this very rare occurrence.
Readers of namib times recently notified the newspaper about the historic railway line, which unexpectedly reappeared on the beach after they were lost to the sea for many decades. The old rusted tracks of the broad gauge railway are spread over a distance of about 30 meters on the beach.
But we are interested now to get to the bottom of where this railway track originated.
According to various documents of historic value collected by the Swakopmund Scientific Society, the first railway line connecting Walvis Bay and Swakopmund was completed early in 1915. The railway line was constructed between the dunes and the beach (not behind the dunes) and featured a bridge over the Swakop River mouth.
The occupying Union force landed in Walvis Bay on Christmas Day 1914. After occupying the town the forces commenced with the construction of a railway line to Swakopmund running along the beachfront. The main use for the line was to optimise the flow of war logistics of the Union forces to occupy Swakop-mund.
The first train reached Swakopmund on 11 February 1915, the same day the Union troops took Swakopmund and General Louis Botha assumed command of a northern force that were to push the German troops inland into a pincer movement with union forces that landed at Lüderitz and crossed the Orange River respectively and now pushing the Germans northwards.
But this railway line’s success was short-lived, as the Swakop River came down in full flood only four days later and washed away 244 meters of the newly completed railway line. The efficiency of the repair work was astonishing as the line was repaired and reopened again only two days later.
In the years following thereafter the railway line running along the river’s mouth was plagued numerous times by the flooding river. Damages to the railway line were reported in 1917 and 1920. Serious damages were experienced again in 1925, when the train service was interrupted for extended periods. Due to these constant damages the temporary bridge over the river was replaced with a steel railway bridge in 1928. This bridge collapsed during the great flood in 1931. The concrete pillars of this former bridge have become a landmark in the river mouth.
After the heavy flood of 1931 the railway line was relocated to a point five kilometres upstream. While this bridge was still being constructed the river came down in full flood again in 1934, hindering the construction work. The railway line was diverted and is running behind the dunes ever since.
Due to the current location of the old railway track on the beach, which has resurfaced recently, it is unlikely that this one stems from the bridge constructed in 1928. The tracks are therefore most likely remnants of the old railway line, which were washed away between 1915 and 1925.

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