25 May 2009

Heidelberg Station Museum (formerly Heidelberg Transport Museum)


(after being closed for 6 years since end-2003)

Please support the new project, launched by the community of Heidelberg.

"After a very long and lengthy battle, as a Committee member, and on behalf of the Community Unity Effort Association, and through our Chairperson, Mr Kobus Brits, we are reopening the Heidelberg station."

"The Community Unity Effort Association - a non profit organisation, in conjunction with the heritage foundation, will be opening the station on the 28th November 2009. [changed to 26 March 2010 - see below] It is planned as a community day. We will also be working towards fully restoring the buildings, rolling stock and restocking the station museum . It will take time, but we are very confident about bringing the Grand Lady back to her former glory."

"We shall keep you posted of progress."

Best regards

Stafford Currin


2 February 2010:
Just to update you regarding the Heidelberg Transport Museum. We (CUE) now have the go ahead to undertake various events, exhibitions etc at the Heidelberg Station (Former transport museum). Commencing with the launch on the 26th March 2010 We are also planning on holding our Heidelberg Visual Arts exhibitions “Kuns op die perron/Art on the platform” every fourth Saturday. Due to the sad neglect of the buildings we are also starting a Restoration Project Fund called the “Friends of the former Heidelberg Transport Museum” in order that we can start to bring the grand old lady back to her proud self again. Should your members or those on your website be interested in also donating any historical, or railway memorabilia (not much is left) we would be grateful to hear from them.

Best regards

Stafford Currin


NOTE: The current (as on 24 March 2011) chairman for the museum committee is Kobus Britz whom for enquiries may be contacted on cell number 0834608420.


Closed 31 December 2003.

Unless indicated otherwise, all photos below are kind courtesy of Errol Swanepoel, and were taken on 24 December 2002.

This museum was known under various names - the full name was the "Heidelberg Transport Museum" consisting of two sub-museums: The "Old Station Transport Museum" which was housed in the sandstone buildings, and the "Heidelberg Motor Museum" which was housed in the old railway goods shed - all visible in the picture below.

date & photographer unknown. This picture would date from the period before the locomotive and coaches were put under roof cover (see some of the pictures below for the roof)

The Heidelberg Motor Museum was housed in the goods sheds of the railway station, and had a fascinating collection of early bicycles (including penny farthings), motorcycles, veteran cars, racing cars.

Built in Dutch-Flemish Renaissance style, the old railway station building dates back to 1895.

Heidelberg developed as a typical rural Victorian town and many of the buildings dating back to the period between 1890 and 1910 have been preserved.

The original railway station, a fine period piece built of sandstone, was opened in 1895 when the railway line to Natal was completed, with a final ceremony of linking the tracks at Heidelberg.

In 1961 a new station was built and the old station fell into disuse. Fortunately it was not demolished but partially restored by the Simon van der Stel Foundation with the intention of converting it into a cultural history museum.

In 1974 the Rembrandt Tobacco Corporation rented the building and grounds from the municipality, fully restoring the station and establishing a transport museum which opened in 1975.

a Class 16CR steam locomotive, with a number of railway coaches, were also on display.

This locomotive is SAR Class 16CR No. 816.
built in 1919 by the North British Locomotive Co.

An old newspaper photo shows the railway rolling stock before covered under a roof.

From the Past - a Sister Locomotive when still in steam:

Photo: Leith Paxton - Class 16CR No. 825 [NBL 22719/1921] 63" Driving wheels at Greyville Loco Depot (Durban) 7 September 1966.

Originally a SAR Class 16C engine before it was reboilered to become Class 16CR, No 816 was built in a batch of 30 Class 16 locomotives between 1919 and 1921 by the North British Locomotive Co. They were very successful engines and worked extensively on the Reef, pulling all the crack trains of their day.

After express work the 16CR's were relegated to less glamourous duties until, by the 1940's, they were doing suburban and transfer work.

The last regular duty of these engines on the Reef was the Springs-Nigel suburban abd double heading Class 15AR on the Pietersburg trains out of Pretoria. They were withdrawn from shunting and pick-up work in 1975.

A magnificent collection of transport vehicles including veteran cycles, motor cycles and motor cars were displayed.

Very sadly, the museum was closed on 31 December 2003.

See the press release below for the reasons behind this decision.

Said Johan Rupert, son of the late Anton Rupert of the Heidelberg Motor Museum: "There's no way we could keep that facility going," Johan explained. "It was a government institution we were involved in and even with all tobacco advertising removed they could not be seen to be supporting an initiative related to a tobacco company."

"So they closed Heidelberg down and we (the Ruperts) eventually bought all the cars and established the Franschhoek Motor Museum as a privately owned business"

At the moment I do not known what the status and future plans are for the locomotive and railway coaches at the closed museum.


Press Release - Museum Closure
26 November 2003


British American Tobacco South Africa has announced its decision to close the Heidelberg Motor Museum on 31 December 2003. However, the collection will be kept intact and maintained for a further period of three months to allow the Lesedi (Heidelberg) Local Municipality and other stakeholders to source an alternative sponsor.

According to communications manager, Fay Kajee, the decision is regrettable but was taken to comply with the company’s International Marketing Standards and its Corporate Social Investment (CSI) strategy. “Due to the nature of our product, our policy is not to engage in any initiatives that directly involve children under the age of 18. Since the majority of visitors to the Museum are school children, we feel we cannot justify our continued involvement.”

Housed in the old Heidelberg railway station, the collection comprises mainly classic, vintage, sports and racing cars, as well as bicycles and motorcycles. The collection is valued at more than R7 million and British American Tobacco South Africa annually pumps an additional R2 million into the operational costs. “The intention is to redeploy the funds to other projects that will more directly benefit poverty alleviation and community development in the area.” said Kajee.

The decision to terminate its interest in the Museum was taken after consultation with the staff and other stakeholders and British American Tobacco South Africa is hoping that an alternative sponsor can be found so that the collection can be kept intact and in Heidelberg.

The Heidelberg Motor Museum was started in 1975 by Dr Anton Rupert shortly after the Rembrandt Group built a cigarette factory in Heidelberg. British American Tobacco South Africa acquired the Museum in 1999 as a result of the merger with Rothmans International, partly owned by Rembrandt.

There are no plans to dispose of the assets at present.

****** END OF PRESS RELEASE ******


  1. I find the museum extremely wonderful. I'm happy to hear that it will soon be open for visitors. Six years is such a long period to make a museum sleep. As like to a trains engine where its parts namely Spence valves, Spirax sarco and the like should be put into maintenance. I do hope that the opening of the museum will not take as long as the years we have waited for it. I would like to see it and again and be surprised the next time I visit.

  2. My father passed away in 1995 and left his Ariel Square Four to the Heidelberg Traffic Museum. It was renovated and I saw in on display about a year later. Unfortunately my father's name plate was not put up with the motorbike. I would like to take my children to see their grandfather's motorbike and I really hope that, after the museum has been closed for so long and all that, that my father's name plate has in the meantime been put up with the bike.
    Sandra Le Roux (Sijbesma)

    1. I know this is 10 years later but many years ago I was a Friend of the Museum in Heidelberg and one of the " motorcycle maintenance gang". One evening I got the 4 square running after it had sat on display for many years, I took it out out on a saturday Maandrit and rode it for about 25 Km and it went well. I am happy to say it is one of the 2 bikes on display where the museum is now housed at l'Ormarain wine estate in Franshoek. Wayne Harley is the curator there and was transferred from the same position at the Heidelberg Museum.I would love to hear from you.

  3. I visited the museum in January 2012 and was met by one of the curators who showed me around. He explained that they do open the museum for people who would like to see it, but it is advisable to phone first to confirm. It is however, not open during weekends. The coashes are still very intact, although very dusty. Take a torch along because the lighting in the undercover coaches is bad. There are still plans for the museum, but a lack of funds is a major problem.

  4. I am ecstatic to hear that this museum re-opened. As a child I paid many visits to this museum. Steam locomotives are a passion shared by both me and my father. I guess he'll be just as surprised to hear it bounced back. Being a collector of antiques, I can just imagine the photo's (if permitted) I can take.

  5. Has the Heidelberg Motor museum open? I would like to take my son as he loves trains?

  6. Unfortunately not that I know of, as far as I know the initiative te reopen was unsuccessful, the motor museum proper is now located on a farm near Franschhoek in the Cape.

  7. Plans are currently under way to convert the museum into a historical museum and tourist attraction. Restoration of the buildings and coaches are already under way (see front page of the Heidelberg/Nigel Heraut of 15 June 2016)

  8. Hi. we are photographers and we went to the museum on Sunday to find that it has been closed for years. We would really love to take pictures at the museum. who can we contact to ask permission? regards

  9. The old Station will be opening first week in Dec 2018. Restaurant, Curio Shop, Weddings and Functions, Brewery and much more....

  10. We are so thrilled as this was the only place my children and I visited during their groingup years.now we have grandkids and guess where they will be going! Just wish the could ride in a real train memories made forever

    1. If you want a real train and steam hauled, there is one in Cape Town. I know it is a bit far but well worth it. Ceres Rail runs it and the train runs from near the Waterfront to Elgin (over Sir Lowry's Pass). All the coaches have wooden interiors with four being the compartment type coaches and they even have a dining car. Having travelled extensively in SA when steam still ruled, this train brought back memories. And what with the two engines working full out to pull the train over the mountain pass, nothing beats it. Sadly the train is not running now due to Covid but this will pass. I cannot wait to do it again.

    2. There has been a steam train trip running for many years in Kloof, Kwa Zulu Natal , enthusiasts have renovated some engines and carriages back to standard and the trip is well worth it.

  11. We went to the restaurant at the Heidelberg Heritage Museum last night for dinner. What an amazing experience! The renovations and restoration work to bring everything back to their former glory is a beautiful sight. The food is really good and very reasonably priced. The atmosphere is tranquil and relaxing. I didn't go into the museum itself. I really hope that as Heidelbergers we continue to support the amazing initiative and keep it thriving into the future.
    I understand the steam train will be running once a month from Jo'burg Park station to the stationstation on specific dates. Well done, awesome experience. The kids even have a plat park that is safe and my two girls had a ball!!

    1. The steam train from Park Station has been discontinued as far as I know.

  12. I think the museum people want to start getting a few more vintage cars for display again , the german restaurant is a great place for meal with authentic german sausages available and craft beer brewed on the premises.