A legacy project of Enterprises University of Pretoria (Enterprises UP) has recently culminated in the publishing of a richly-illustrated research report – NZASM Footsteps Along the Tracks: The Identified Extant Built Residue of the Nederlandsche Zuid-Afrikaansche Spoorweg-Maatschappij (1887–1902) – in July 2017 celebrating the architectural history and heritage of South Africa.
The project follows on the Eclectic ZA Wilhelmiens research project of the Department of Architecture at the University of Pretoria (UP) that was conducted between 2011 and 2014 and co-funded by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Pretoria through their Shared Cultural Heritage Programme. The project entailed the appraisal of buildings constructed by Dutch architects and engineers who were active in southern Africa towards the end of the 19th century.
As a part of the project, an initial survey was undertaken of the residue of buildings and infrastructure that still remains from that period. This included the buildings of the Netherlands South African Railway Company (NZASM), which was active in the former South African Republic (ZAR) until the Second Anglo Boer War brought an end to their concessions.
During the 2011–2014 project, a vast number of new, previously unknown structures were discovered. In towns such as Volksrust, Standerton and Vereeniging, entire staff compounds still exist – many of which are in the ownership of Transnet – and still used as housing. In most instances, this built heritage is well used, but also at risk of dereliction due to a lack of awareness of its significance.
The Footsteps Along the Tracks project was implemented to address its importance and was also partly funded by the Embassy’s heritage programme. Undertaken by Nicholas Clarke and Roger Fisher, with the research assistance of Simphiwe Simelane, the project was to only launched to document the built structures, but also have a wider application in providing the requisite information for assisting future planning of this shared heritage.
The Footsteps Along the Tracks project presents heritage value and legal status in a publically accessible manner. This assists property owners, local and regional government, as well as statutory bodies such as provincial and national heritage authorities, to conform with the statutory requirements that pertaining to these sites in order to help inform future planning.
The NZASM Footsteps Along the Tracks report can be downloaded here.