KwaZulu Natal Tourist AttractionsPietermaritzburg Railway Station
Where? Railway Street, Pietermaritzburg, 3201, KwaZulu Natal
Travelling by rail has long been part of the South African history (as it has in the rest of the world). It was a major industry around which cities were developed, as well as an important means that allowed for the development and expansion of a country. When the gold rush hit this country, it became even more important to make transport all the more accessible – both for people and for produce.
The Pietermaritzburg Railway Station, situated in the capital city of KwaZulu-Natal, was constructed in the 19th century, and continues to service several of the major cities of this country. It is Pietermaritzburg’s main station and is a major stop for long-distance passenger rail services. It travels between Durban (KwaZulu-Natal), Cape Town (Western Cape) and Johannesburg (Gauteng). This station is serviced by the Shosholoza Meyl, which is part of the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa and transports around 4 million long-distance passengers around the country every year.
The station building demonstrates a classic Victorian look and feel, which is only exaggerated by the beautiful red bricks and somewhat ornate finishings. This is an at-grade structure, meaning that it is situated at an intersection.
But, the Pietermaritzburg Railway Station has more significance to both locals and international tourists than its aesthetic beauty and its convenient services. This was the station at which history was made; at which one man took a stand against racial inequality and began his life-long fight against discrimination. In 1893, Mahatma Ghandi sat in a “whites only” compartment on the train, which was a first class part of the vehicle.
Despite instructions to leave, he remained defiant, bravely demanding the same rights to sit here as the white folk, despite the inner turmoil and terror that he felt. In this moment, he made the decision not to return to India and blindly forget the inequalities that he had witnessed and experienced first-hand during his time in South Africa. Rather, he elected to stay here and become an active advocate of non-violent opposition to racism. In the poignant words of the late former president, Nelson Mandela, "When Gandhi was evicted from the train, an Indian visiting South Africa fell; but when Gandhi rose, an Indian South African rose".
The Pietermaritzburg Railway Station is situated in the south-western corner of the city centre. This means that it is accessible and easy to find. This city is optimally situated to provide access to and between both Durban and Johannesburg, which puts it in the centre of so many of South Africa’s best known and loved tourist attractions. But, the town itself has plenty to offer. These include Butterflies for Africa, Scottsville Racecourse and Golden Horse Casino, the National Botanical Gardens, and the Msunduzi Museum Complex. Johannesburg and the OR Tambo International Airport are about five hours’ drive away, while Durban and the King Shaka International Airport are only about an hour away.