Klipplaat, Karoo Heartland

Not many towns in drought-stricken parts of the Eastern Cape can boast that the Queen once came to tea. Alright then, she did not have tea, but she did stop off in Klipplaat as part of the Royal Family's grand railroad tour of South Africa in 1947.

Back then Klipplaat was a major railway junction with steam engines coming and going in a bid to transport local mohair and wool from the farms around Jansenville to Port Elizabeth and Graaff-Reinet. There was also a link to Oudtshoorn via Willowmore.

Then railway transport fell out of vogue, and even the passenger service to Klipplaat disappeared. The station fell into sad disrepair. All Klipplaat had left to lure visitors was a rusty locomotive, and an incredibly well-preserved police station and magistrates' court, both in Victorian buildings built in the early 1900s.

As a visitor you could also visit the Anglican, NG and Wesleyan Methodist churches, although the first is a little in need of tender loving care. And it is interesting to note that the Mohair Empowerment Trust's training centre, which promotes and trains BEE candidates to farm with Angora goats, is in Klipplaat.

Other than travellers stopping briefly to enjoy the landscape and have their photograph taken infront of the old steam engine, Klipplaat held little for tourists.

But all of that seems set to change. The Klipplaat-Rosmead railway line is in the process of being reinstated, and will officially open later in 2015! While only maintenance trains use the line at the moment, the opening up of the railway junction will breathe new life into this little town.

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