The First Railroad
Prior to the Great Trek of the 1830's, the area on which Kempton Park
now stands was known only to hunters and nomad cattle farmers. The first
seeds of the Kempton Park story were planted when, on 25 October 1859,
the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek (Z.A.R.) issued a title deed for part of
the farm Zuurfontein on which Kempton Park would develop many years
The discovery of gold in 1886 some 50 kilometers west of Zuurfontein
stimulated, amongst others, the building of a railway line, which would
serve as a link between the Transvaal gold fields and the east coast. On
25 June 1890, the Z.A.R. government granted a concession for the
building of a railway line from Pretoria, bypassing Johannesburg on the
east and directed to the Vaal River by the shortest route. The main line
cut directly through the farm Zuurfontein, thus forging another link in
the destiny of the yet unborn township of Kempton Park.
One of the stations established was at Zuurfontein. Zuurfontein station
soon became a gathering place for resident farmers in the area where
they collected their supplies.
The Dynamite Factory
The next major development determining the future of Kempton Park was
the building of the dynamite factory at Modderfontein.
In conjunction with the largest dynamite manufacturer in Europe, the
German-owned Nobel Trust, a new company was formed in 1894, the
Zuid-Afrikaansche Fabrieken voor Ontplofbare Stoffen Beperkt. In
1895 building of an explosives factory at
A contingent of specialists came from Europe for the task of erecting
the world's largest dynamite factory. They left their home in Hamburg,
Germany early in 1895. They made the long sea voyage to Cape Town, on to
Durban and by ox wagon to Pretoria.
From Pretoria they traveled by train to the little siding of Zuurfontein.
This was the end of their journey. Near this siding lay the site of the
great dynamite factory they came to build.
On the platform, in the uniform
of the Netherlands Railway Co. stood the stationmaster of Zuurfontein.
He pointed to a wagon track that disappeared into the veld. The men who
set out to walk to Modderfontein were employees of the Nobel Dynamite
Trust, the advanced guard of skilled workers who were yet to follow. The
Trust at that time operated explosive factories throughout the world. It
had acquired a controlling interest in the new company, the Zuid
Afrikaansche Fabrieken voor Ontplofbare Stoffen Beperkt.
Modderfontein Factory was laid out on 2400 hectares of virgin
Highveld teeming with game and wildlife, and devoid of industry, raw
materials and skilled workers. Construction started in April 1895 under
the supervision of the first Factory Manager Franz Hoenig, an Austrian
seconded from the Nobel explosives factory at Pressburg in Hungary. He
was faced with many problems in setting up a great factory on a bare bit
of veld, but the main one was people. As
the construction of the factory neared completion, a call went out to
Nobel factories throughout Europe for people to come and work at
came from Ardeer, Italians from the great works at Avigliana and Germans
from the Baltic coast as well as Austrians.
Maintenance teams from Holland and England joined the workforce.
At one stage representatives of no fewer than 17 European nationalities
were on the payroll. Black employees were recruited from the four
corners of the sub-continent.
The Zuid Afriaansche Fabrieken
voor Ontplofbare Stoffen Beperkt was a company formed expressly
to supply dynamite to the mines. It was the brainchild of Paul Kruger,
President of the South African Republic. So it was that on 22 October
1896, President Paul Kruger traveled from Pretoria to the farm
Modderfontein to open the new factory.
The first workers walked the 10 kilometers from Zuurfontein station to
Modderfontein. It soon became clear that a railway link to Modderfontein
was essential. The new railway line
from Zuurfontein to Modderfontein was constructed in 1890 to transport
workers and building materials to the
factory site. In establishing this link, a
triangular piece of land was isolated. Carl
Fredrich Wolff, who was the negotiator
between the government and the explosives
factory, bought the land and had it
subdivided. He named it Kempton Park
Estates, after the town in Germany, called
Kempten, where he came from.
On the 25th August 1903 the then Surveyor-General, H.M. Jackson,
approved plans for the establishment of a new township "the said
property to be known as Kempton Park" and the township officially
came into existence.