Thursday, August 28, 2014

Save our Station

Grahamstown has an historic railway station, built over 140 years ago.

Train service to the town stopped a while back but the building was in use as recently as 2011, but is now in an advanced state of stripping by vandals.

The station in 2013. It is worse now.
Grahamstown Residents’ Association (GRA) has launched a campaign to save the station, starting with a petition targeting the owners, Transnet, who have an obligation in law to maintain a heritage building, as well as all levels of government.

Update: you can find GRA on Facebook. Please visit and like.

In the long term, ideally, we should get train service back. In he meantime, the building could be a great community resource. If  Transnet doesn’t want it, it could be transferred to a community organization to renovate, secure and maintain. In a town with so much unemployment, allowing a valuable resource like this go to ruin is a terrible waste – and we want out trains back.

Please support this campaign by sharing on Facebook, twitter, mailing lists – and any other way you can spread the word.

How to sign on paper (no longer; the petition is closed)

Here are places where you can sign a paper petition form in Grahamstown:
  • Birch’s
  • Cory Library, Rhodes University
  • Earth’s Produce
  • Fort England Hospital
  • Friar Tuck
  • Fusion Speciality Food Shop
  • Kisma
  • Lungi and Ingram’s Farm Stall
  • Makana Tourism
  • PG Glass
  • Pam Golding Properties
  • Provost Coffee Shop, Rhodes University
  • Relish coffee shop
  • Richard’s Car Wash
  • Sally Scott Art Classes
And some places that had a forms, now submitted:
  • The Cover Up
  • Sunnyside Nursery/Tea Garden
If you can’t get to any of these, you can instead fill in the electronic version of the petition. Real signatures probably count for more, but all signatures add up.

The petition closes 12 September 2014, so please do not delay, and spread this around  to your contacts.

I also encourage you if you live in Grahamstown to join GRA. At R10 per year, it is affordable and we need weight of numbers for campaigns like this – especially as the town has been placed under administration. Click here for a form.

Here is a panel discussion on abandoned buildings, hosted by Rhodes journalism students, published by Grocott’s. The station figures prominently.

As of 19:00 5 September, we have about 1500 signatures from all around the country as well as from around the world. Countries include UK, Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand, Botswana, Thailand, Japan, Egypt, Brazil, UAE, USA, Spain and Zimbabwe.

As of 3 October, with  most signatures in (note that the online form is no longer available but you can add comments at the bottom of this page) we have 3334 signatures).

Some comments from the on-line petition
  • As a former resident of Grahamstown and DSG Old Girl, I strongly suggest that you alert the Rhodes University alumni office and all similar networks for past pupils of the local independent schools to this petition, as I am sure that there are thousands of former users of this iconic building who would love to see it preserved for posterity.
  • As a heritage site and an important part of South Africa's history, neglect by the owners which has led to vandalism, and in turn a security risk to near-by residents etc. is unacceptable. One would hope that the owners would act in a more responsible fashion rather than showing complete disregard for the community  situated in close proximity to the site.
  • As a Rhodes history graduate I am horrified that the station is being degraded in this way. TRANSNET, MAKANA MUNICIPALITY, EASTERN CAPE PROVINCIAL LEGISLATURE, SAHRA, and the NATIONAL LEGISLATURE must act now before this piece of our heritage is beyond restoration. How many people living both in Grahamstown  and all over the world first arrived in this historic town by rail?
  • Be remembered for more than a fossil record of trash!
  • Directors of Transnet to take responsibility in terms of their positions!
  • Do not destroy our heritage
  • During my stay in Grahamstown I loved the historic feel of the town. I think sites like the railway station and the Old Gaol should be preserved for both residents and tourists.
  • How is it possible for a supposedly responsible SOE (Transnet) to allow its property to fall into such a state of disrepair? The fact that the railway between Alicedale and Grahamstown is closed is no excuse! 
  • I grew up in the eastern cape.
  • I have communication i have emailed in the last 6 motnhs to heads of transnet and departments about the station requesting assitance, to no avail - i would love to get involved and help/petition - whatever it takes.
  • I sign on behalf of the Heritage Railway Association of Southern Africa (HRASA) - the umbrella body for the steam and heritage sector in Southern Africa.
  • I think that it's an absolute disgrace that this building has been allowed to deteriorate it's current condition.
  • I went to college in Grahamstown in the 1950's and have very fond memories of the station.
  • I wish to support the petition to protect the Grahamstown station from vandalism and disrepair
  • I'd love to see trains running again. 
  • I've always appreciated the station architecturally, historically and as a gathering site and lately as a performance venue.  It is shameful that this invaluable asset to the entire community has been neglected to the point of deterioration and vandalism.  Its renewal will be meaningful to the present.
  • It has to be saved!
  • It is about time our Heritage buildings were preserved.
  • It is vital to save it.  There must be a way to secure the property and use it in a way to benefit Grahamstown.
  • Many of my students would use the train, and so would I. It would bring more people to Grahasmtown as toursists too. So it helps the locals, by providing alternative transport, and by creating jobs through tourism. Please bring back our train!! 
  • Please include the Old Gaol as well. Thank you for taking the initiative. 
  • Please save our station - we used to have the railway line behind our home in Francis Street - so many wonderful memories of waving to our school mates as they left for holiday!.  This is a historical monument - please save this!  
  • Please save this historical building.
  • Preserving out heritage of whatever nature preserves our history and is not negotiable.
  • Rail played such an important part in the development of South Africa. Rail heritage is also a great tourist attraction. We get thousands of visitors a year enjoying our rail heritage product.
  • Save it!
  • Save the station!
  • Something has got to be done.  This was a special place a long time ago but more recently it was also used by non profit organisations as their offices. 
  • The appropriate people are not at all looking after Grahamstown's historical buildings. They are all going too rack and ruin.
  • This beautiful old station is a national asset and worthy of safeguarding for future use. It is against the letter and spirit of the regulations to just allow it to be plundered. The fact that is owned by an SOE which is permitting this devastation is cause for greater concern as any state or state owned institution should be setting a good example in these matters.
    It could surely be rented out for business use and produce income but the SOE does not seem to care about that either.
  • This is a dreadful shame on Grahamstown to allow this heritage building to be vandalised.
  • This is atrocious what is happening. We need to stand together and do what is right. Let us not destroy the history of our country !!!
  • This is definitely worth preserving and restoring. Could provide a rich and lucrative tourist offering.
  • This is the MOST THRILLING news to hear - CONGRATULATIONS on your Petition - it will definitely get the required review and support by everyone - GOOD LUCK
  • This magnificent entity is now a disgrace to Grahamstown. The municipality should stop hiding away and step forward. Nearly 200 years of history..... left to rot!!! 
  • Transnet and affiliates have been dereclict in their duty in maintaining the railway infrastructure in this country. The fate of this magnificent old station is a symptom of a nation wide problem. As fuel prices rise there may be a good chance that rail will once more come into its own again and Transnet will rue the day they did not perform routine maintainance and monitoring instead of facing the massive expense of starting from scratch. The fact that they could not care about their own heritage sites is also shocking. If they could not care less, why did they agree to the declaration?
    Very disheartened by the state of the railway station as it is now.
  • We need to save this beautiful building before it falls down!!!
  • What a shame that Transnet is neglecting its assets like this!
  • The decline of this beautiful old building has economic implications for the city - and already we see impacts on tourism and business.
    Many, many times before, there have been efforts to establish the old railway station as a terminus for the various long distance bus services which come to Grahamstown, but this has never come to be, due to lack of vision or good leadership. If such an initiative were facilitated, the building could serve as a safe and hospitable waiting point for travellers, and enable the creation of economic opportunities for local entrepreneurs (e.g. internet cafe, sale of tea/coffee, snacks, newspapers, etc etc). Saving the station is the RIGHT THING TO DO.
  • Until recently, we lived in Grahamstown for over 21 years and feel strongly that any building that adds to the great architectural heritage is worthy of preservation.   The railway station is a beautiful building that, if restored, could be put to good use.
  • Grahamstown is a magical and beautiful place. The restoration of the station is really important and invaluable to its people.  
  • This historic station needs to be saved.
    This could become a character hotel, craft centre (to support local industry) or creative hub for tourists.  Think, Transnet, think!
    Save our heritage buildings.
  • I went to Rhodes and love Grahamstown and it holds a special place, I think it could be an amazing opportunity for the town!
  •  Save our Station!!!!!
  • With fuel shortages, one day we might need this station.  Solar trains hopefully.
  • The neglect of the station is a disgrace. Makana Municipality and Transnet should be ashamed.
  • As an artist who visits Grahamstown each year (sometimes more than once) for both work and pleasure, I would FAR prefer to get the train than drive or fly. Reinstate the railway line and the station. We will use it I promise!
  • Excellent idea
  • This could be restored so beautifully and become both educational and a tourist attraction. Don't let vandals destroy our history!! Heritage is a vital part of who we are.
  • Once heritage is lost it can never be recovered. 
  •  I have fond memories as a kid going by train from Krugersdorp to Grahamstown to visit my grandparents.
  •  Heritage is to the physical world as birthright is to a human being. We do not leave our old folk to waste away uncared for and unloved. We preserve their memories and pass them on to our off-spring. They have real value, as all historical knowledge has, as a major contribution to our wisdom and understanding of our past and therefore, also, vitally of our present, which guides us through the challenges of our future. Destroy the past and you destroy the future. (Frank Ross R.U. 1969)
  •  Surely if the building is being stripped and vandalised the police should be involved in prevention and prosecution?
    • That is part of the problem: Transnet do not show up to support any criminal charges and the police claim they cannot act if the owners are not prepared to appear in court.
  • Heritage sites should be maintained and remain open to the public.
  • Authorities should be brought to book for allowing this to happen, not just Transnet, but Makana municipality and the Police. Charges should be laid.
    Another suggestion is to turn the area into a crafters centre, veggie market and such like, as they did in Mossel Bay. Regular use of space (and onsite security)  will prevent vandalism and vagrants loitering around unchecked.
  • Please save this important heritage site which if utilized creatively could create employment in Grahamstown.  
  • It would be wonderful to save our heritage and see our trains running again. A lot of Old Stations are used as Restaurants in Kzn.
  • The National Heritage Resources Act
    BE IT ENACTED by the Parliament of the Republic of South Africa, as follows:—
    Application and interpretation
    1. This Act binds the State.
    This legislation aims to promote good management of the national estate, and to enable and encourage communities to nurture and conserve their legacy so that it may be bequeathed to future generations. Our heritage is unique and precious and it cannot be renewed. It helps us to define our cultural identity and therefore lies at the heart of our spiritual well-being and has the power to build our nation. It has the potential to affirm our diverse cultures, and in so doing shape our national character.
    Our heritage celebrates our achievements and contributes to redressing past inequities. It educates, it deepens our understanding of society and encourages us to empathise with the experience of others. It facilitates healing and material and symbolic restitution and it promotes new and previously neglected research into our rich oral traditions and customs.
  • Save the station !!
  • Disgrace that a valuable building which could be an asset to Grahamstown as an attraction for tourists is left to rot and for thieves to steal a building piece by piece and the powers that be do nothing about it. 
  • I support preservation of historical buildings
  • I grew up in Grahamstown and have such special memories. It's so sad to see how many parts have been neglected.  I hope that it can be restored to its lovely nature that it had many years ago. 
  • Please help save a heritage building in a beautiful town
  • We need to preserve our heritage for the good of all South Africans.
  • The train line from Alicedale through Grahamstown down to Port Alfred should be promoted as a tourist must do.  Team up with B&Bs and hotels and other accommodation in Port Alfred to give a package deal.
  • Proud 1820 Settler descendent and horrified that important historical sites are being neglected.
  • This situation is a disgrace. The station, the old gaol, Grahamstown genrerally. 
  • This should never had happened - we need to value and treasure this piece of history - so sad!! 
  • Restoring it for a useful purpose would be fantastic!
  • Born and raised in Grahamstown.
    Please save the station!!
  • Rail transport to and from Grahamstown would be fantastic for the area. It could not only be utilized by students and folk connected with all the schools and the university in the area, but also for the Arts festival goers, and tourists in general.  Special tours could be arranged highlighting our Settler heritage, and this could have a knock on effect for b&b's etc, bringing much needed revenue and employment to the area.
    Saving these old buildings too, is so important, tourists also love to visit such places, and possibly a steam train trip could be part of the whole idea to inject life and employment into the area.
  • Allowing the old train station to fall into disrepair is a major security risk not only for people who live in the surrounding area but also for people who use the pathway back to the township from there.  There have been a number of reports of people being robbed by violent thugs who have taken to hanging out by the old train station.  Aside from the security risks that arise from the current situation, the old train station is a part of Grahamstown's history and should be preserved as a monument of sorts for the benefit of tourists and locals alike.  
  •  Was born in Grahamstown. Lived and worked there many years. Children went to school there. Used the train station on average once a year while there. Very sad to see it in such sad state. Hope it can be fully restored or at very least, buildings used for community.
  • I would love to see the train station be operational again, with everyone that has so much transport problems I don't see why not? What about using it to transport goods is petrol not so expensive that this will be a valid option to transport?
  • It would be shame to see the buildings be destroyed. If restored and USED they would be a valuable asset for all of Grahamstown's citizens
  • As old residents of Grahamstown we would hate to see this historical station being pulled down.
  • Can’t believe this has been allowed to deteriorate to this extent.
    Very sad indeed.
    I was born and raised in GT and used to sometimes travel to Port Alfred from this station.
  • I grew up in Grahamstown and met many a family member at that station - my favourite aunt being a regular. How sad that our new government can neglect to maintain and care for our national heritage. Yes, I blame them since municipalities are part of them and Transnet is a parastatal. The ANC government and municipalities have no respect for anything other than what they can benefit from personally – Nkandla being the best example of all.
  • This is an irreplaceable piece of rare architectural history and significance which cannot be allowed to just disappear !!!!
  • As someone who grew up in Grahamstown I think this is an important isisue.
  • It is a disgrace that such a beautiful building and part of our history should be allowed to fall into disrepair like this. In my opinion this is exactly what our country is heading for – destroyed, neglected and not cared for.
  • Please don’t let such a wonderful and historical building go to such waste! Turn it a pre-school, community hall or something!   
  • We lived in Grahamstown for almost 30 years. My husband was born there. Tourism is almost all it has and historical buildings should be preserved. The station building would make a more sensible bus stop.
  • It is heartbreaking to see the beautiful old station in such a state. It should be restored and turned into a tourist attraction, please would the authorities do something about it before it is too late.
  • A priceless treasure. To lose it will be to declare to the world that Grahamstown has no pride and people should not bother to stop there or to visit. Destroy the heritage buildings and you destroy the Soul of a Town.
  • I hope that this campaign will not only awaken Transnet to the importance of restoring and securing the historic station building, but that it will also be the beginning of an effort to restore rail services to the Makana area. Living in Europe at the moment, I see on a daily basis the huge benefits of having a functional passenger railway, particularly the environmental and safety benefits of train transport and the efficiency of the system to commuters and long-distance travellers.