Travellers peacefully dozing, serenely watching the Karoo pass by through the windows of a luxury train narrowly escaped death near Beaufort West, early in May, 1903. As the train cheerfully chugged along, billowing smoke and periodically shattering the peace with its shrill whistle, passengers, could never have imagined a brush with death waited at the bottom of a nearby hill.
A report in The Diamond Fields Advertiser stated: “Only luck, good fortune and quick action averted a serious catastrophe. As the deluxe train began descending towards a culvert, the driver suddenly saw a runaway engine and trucks hurtling towards him. He slammed on brakes. The runaway engine plunged across the culvert, dragging its trucks up the incline. It smashed into the luxury train, still roaring downwards, with brakes screaming, instantly turning that engine turned into a heap of twisted metal.
Eye witnesses described the noise of the impact as terrifying. A mail coach, bound for Johannesburg, was smashed beyond repair. Newspapers, letters and other postal items were strewn widely across the veld. Fortunately the impact did not occur at the culvert. If it had, the luxury train’s carriages would have hurtled down a high embankment. Many would have been injured. As it was flying debris hit the roofs and windows of the luxury carriages alarming the passengers, but miraculously, not injuring a soul.
The driver and fireman of the luxury train emerged shaken, but without a scratch. This amazed all who saw the accident site,” wrote the DFA reporter