NZASM South-Eastern Line Border Bridge (Convention Bridge)
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Proclaimed a National Monument 1995, devolved to Provincial Heritage Resource in 1999, the southern abutment being in Kwa-Zulu Natal Province, the Northern abutment being in Mpumalanga Province.
Just south of Volksrust, the main south-eastern railway line of the NZASM from the Rand of the ZAR to Natal Colony crossed this bridge over the Border Spruit, the boundary between the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek and the Natal Colony.
It was of the single 12m span plate girder of the NGR type constructed as part of the Volksrust-Heidelberg section where the firm MITCHESON & KOLLBRUNNER erected all the steel superstructures, all other construction being undertaken by the Natal Government Railways on contract to the NZASM, the sandstone abutments being built by HS SMITH during March to October of 1894 (De Jong et al, 1988: 193)
By the time of its declaration as a National Monument in 1954 the rail-lines had be re-aligned, the bridge falling into disuse and by then the superstructure having disappeared. All that remain are the stone abutments.
The bridge was the scene of an important meeting between President Paul Kruger and Sir Henry Loch, as a result of which it became known as the "Convention Bridge". Only the abutments of the bridge survive and now constitute a very interesting monument.
In 1894 there were a number of matters that called for settlement between the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek and the British Government. One of the most important outstanding questions concerned relationships with Swaziland, so Sir Henry Loch, the Governor of the Cape Colony and British High Commissioner for South Africa, proposed a personal meeting between President Paul Kruger and himself to find solutions to these problems. The Volksraad authorised the President to undertake these discussions, but made it a condition that he did not go beyond the borders of the Republic. Consequently Sir Henry Loch also refused to leave British territory.
The problem of arranging a meeting under these circumstances was solved by putting up tents on an island in the Border Spruit. The discussions took place from 6th to 10th November. During the night of the 9th Sir Henry took ill, so the railway coach in which he was travelling and living was drawn on to the bridge. The discussions could then be continued with the President and the High Commissioner, each sitting on his own side of the border, and in this way the important Swaziland Convention of 1894 was negotiated. (Oberholster, 1972: 331)
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