Great Kei River Bridge in Great Kei Bridge, Mnquma Platteland, Oos-Kaap
The old Kei River Bridge lies along the Kei Cuttings Pass or Great Kei Pass, on the N2 between Butterworth and Komga.
Following the destruction of the timber Rail Bridge, a short distance downstream, in a major flood on 3 October 1917, the railway line was diverted over the Great Kei Road Bridge. This dual arrangement of road and rail remained in place for 32 years until 1949.
The substantial, 12-span steel lattice girder bridge, with 11 pairs of rivetted circular cast iron columns filled with concrete as support, was completed in 1879. Each lattice girder is approximately 28.5 m long and approximately 4 m wide and are fabricated of rivetted hot rolled steel sections. The columns are capped with decorative hollow cast iron moulded capitals.
When construction began in 1877 parts were shipped into East London from Britain and brought by ox wagon and rail for assembly on site. Unfortunately, just as the bridge was being pieced together, work was interrupted by the 9th Frontier War and Engineer Newey and his team were forced to retreat to Komga. The hill close by to the old bridge is today known as Moerdenaarskop (Murderers Hill) as a few British soldiers lost their lives here at the hand of Xhosa warrior.
A story about the old Kei River Bridge is that as it stood incomplete in the river during the battle, that the many rivets were being used as bullets in the Xhosa’s guns.
After the war, the bridge was completed and so successfully that it was used by locals and farmers in the area for 135 years!
The name of the bridge and the completion date are recorded in v-cut lettering on the dressed stone wall at the south approach.
Things to do and see
- Steel Girder Road Bridge
- Great Kei River
- Kei Cuttings Pass
Free to View
Best during daylight hours
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