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Touwsrivier – A Gateway Between the Boland & the Karoo

Now a sleepy town, Touwsrivier has long heritage as the Gateway Between the Boland & the Karoo.

Touws River (Afrikaans: Touwsrivier) is a small railway town of 6,800 people in the Western Cape province of South Africa. It is located on the river of the same name, about 160 kilometres (100 mi) north-east of Cape Town. The Touwsrivier CPV Solar Project is located just outside of the town and supplies 50 MW to the national electrical grid.

The town of Touws River owes its existence to the Cape Government Railways, and to the route that their founder, Cape Prime Minister John Molteno, chose for a railway line over the Hex River Mountains.A railway was needed from the port at Cape Town, to service the newly discovered diamond fields in Kimberley. However, several seemingly impregnable ranges of mountains separated Cape Town from the hinterland of the Cape. The Royal Commonwealth Society (1898) records how the route was chosen:

When Mr. Molteno formulated his railway scheme he sent for his consulting engineer, who asked him what was the route he desired. Mr. Molteno asked for a map of South Africa, which was brought to him. Taking a ruler he drew his pen along it, in a direct line from Cape Town to Beaufort West. “But,” said the engineer, “that means you go slap bang through the Hex River Mountains.” “Never mind,” said Mr. Molteno, “that is the way I want it to go.” And that is the way it did go.
It is now a sleepy town, surrounded by farms, mountains and game reserves, Touwsrivier preserves its long heritage as the Gateway Between the Boland & the Karoo with open-air displays of steam engines in memory of its history as a railway centre.

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