Adriaan Roets
3 minute read
2 Oct 2015
6:00 am

James Hall Transport Museum is a must visit

Adriaan Roets

The thing about Johannesburg is there is always some forgotten place to visit.

FESTIVE. One of the city buses that used to drive around Joburg during Christmas. Picture: Juvan Redelinghuys

It’s like the city is a treasure map, and it’s up to you to find the hidden gold. The James Hall Transport Museum next to Pioneer Park in La Rochelle is one of those spectacular places you can visit, where you walk out ashamed that you hadn’t been there before.

I visited the museum on Heritage Day after an outing to Ferreirasdorp, and was struck by the fact city dwellers weren’t rushing to visit it – which is quite concerning if you take into consideration the museum is the largest transport museum in Africa. The museum’s three cavernous exhibition halls and two outdoor exhibit areas are a testament to the fact there is an unrivalled selection of cars, buses, animal drawn carriages, trains, bicycles and public transport vehicles that have been taken out of service to bask in.

CITY TO CITY. Buses and trams from other major South African cities are also around every corner at the museum. Picture: Juvan Redelinghuys

CITY TO CITY. Buses and trams from other major South African cities are also around every corner at the museum. Picture: Juvan Redelinghuys

The museum has a dusty quality guaranteed to make you immediately feel a little smarter just for being there. Some of this has to do with the fact the layout offers you a mini history lesson.

Entering the museum you start with a large selection of animal drawn vehicles. The exhibition gives insight not only to how people moved around during the early days of Johannesburg, but also the instrumental part transport played in building and establishing Johannesburg and its surrounding suburbs.

In terms of South African history, except for ox wagons, the museum also houses two Joule cars. The Joule is a South African designed and built electric car that was never released commercially. The energy efficient vehicle could have been a game-changer in the country if it was ever available commercially, but the Cape Town company, Optimal Energy, that was responsible for the car never managed to find a commercial partner. The company went bust in 2012 and the Joule was never released.

CHURCH ON THE GO. A missionary carriage that spread Christianity during the early 1900s in SA. Picture: Juvan Redelinghuys

CHURCH ON THE GO. A missionary carriage that spread Christianity during the early 1900s in SA. Picture: Juvan Redelinghuys

Some of the trams that were so prevalent in cities like East London, Kimberley and Johannesburg are also on display. There are old display cases and faded signs all around. The museum has that rustic quality, and it’s the perfect environment to explore how SA’s modes of transport have changed and the vast improvement in transport we see today. There are also a few classic cars, racing cars and luxury cars around for petrol heads. At the end of the day, the museum is a testament to human ingenuity, and for that it is worth your time.

Every second Saturday, The Friends of the James Hall Transport Museum meet at the museum. These meetings go hand in hand with a London Bus tour (for only R10), as well as your opportunity to see unique and different vehicles. There are usually also food and drink stalls on these days.