We are a non-profit, volunteer-run organization.

Inchanga Choo Choo

About Us

Umgeni Steam Railway was formed in September 1982 by members of the Natal Branch of the Railway Society of Southern Africa in an effort to preserve our rapidly disappearing local railway heritage. The organisation is run entirely by volunteers and is self-funding, relying almost exclusively on revenue generated from, running public and charter trains to continue operating and preserving our railway history.

Over the years the USR has managed to collect a sizeable array of historically significant rolling stock and other items, including approximately ten locomotives; 50 coaches and a variety of goods wagons. Unfortunately, due to ongoing financial constraints many of these irreplaceable items remain in storage awaiting preservation.

Since 1880s

The Umgeni Steam Railway is a 3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm) gauge heritage railway at Inchanga, near Durban. The Durban to Pietermaritzburg line was built in the 1880s; it runs through a 53 metres (174 ft) long tunnel at Drummond built in 1878, which is probably the oldest tunnel in use today in South Africa. – Wikipedia


One of the locomotives, “Wesley” (Class 19D no. 2685) built by the Borsig Locomotive Company of Berlin, Germany in 1938, is the regular performer on the Inchanga – Botha’s Hill run. Coaches on the train were built between 1928 and 1952, although even older vehicles, dating back to 1908, may sometimes be used. Most of them were built locally in the South African Railway’s own workshops.

Trains run through the picturesque Valley of a Thousand Hills between Inchanga and Botha’s Hill on the last weekend of each month, with occasional additional trains during school holidays and for special events, such as “Carols by Candlelight”. At Inchanga station the Inchanga Community Craft Market operates whenever USR trains are run.

Inchanga station was an important refreshment stop during the early days of railways, with an extensive restaurant area provided on a second storey. This was however no longer needed after dining cars came into general use and much of the much larger original station was demolished in 1936


The train largely follows the route of the original Natal Government Railway Main Line from Durban to Pietermaritzburg, which was opened in December 1880. Even today the line is considered something of an engineering feat (and an operational challenge!) due to the tortuous topography it has to traverse, abounding in 1 in 30 gradients with many curves of 90m radius. Major engineering challenges along the way included a pass with almost sheer cliffs between Padley’s and Botha’s Hill (providing breathtaking views over the Inanda Valley!).

A short tunnel near Drummond and a spectacular cast iron viaduct over the Sterkspruit Valley just before Inchanga. This notorious viaduct apparently swayed so badly in the wind that passengers were requested to alight and walk ahead of the train during inclement weather! It was however, by-passed by a deviation in 1892. Photographs of it are on display at the Inchanga Railway Museum.