Port Elizabeth of Yore: Runaway Tram in Russell Road

This incident has long since been forgotten by the residents of Port Elizabeth, yet it is often raised in discussions related to tax matters. In particular it is the term “in the production of income”. It is used extensively in tax law to determine what expenses are allowable as deductions. When doing so, the issue raised in the case of this runaway tram is pondered about.

This is the human story behind that tax case.

Main picture: The scene at the foot of Russell Road when a runaway train collided with the Masonic Hotel

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Day the Sky Impoded during November 1867

Port Elizabeth periodically experiences floods. Amongst the most devastating was the flood from Tuesday 19th November to Thursday 21st November 1867.  During 11 hours on the Wednesday and Thursday, 161.5 millimetres of rain fell bringing the total for the three days to 225.5 millimetres. While only two lives were lost, damage to roads and houses was estimated to be as much as £30,000. 

Perhaps its effect was exacerbated by the fact that the roads were not tarred and the flood waters gushed down the natural water courses, formally kloofs or streams, causing mayhem. But the most catastrophic effect was the silting up of the harbour. As a consequence, the recently completed breakwater had to be demolished.

Main picture: Rudolph Street, South End after the floods of November 1867

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: Russell Road-Formerly Burial or Hyman’s Kloof

The intention of the British government was never to create a town on the coast at Port Elizabeth. Instead it was meant to be a disembarkation point for the Settlers on their travels into the hinterland. The fact that many of the settlers had little, if any, agricultural experience meant that many gravitated back to Port Elizabeth. That is why the town was created at the foot of a hill. That meant that every kloof would ultimately become a major road. So it was with Burial Kloof and later Hymanskloof but now better known as Russell Road.

Main picture: The oldest extant picture of the Stranger’s Location at the top of what was to become Russell Road showing the Chapel of the London Missionary Society in the background.

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