The History of the Madonela Railway Line
The narrow gauge railway line that ran from Donnybrook to Ixopo was called the Madonela line until the early 2000s.
The Railway Commissioner recommended a line from Stuartstown to a suitable site on the Natal side of Union Bridge at the Umzimkulu River be built. The country to be traversed was fertile and capable of growing almost anything. The country was said to be "sparsely" populated with Europeans but there were thousands of natives in the district. Approximately 600 first class and 2 400 third class passengers, "3.5 tons of goods and 2 500 head of livestock were estimated to be moved in this area per annum and the Commissioner felt that the capital cost of constructing the line would be very soon paid"
The line was constructed departmentally commencing in August 1912. The track was built with second-hand material of 35 and 45 lb from the Cape. The maximum axle load was 5 tons and speed 12 miles per hour.
The Opening of Ixopo - Madonela Branch Line
The Railway Commissioner recommended a line made from Stura Wood be built and iron buildings, a passenger shelter, an office with a lamp room and a shed made up Madonela Station, the native name for Donald Strachan, Ixopo's oldest living person.
Union Bridge Junction is where the lines divide to go to Donnybrook and down to Madonela, although the narrow gauge line is nowhere close to the bridge known by the same name. An appropriate committee was formed and funds collected for the official opening.
Typical of Ixopo weather, the official completion date was not met for December 1913. Instead on February 2, 1914, the first train left Ixopo at 7:35 p.m. and arrived at Madonela at 9:00 p.m.
The Ixopo - Madonela track was 17.5 miles long with a maximum ruling grade 1 in 33 compensated and was erected at a cost of about R 100 000-00.
1920 Saw the arrival of the first narrow-gauge Garret Engines, no's 51,52,and 53 arrived from Germany and put into service. 16 Class NGG locomotives were placed into service in the early 1950's. Due to primitive cooling methods on the dairy farms, and the long and slow journey up to Donnybrook, milk just never reached it's final destination fresh enough for human use. Dairy farmers were at their wits ends, and the South African Railway put into service a special "rail motor" to deliver the milk to the factory.
November 2001, the same narrow gauge line is in use by "Paton's Narrow Gauge Railway (PCNGR)" as a 8 ton Lenning Diesel Loco is put into use
The narrow gauge line lay unused for approximately 20 years from 1980 to 2000 and was first used again by Paton's Express Adventures with a gangers trolley.
The railway line has recently been renamed after Paton - once again rich and important history has been cleaned from the records.