Hermanus Railway Station has no Train

Posted: 2 March 2012 by Jenny Meyer Category: Attractions, Children, Hermanus, History of Hermanus, Things to do, Transport, Walks in Hermanus Tags: , , , , ,

Hermanus Railway Station has no Train!  Have you ever wondered why the Hermanus Railway Station  has no railway line or train in this lovely village?

Here is the story how this came about. One of the most fondly remembered visitors to Hermanus was Sir William Hoy.  He made an impact on this town so great, that the repercussions are still felt today.  Born in Scotland to the farmer Robert Hoy, William Hoy left school at the age of 12 and became a clerk at the North British Railway in Edinburgh. While working, Hoy made extra money teaching shorthand at a local night school. When not working or teaching Hoy spent his time reading the works of John Noble, becoming particularly fond of Noble’s book ‘Handbook on the Cape of Good Hope’. In 1890 a recruiting officer of the Cape Government Railways arrived in Edinburgh and Hoy, in love with the Cape already, applied to be sent to Cape Town. His application was successful and after only two years in the country he was promoted to chief clerk to the Traffic Manager in Kroonstad.

Only a year later Sir Hoy became the Transvaal agent for the Railways, being put in charge of the Military Railways during the Anglo-Boer War. In 1901 Sir Hoy married Gertrude Price with whom he later had one daughter, Maudie. Sir Hoy’s father-in-law promoted him to Chief Traffic Manager, a post Sir Hoy had earned through diligence, hard work and enthusiasm. In 1910 Sir Hoy became the youngest General Manager of the South African Railways ever, gaining control of the second largest government-owned railways in the world. It was during this time that he and his wife wished to get away from Cape Town and go on a relaxing holiday. Their search for the perfect holiday destination led to their discovery of Hermanus where Sir Hoy could enjoy his favourite hobby – fishing. Hoy quickly became enchanted by the village’s natural charm and grew to be one of Hermanus’ most enthusiastic patrons.

Sir Hoy quickly made friends with the local fisherman, growing very fond of them as his visits to the seaside town increased. Sir Hoy formed a particularily strong friendship with one of the young fisherman who used to assist him, Danie Woensdregt. Together they had many trips and fishing expeditions and they often sat on the Klipkoppie (rocky hill) in the middle of town to watch the boats coming in. On one such occasion Sir Hoy expressed a desire to be buried there on the hill overlooking the bay.

Many of the Hermanus patrons hoped Sir Hoy would help along the already developed plans to extend the railway line from Botriver to Hermanus to establish a Hermanus Railway Station. The plans were so advanced already that a station building was already built in anticipation of the coming trains. Sir Hoy, however, had witnessed what the railway lines did to small villages like Kalk Bay. Determined to keep Hermanus a village with fresh air and visitors who loved the town enough to go the extra mile to reach it, Sir Hoy actively opposed the railway line. He overruled all attempts at the extension and even set up a coach service between the two towns to make sure not even a single train ever entered the station building at Hermanus.

Steps to Hoys Koppie Sir William Hoy, Hoys Koppie

While some grumbled at the decision, many were overjoyed at the blessing Sir Hoy granted Hermanus with his decision. For his services to the town and to transport in general Sir Hoy was knighted in 1916. He continued to work tirelessly on the railways and by the time he stepped down in 1927 he was burned out and already suffering from cancer. He retired to his beloved Hermanus but this retirement was short-lived and he died at age 62 in 1930. His wife contacted his old friend Woensdregt, expressing her desire to honour his wish to be buried on the koppie. Danie made the necessary arrangements with the municipality and led Hoy’s fishermen friends in carrying his coffin up a newly made pathway for the burial. From that day on the site was known as “Hoy’s Koppie”. Lady Hoy, who died in England, was buried next to him and their graves are still situated at the top of Hoy’s Koppie today, where one can gaze out across the pristine town Hoy so lovingly helped to create.


Eastbury Cottage is only a block away from Hoy’s Koppie, where locals and visitors alike, enjoy a gentle climb to the top.  Today Hoy’s Koppie is a protected nature reserve.  On the south east side of the Koppie, one can see a cave that might have been used by strandlopers as a shelter, before Hermanus Pietersfontein (Hermanus) was discovered.

Did you know that there is a ghost called Billy in the Old Station Building?  We hope to bring this story to you in a future post.

Author: Danica Kreusch

Edited: Jenny Bowes-Meyer Fenn


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