During SA’s golden century of rail travel, Klipplaat was a major junction. This was the point where the main Cape Town to Port Elizabeth line branched off towards Graaff-Reinet. The village grew up to house the railway facilities and the staff to man them.
The first train to arrive at Klipplaat Station was on 3 February 1879. The construction of the railway line from Port Elizabeth commenced on 9 January 1872 – with completion to Graaff-Reinet on 26 August 1879. This was of great benefit to the local mohair and wool farmers wanting to ship their products to market, particularly in Port Elizabeth. In fact, there was a minor ostrich boom in the area for a while, and the rail system helped that business along too.
And when the Anglo-Boer War came along, Klipplaat was abuzz with British soldiers, quartermasters and mountains of military gear. Not far away lurked the mounted Boer units, waiting to disrupt this rail traffic any way they could. Hoping, of course, that the supplies on the trains included a case or two of Scotch whisky.
In 1939 there was only 57 railway personnel in Klipplaat, which increased to 133 by 1952. Sadly those days have passed. In 1979 the locomotives were phased out in favour of diesel and the little village went into decline. The railway employees, who were the core of the village’s population, were either transferred or paid off and Klipplaat thereafter became a quiet little place. By 2001 the line to Graaff Reinet was also closed and Klipplaat was no more a junction to carry traffic to Middelburg and Noupoort across the Lootsberg pass. Subsequently, the station was demolished by vandals.
Despite the lack of economic activity and the state of dereliction, Klipplaat is not without interest though.