Sawmills has always been on our to do list – the reason – it was an important stop for steam trains, back in the day, because there were two huge diameter (yes a whopping 62cm) boreholes that supplied water to the trains passing by. These boreholes were of strategic importance and a man was stationed there permanently to maintain them. Rumour has it that he was slight of stature and when it was time to maintain the pumps, he would lower himself down into the borehole to check the casing and water levels. Eeuuw!


Yup – he went down that hole – just took out those four bolts and climbed in! (Lets hope the story is just that…a story!)


Sawmills station house, today

Of course now, large amounts of water are no longer required, and Sawmills is merely a mark on the map, next to the railway line.


Sawmills compound

But alotta people lived here back in the day!

Can’t miss those government houses, can you?


Railway line just before the Unguza bridge

Several geophysical studies have been done in the area to identify why there is so much water at Sawmills. It’s all rather complicated, but the bottom line is that feature that brings the water close to the surface there, isn’t present at the church where we were asked to find water

I think this is a slag heap from the steam-trains

I think this is a slag heap from the steam-trains

Pump house

Pump house


10 thoughts on “Sawmills

  1. John Peacock: Hi Frankie. Sawmills brings back many memories! I managed the farm Buda C(plus 3 others in the area) adjacent to the station. Lived there1974 for about 3 years. At that time I was told that the borehole was artesian, the farm was adjacent to the station but on the other side of the Umgusa river. We were not part of the Umgusa/Nyama aquifer so worked on the premise that we could surely find the same Sawmills break. Fred Goddard brought out a jumper rig, and that crew basically lived on the farm. My boss Mickey Michaelis said, “just drill.” When I left that hole was over a1000feet and no water! Sawmills was a thriving little station with a wonderful clubhouse and even better cold beer. Great darts tournaments and socials. Cannot recall the names, wifey (brand new then) did not over-enjoy my dedication to cold beer in that hot valley! I used to go to the club via shortcut over the rail bridge and what a thrill when one of the coal liner trains came thundering over the bridge!! Get cold shivers thinking about that power. The one name I do recall is Bez Bezuidenhout, think his wife was Marty. He was a unique loner of note, took me a long time to break through his barrier. They owned the one and only store which Marty ran. Was a backup supply place for my smokes and a cold coke when it was too early in the day for beer!

    The stimellas used to drive me insane with the bushfires that they started ! Then the big diesel locos thundering up the incline out of the Umgusa valley would rattle the window frames. Pure music to my ears then! Do you know that Bez Bezuidenhout tried to build a weir across the Umgusa on his farm, just a little upriver from Buda C. He put car frames and all sorts of paraphernalia in that wall. It failed. One day I was down at one of the puddles in the river with my dogs, we came across a roan having a drink there. Of course in my due ignorance I jumped out the landy to call off the dogs, well, lucky for me being young and fit, I just made it to the vehicle before the irate roan! Ian Macgiles (late) was the Umgusa forester in those days. He used to rescue my dog Killer, the swine used to jump off the truck to chase buck on the bottom farm at the junction of the Gwaai and Umgusa river, I would lose my rag and just drive back to Buda. Ian’s house was halfway back and Killer would stop there for the lift home. Sorry waffling now. Next episode will follow if of interest. So thankful for all the experiences I have been fortunate to have enjoyed..

  2. Gwaai and Umgusa junction was called Frys farm. Cath and I lived in a asbestos walled “shack” there when first married. Our neighbour was a wonderful Polish gentleman Stashek Tunikowski of some aristocracy. He had a equally wonderful wife and I cannot recall her name. When he got there after the 2nd world war the farm was one of those 7000acre properties alloted to war vets. He told me that there were eles around then. He also enlightened me about cutting a beasts ear to bleed them to get rid of the gall-sickness germs when all else failed. What fabulous old people in those days, real diehards. The forestry offices were on the hill slope on one side of the Umgusa. Buda c was virtually opposite the Igusi siding. Bechuanaland Eploration Company owned a huge amount of land on top of the sandridge above Igusi. Jan Osche was the manager there. Short round Afrikaner who liked whiskey and coke, but it had to be Bells or the like. This was hard to get then, I used to decant good old Dumbarton into the real mccoy bottle specially for him! Don’t feel at all guilty,am not even a whisky drinker but do know you not supposed to adulterate it with the likes of coke

    Our now non existant house was on the edge of the escarpment of the Umgusa valley, a magnificent view right across the valley. In back thinking could not have been much more than 6 ks from Sawmills. Might be out there. Do know we were the closest homestead.

    We had big water problems on that place, hence that deep fruitless gat that was drilled. Phil Cook from Mono pumps spent a lot of time trying to do the stick divining. In the end, with his advice I built an artificial borehole with sand pipe extraction points in the Umgusa opposite Bez s store near Swamills. We pumped the water up to the reservoir I built next to the house. It was then distributed by gravity to all the paddocks we put in.
    Where we stayed in the shack at Frys(with an outside wood stove) there were huge heaps of old teak sawdust ,obviously a mill there from days gone by. Nothing would grow in that stuff

    Within mere months of getting married I also nearly got divorced (actually almost the story of my married life) the borehole rod pump stopped working. Yup, you guessed right, I managed to drop the whole lot down the hole! It took a long while to fish that lot out. I had to go fetch water from the pump at the Isezi vlei, one very unhappy wife!

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