A Very Unusual Bus Stop

By 23rd January 2019 May 20th, 2019 News

At the top of Florida Road sits an unusually shaped bus shelter that many of us have likely driven past without giving it too much thought. But when you stop and look at the design, you notice that it’s strikingly different to any contemporary bus shelter. For starters, it’s much larger than your average bus stop, and then you have the roof, which more closely resembles that of a house than it does a bus stop.

A view of West Street, 1898, showing the good cross section of the transport available at the time, including single and double-decker horse-drawn trams
A view of West Street, 1898, showing the cross section of transport available at the time, including single and double-decker horse-drawn trams

But there’s a reason for these discrepancies – it’s not really a bus shelter at all! While today it serves as one the structure was originally built to service Durban’s first private horse-drawn tram service that began operation on the 25th March 1880. With the last horse-drawn tram running on the 25th October 1903, the shelter was then used as a stop for electric trams, which first began operations on the 1st May 1902. In 1935, double-decker electric trolley buses were introduced, running alongside the electric tram, until they ended their services in 1949. In June 1925, Durban’s first petrol and single decker diesel buses were introduced, with double-decker diesel buses starting operations in August 1938. Nowadays the structure functions as an ordinary bus stop, offering shelter from the elements while people wait for mini bus taxis, or the city’s bus service.

The recently restored tram shelter
The recently restored tram shelter

But at the ripe old age of 139 years, time has taken its toll on the shelter, so two years ago the municipality set about restoring this important piece of local history. With funding provided by Durban Local History Museums (DLHM) restoration work was carried out on the roof of the shelter, with the Florida Road Urban Improvement Precinct repairing and painting the benches. As one of only three remaining tram shelters left in Durban, this was an important project for the city, and DLHM were very glad to be a part of the project.

Images courtesy of bereamail.co.za and www.fad.co.za

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