The history of Franschhoek stretches back more than 300 years and begins in France in the 1600s where at this time there was widespread religious persecution by the ruling Catholics towards the Protestants.

Because of this, more than 200 000 of these Protestants became refugees as they fled their home country for others in Europe, many of them making their way to the Netherlands. At this time the Dutch East India Company governed a small colony on the tip of Southern Africa, the Cape colony.

The Cape is where the refugees were sent, on ships that were originally designed to carry cargo, and after a long and grueling trip which lasted several months they arrived on soil that was foreign to them, but were fully prepared to start a new life.

Franschhoek or ‘Olifantshoek’ as it was then named for the herds of elephant that roamed the area, was where nine of these Huguenot families ultimately settled after having being given land by the Dutch authorities and through determination and perseverance they transformed the wilderness around them into one of the most beautiful valleys in the Cape if not the world.


The tracks upon which the tram runs were originally built in 1904 to serve as an alternative to ox drawn carts for farmers wanting to get their produce to market.

Steam locomotives operated along the route until diesel locomotives took over in the 1970’s and then, in the 1990’s, as the need for rail transport decreased, service along the railway line diminished.

For more than a decade the railway line remained dormant until it was returned to full-time service in 2012 as the Franschhoek Wine Tram.


The newly constructed tram is modeled after the open-sided Brill Trams of circa 1890. As a green initiative it utilises the latest in bio-diesel engine technology to reduce greenhouse gasses and other environmentally hazardous emissions.

The tram seats 32 passengers on eight comfortable benches. Six of the eight benches have flip-over, tram-style seat-backs that allow passengers to enjoy the view in both directions. Passenger access is via two low non-slip fixed steps along both sides of the tram, allowing for safe and easy passenger access.

On days with rain or heavy winds, passengers are protected from inclement weather by roll-down transparent awnings, which allow them to enjoy the magnificent views whilst staying comfortable.