Where it all began: The History of the Franschhoek Wine Tram
The history of Franschhoek stretches back more than 300 years and starts in France in the 1600s where at that time there was extensive faith based oppression by the ruling Catholics towards the Protestants. Due to this, more than 200 000 of these Protestants became refugees when they left their country of residence and ended up in a small colony on the tip of Southern Africa, the Cape colony.
Franschhoek was the place where nine of these Huguenot families eventually settled after receiving land by the Dutch authorities and through perseverance and determination they converted the wilderness around them into essentially the most spectacular valley in the South Africa, if not the entire world.
The rails on which the tram operates were originally constructed in 1904 to serve as a substitute for ox pulled carts for farmers hoping to get their produce to market. Steam engines ran along the route until diesel engines took over in the 1970’s after which, in the 1990’s, since the desire for train transport lessened, service along the railway line minimised. For over a decade the rail line continued to be inactive until finally it was returned to full-time operation in 2012 as the Franschhoek Wine Tram.
The newly built tram is designed in the images of the open-sided Brill Trams of circa 1890. Being an eco-friendly initiative, it makes use of the latest in bio-diesel engine technology to lower greenhouse chemicals and other ecologically harmful pollutants. The tram seats 32 guests on eight secure and comfortable benches. Six of the eight benches include flip-over, tram-style seatbacks that enable passengers to savour the view in both directions. Passenger accessibility is via two low non-slip mounted steps on each side of the tram, permitting secure and easy passenger entry. On inclement weather days, guests are protected by roll-down see-through awnings, which enable them to enjoy the magnificent views while staying comfortable.
Franschhoek Wine Tram presently provides five hop-on hop-off lines to select from, each visiting an average of eight wine estates and showcasing a separate part of the Franschhoek Valley.
The tour takes individuals straight into the centre of the Franschhoek Valley, with an experienced guide concentrating on the historical past of Franschhoek and wine farming in the valley with unmatched views of the valley and vineyards.
The Franschhoek Wine Tram tour is among the finest ways to experience the real significance of the Franschhoek Valley – idyllic vineyards, remarkable views, overwhelming hospitality, world-class delicacies, superior wines and a 300-year heritage.