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MARTIN LUTHER THE MAN His preaching demanding reform within the Roman Catholic Church...MARTIN LUTHER The steam engine the first mechanised form of transport imported into Namibia

 

 

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Martin Luther

The first mechanised form of transport imported into Namibia named Martin Luther

 

 

Martin Luther The Man:

His preaching demanding reform within the Roman Catholic Church had led to his excommunication and he was about to be declared a heretic. Luther's sovereign lord was the Elector Friedrich The Wise Of Saxony who considered that his subject Martin Luther should not be imprisoned or punished without a lawful hearing. Luther was summonsed by the Emperor to appear before a tribunal known as The Imperial Diet at Worms on 16 April 1521. It was here that he made his famous declaration, "Unless I am convicted by scripture and plain reason - I do not accept the authority of the popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other - my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen." The words, "Here I stand and cannot do otherwise." cannot even be described as being a misquote as Martin Luther never said these words. After leaving the room he is recorded as having said, "I am finished."

 

Martin Luther The Steam Ox: Standing outside of Swakopmund you can see one of Namibia's National Monuments. It's a steam traction engine that was the first means of mechanised transport in the German colony of South West Africa. The steam engine soon broke-down owing to inadequate maintenance and was abandoned in 1897 about 1,5km outside of Swakopmund. A long standing Swakopmund urban-legend has it that shortly following this, and during a boozy session in the old Hotel Furst Bismarck, local luminary Dr. Max Rhode announced over his glass, "Did you know that the steam-ox is called Martin Luther now, because it can also say, "Here I stand and, I cannot do otherwise" ?

 

Martin Luther laid in the desert deteriorating and became a passing interest for visitors to the town. In 1973 the Municipality of Swakopmund decided that the engine should be partly refurbished, following which 'Martin'  was declared a national monument and even appeared on a stamp in 1975 that brought an amount of international fame. However, the corrosive mists once again took their toll and by the year 2000 the steam-ox had lost its funnel and was in need of attention. The Namibia Institute of Mining and Technology, along with the financial support of some local businesses, made extensive repairs to the machine. In December 2004 The Martin Luther was returned to its original resting place and a protective housing was built around the steam engine.

 

As you are arriving on the outskirts of Swakopmund you will see the new housing for the Martin Luther. Pull over and give 'him' a visit.

Martin Luther in the mid 1950s uncared for

Uncared for

Martin Luther following rebuild by NIMT 2006

Martin Luther being lifted into position

Martin Luther new accommodation

Martin's new home

 

A History of Marting Luther and the first Mechanized Transport in Namibia

 

Woermann Shipping Line Poster for sailings to DSWA

Woermann Line

Offloading Surf Boats at Swakopmund late 1890s

off-loading surf boats at Swakopmund 1900s

20 span ox-wagon

A 20 span ox-wagon

 

Getting The Goods To The Hinterland: By the mid 1890s the beach at Swakopmund had become the busy landing place for all of the supplies and goods coming into the new colony. The German authorities had decided that Windhoek should be the capital, but it lay over three hundred kilometres inland. Teams of oxen hauled laden wagons fitted with specially widened rimmed wheels when crossing the sandy areas of the Namib Desert. As protection for their hooves when trekking over the rocky Khomas Hochland the oxen's hooves were fitted with iron shoes

 

Horses being off-loaded into sea at Swakopmund

Livestock being unloaded

The Bay Road littered with oxen that had perished on the journey inland

Perished oxen at the side of the Bay Road

 

Iron Shoes to protect oxen feet while traversing the stony highland trail

Iron ox-shoes

Ox-wagon wheels widened for traversing sandy desert areas

Wide rimmed wheels

 

The Cost Of Freighting Goods To Windhoek: A new wagon cost 2000 Marks and an ox 80 ­ 120 Mark. A transport wagon could load between four and five tons, and the freight rate from the coast to Windhoek was 20 Mark per 50 kg. In 1896 alone over 880 ox-wagons made the trek from Swakopmund to Windhoek.

The journey would take between two and three weeks and the conditions under which the animals laboured were often pitiful. The trail soon became littered with the skeletons of those that succumbed to the harsh conditions. As early as 1891 the German administrators drafted traffic regulations instructing those settlers who farmed along the route to make water and feed provisions for the animals. Out-spanning along the roadside was not allowed, and any oxen that died had to be buried immediately and at a depth of at least two feet to avoid plague. Of those oxen that survived these arduous journeys, up to three months was needed to recover them to a condition where they might be considered fit to work again.

 

Namibia National Heritage Plaque

 proclaimed a

National Monument

on 21-03-1975

Martin Luther with wagons

Martin Luther with wagons

 

The Innovative Lt. Edmund Troost:  At this early stage of the settlement the authorities had not been able to find a satisfactory alternative to the situation, but one man did try and it is only fitting that his story be told. First Lieutenant Edmund Troost of the Imperial Schutztruppe was a man who may have been concerned by the plight of these animals. He also had a keen interest in the business of transport and owned a small vessel of 324 tons that shipped goods from Cape Town to the port of Swakopmund. At this time there were no immediate plans to build a railway, so in 1896 while on leave in Germany he purchased a steam traction engine with three wagons from the firm of Fr. Dehne in Halberstadt. Lieutenant Troost returned to Swakopmund in the later months of 1896 with his machine. Swakopmund had no natural deep-water harbour and the practice was that the goods would be lowered from the ships onto surf boats or rafts, and so transported through the high South Atlantic rollers to the beach. After careful consideration it was decided that the steam engine was possibly too heavy, weighing an estimated 9tons, and too valuable to attempt this method. The ship sailed on to British controlled Walvis Bay where dock-side cranes and better unloading facilities were available, and the steam locomotive was brought safely ashore.

 

Martin Luther with group of picnickers

A picnic with Martin

Martin Luther abandoned

Martin Luther Abandoned in the desert

Petrol Engined vehicles to tow trailers to Windhoek

Lt. Troost's petrol driven 'trucks'

 

Lieutenant Troost was then summonsed to Cape Town on urgent business, and did not return for over four months. By this time the engineerıs contract had expired and the man could not be convinced to stay in the colony. He returned to Germany before divulging any of the techniques required to operate the machine. Eventually a man was found who offered help. He was an American prospector gold miner who had some experience of working with steam engines. He and a small team managed to fire up the engine and must have presented a strange and wondrous sight as they set off on the thirty-kilometre journey to German Swakopmund. The route was a long and difficult one as the engine kept sinking in the soft sands. The water needed for the engine was expensive costing 30 Mark per 1000 litre and had to be brought along with the fuel by pack mules from Swakopmund. Lengths of wood along with stones had to be placed under the wheels when encountering soft sand areas, and draft animals and men toiled for three months before the engine finally puffed and trundled its way into Swakopmund.

 

Lieutenant Troost wrote of his experience with the steam engine, of the problems encountered with, poor quality water, inexperienced drivers, inadequate maintenance owing to a lack of technical experience. Along with these the calculated operating costs to transport loads from Swakopmund to Windhoek were considerably higher than that of the oxen drawn wagons. He decided that this method of transport was not suited to the conditions of the Namib. He continued with his transport exercise and then imported two petrol driven vehicles that could travel up to speeds of 20km/hr. One  made one successful journey to Windhoek towing trailers carrying a total 20-ton load. The rear trailer was equipped with a sand anchor for emergency  braking. The operating costs of these machines was also more expensive that oxen wagons.

 

The Coming Of The Railroad: Troostıs attempts to introduce mechanized transport to the country had not gone without notice. The Governor, Major Leutwein met with Troost and then sent him to Germany to make arrangements for the purchase of a narrow gauge rail system for the colony.  Lieutenant Edmund Troostıs innovation and contribution to the introduction of mechanized transport should be recognized in a positive light in the development of early Southwest Africa.

 

Footnote: In consideration of the distance of the desert to be crossed one is left to ponder as to exactly where the engine was to get suitable water and fuel if it ever had set out on that arduous journey to far off Windhoek

 

Acknowledgements and further reading:  A1, H8, H11,H12, M3, P1, P2, W15

Of Interest: About the early steam-engines in Namibia.

The Damaraland Guano Company Ltd. exploited the guano deposits at Cape Cross and established the first rail transport system in Namibia as early as 1895.

The first German locomotive was brought into the country in October 1897, and was used for the construction of the rail line from Swakopmund to Windhoek.

Martin Luther

 

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