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Bridges and Passes by Thomas Bain

Andrew Bain came to South Africa from Scotland in 1816 and his lack of formal engineering qualification did not deter him from building numerous roads, passes and bridges – his biggest memorial must be the Bain’s Kloof Pass on the R301, connecting Wellington and the Breede River Valley- this pass included South Africa’s first tunnel. But the work of Andrew Bain is a topic for another day, as he worked mostly in the Western and Eastern cape, whereas his son Thomas is responsible for most of the old passes and bridges in the Garden Route and Klein Karoo.

Thomas Bain started his life as road builder on the Michell’s Pass on the R46 under apprenticeship of his father Andrew. He passed, with distinction, an exam set by Colonel Charles Mitchell, Cape Colonial engineer, and James Rose Innes, the then Superintendent-General of Education.

His legacy to the Garden Route and Klein Karoo :

  • the Seven Passes road between George and Knysna¬† took him almost 20 years to complete. Today this road is declared a National Heritage Road.
  • He also built the Grey’s Pass off the N7 and Prince Alfred’s Pass on the R339 in the Langkloof.
  • The Robinson’s Pass connecting Mossel Bay and Oudshoorn
  • Tulbach Kloof on the R46
  • Cogman’s Kloof on the R62
  • Burger’s Pass on the R318
  • Garcia’s Pass on the R323 between Ladismith and Riversdale
  • Meiringspoort on the N12
  • He also built the Tsitsikamma Road between Knysna and Port Elizabeth and while working on this:
  • the Molteno Pass on the R381 north of Beaufort West
  • and last but not least – the famous Swartberg Pass on the R328 between Oudshoorn and Prince Albert
  • as well as Schoemanspoort
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