MAVERICK CITIZEN PHOTO ESSAY

SHUNTED: The story of a railway junction

By Eric Miller 22 September 2019

Maria Maseti’s children and their friends watch the sunset from the gate of her house in Hutchinson. (Photo: Eric Miller)

The slow disintegration of the South African Railways over the two decades prior to democracy led to a bleeding out of small towns all over South Africa. What happens to the people left behind at these ghost stations?

South African documentary photographer Eric Miller passed through a tiny dot on the map of the Northern Cape, a railway junction called Hutchinson – where once up to 200 mainline freight and passenger trains passed through every week – and felt compelled to tell the place’s story.

It’s an extraordinary narrative about the lives of ordinary people in a hollowed-out town. There are layers and layers of complexity, and it includes, but isn’t limited to, transport policies before and after democracy, racial segregation, economic change and social-grant survivalism,” Miller told Maverick Citizen.

Miller wanted to tell the story in a medium other than photography. The result is a film documentary titled Hutchinson: SHUNTED. Next week, at 2pm on Heritage Day (Tuesday 24 September), the people of Hutchinson, Victoria West and Beaufort West will get to see it at a special screening at the Apollo Theatre in Victoria West. Maverick Citizen will be there.

The award-winning photographer shared some of his photographs from Hutchinson with us. MC

AA Shosholoza Meyl train, Cape Town-bound, stopped at the Hutchinson station platform. The train is seldom on time, leaving people shivering in the winter pre-dawn cold. It is scheduled to arrive at 5.30am, but it can arrive anything from an hour to ten hours later than that. (Photo: Eric Miller)
Siyanda Fass, a Hutchinson teenager, in the rubble of the old whites-only school. (Photo: Eric Miller)
The front of the now-abandoned remains of the old whites-only school. (Photo: Eric Miller)
Hutchinson station sunrise, from the railway bridge. (Photo: Eric Miller)
The abandoned swimming pool, changing rooms, recreation hall and playground in the old white part of town. Miller used a drone to render a bird’s-eye view of the town’s ruins. (Photo: Eric Miller)
From the railway bridge in the early morning light, one can almost miss the desolation and destruction of the station. (Photo: Eric Miller)
Unoccupied railway houses have been left vulnerable to the elements and plunder. (Photo: Eric Miller)
Maria Maseti provides for her children and several dogs by working as a part-time cook at the local crèche. (Photo: Eric Miller)
A schoolboy on his way to early-morning class asks passengers for food. (Photo: Eric Miller)
Sophie Plaatjies has been teaching at Hutchinson Primary for 40 years. (Photo: Eric Miller)
The Hutchinson graveyard alongside the railway tracks. (Photo: Eric Miller)
Two local women after a foray collecting firewood in the bush. (Photo: Eric Miller)
Arend Maarman, a retired railway worker and part-time dominee at the local church. (Photo: Eric Miller)
The moon sets over Hutchinson Station. (Photo: Eric Miller)
Gallery

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