The James Hall Museum of Transport in Johannesburg is the largest and most comprehensive museum of land transport in South Africa. Established by the late Jimmie Hall together with the City of Johannesburg in February 1964, the museum's impressive collection of animal-drawn vehicles, coaches, motorcycles, buses and cars dates back to as early as 1870. This museum offers motor enthusiasts and inquisitive children insight into what transportation in early Johannesburg was like. Their steam vehicle collection is one of the most popular attractions for the little ones, as well as antique fire engines donated by the Johannesburg Fire Station. Housed in the East Hall of the museum, one of these engines is a 1913 Merryweather Steam Pump. Not only will the kids be enamored by the nostalgia of these machines, but they will learn a ton here.


Score yourself a few extra parent points by bringing the kids to the James Hall Museum of Transport. Teaching them about the history of the city, its people and how they got around, the museum recognises that the theme of transport recurs throughout the primary school syllabus. Bring the images in their textbooks to life by taking a tour around the museum. Unfortunately, guided tours are only offered to groups of 60 or more. However, there are information signs on almost every display, so you can easily find your way around learning all about locomotives and their modern equivalents.

If your historical knowledge is somewhat lacking, bring Granny and Grandpa along to help out with the facts. We're sure they will be delighted to take a trip down memory lane back to their childhoods. Plus, sharing their memories with the grandchildren is always worthwhile. Make sure to bring your camera with, to catch all the many photo opportunities.

Joburg's last tram returned to the sheds in 1961, ending 55 years of electric tram operations in Johannesburg.

Family Fun

Now that you have the whole family assembled, take a ride on a London bus, ox-wagon or vintage fire engine. The James Hall Museum of Transport offers short rides on some of their iconic machines. The jokesters of the family may want to try their hand at balancing on a Penny-Farthing or riding in tandem. These antiquated bicycles are a sight to behold with their strange configurations. Don't be surprised if the kids wonder in awe at how people possibly traveled on one big wheel!

Once you have thoroughly explored the displays, head over to the museum's gift shop. Here, you can find postcards and transport-related trinkets to take home. Pick up a memento or two to remember your time with the kids at the museum. Alternatively, you can set up a family picnic on the lawns just outside the museum. This is a great way to wind down after all the excitement!

The James Hall Museum of Transport is the ideal place to take the kids these holidays. So, pack them up into the car and get ready to experience a world in which Joburg's roads where littered by carriages, wagons and trams. It's definitely a marvel you won't want them to miss out on. Entrance to the museum is free, so you really have no excuse not to visit.

James Hall Museum

For More Information 

Visit the James Hall Museum of Transport website for more information about tours and events. Contact them on 011 435-9485/6/7 or 011 435-9821 or via email at [email protected].

Address: Pioneers' Park, 193 Rosettenville Road, La Rochelle, Johannesburg South.

Cullinan, an hour-and-a-half outside of Joburg, is a charming Victorian village named after Sir Thomas Cullinan and is famous for being the site where the world's largest diamond was found. Driving in, you pass the historical Cullinan diamond mine where it's possible to book either a surface tour or underground tour. We visited the village on a Sunday when a local vintage car club had put on a show, and this added to the sense of history about the place. It reminded me a bit of Pilgrim's Rest, mostly because of the architectural style. Cullinan is great for a day trip — that's what we did — or you could plan an overnight stay.

Where To Stay

Cullinan Premier Hotel is great if you like more formal, established accommodation. Originally built in 1906, this restored hotel also offers a great dining experience with buffet lunches being served on a Sunday.

Details:  1 Hotel Street | 012 734 1810

JanHarmsgat se Agterplaas is probably the most well-known establishment in Cullinan. Not only do they offer quaint accommodation (rooms have names like Fansy Suite and Leka Room), they also accommodate corporate events, have quirky 'picnic weddings', offer wonderful treatments at Zau Spa, and if that weren’t enough, they also host local talent at their theatre.

Details: [email protected] | 082 255 2465

Where To Eat 

I would recommend planning your trip so that you can get in an early lunch (and miss the weekend rush) and then do a walkabout afterwards.

Sir Thomas Cullinan Restaurant and Pub is popular with the Sunday Breakfast Run crowd, and is also suitable for family dining. Stop here for their Sunday buffet or pub lunch.

Details: 112 Oak Avenue; Cullinan | (012) 734 1778

As Greek as it gets is a popular spot, and was our first choice for lunch – unfortunately my youngest was on the verge of collapse from hunger (her words, not mine) so we moved on to a quieter eatery. They have an extensive, traditional Greek menu, at relatively good prices; they have tables outside on a broad pavement and this is the place to sit and chill with some mezze and ouzo.

Details: 86 Oak Avenue; Cullinan | (012) 734 0707/083 632 5364

Take time to walk along the main road – it is dotted with arts and crafts, furniture and gift stores. Most have an eclectic mix of items so you are sure to find a gem or two.

Who Should Visit?

Like many small towns, speed of service is not a priority – so if you are looking for Wimpy-style speed or are in a hurry, then come back when you have more time.

Other activities in the area

Friends of the rail have a steam route into Cullinan.

Life Ballooning which operates on the route to Cullinan,offers a once in a lifetime experience, where you can relax and absorb the peaceful nature of the African cliffs and bush while brushing the trees with the balloon basket – this is air travel with a difference.

Diamond XRanch is a little slice of the American West, offering Western style outrides on a ranch – you can even partake in activities like cattle drives, branding and tagging. After a day in the saddle have a meal and drink in the saloon. Accommodation is also available.