The Railway Sidings and The Potato Sheds

The railway sidings - visible directly behind Museum Africa - date back to 1911 and were constructed by the South African Railway Administration to provide access between the Newtown market and the railway yards to the north. Around the railway sidings, the Fresh Produce Market, the Market Hall and the Indian Fruit Market developed over time. Most produce was transported to the market by rail.

Originally designed in 1910 as open sheds, the so-called potato sheds played an integral part in the activities of Newtown. The site incorporates various structures that were added over a 60-year period for keeping vegetables and fodder as well as for slaughtering poultry. Bustling activity, dirt and the smell of livestock characterised this area. By the early 1960s, some 2 000 tons of fresh produce was moving through the market every day.

If you look towards the north of the sheds, you will see the extravagant roof of the old Edwardian public toilet block. The original toilet was constructed in 1911 and was later used as the model for Kippies International Jazz Club.

The potato sheds and the old Edwardian toilet stood derelict for many decades until 1991, when the Afrika Cultural Centre moved into the sheds and ran various art programmes for disadvantaged youth. In 2009 the potato sheds became part of the billion rand "The Potato Shed" development as described by the project managers:

"A prestigious new retail and hotel development will revitalise the historical Newtown precinct. The original potato sheds will be sensitively adapted into a quality shopping centre that celebrates the cultural significance of the site and its buildings. A pedestrian walkway will offer lovers of Johannesburg a unique inner city experience."

Did You Know?

Did you know that the First President Street Power Station, built in Johannesburg in 1906, exploded in its first year of operation? In 1907, the Second President Street Power Station was built to replace it.