Diana Goodman sees the beauty in the red of rust, the purpose in weathered wood, and the possibility in long-neglected pieces of steel.
Diana and her husband Brian are the maintenance/technical team behind the new Kruger Shalati Train on a Bridge Hotel and Kruger Station project in the Kruger National Park. This new precinct is located at the site where guests were first welcomed to the Park when it opened in the early 1920s.
When they arrived on site, the pair set about the task of wading through spiders, rats, bat droppings and a lot of dirt to salvage everything that they could use or repurpose. They spent their days scrubbing, sanding, polishing and bringing new life to the precinct using the materials that were there long before construction on the new project began.
“I don’t think we realised how big this project was when we took it on. It’s been a challenge. We initially spent our days lovingly cleaning thick dirt off all sorts of stuff. We clean and sort things until they’re beautiful and usable,” said Goodman.
She believes that with far too much wastage in the world, sustainability should always be in focus. The couple salvaged old doors (including handles and locks), wooden window frames, shelves, leadwood tree supports, railway sleepers, benches, ladders, steel roof trusses, rusty pipes, kitchen utensils, trolleys and more, and used all of it.
“It’s endless what we've recycled. We love to rummage for things. We’ve found metal, wood, nuts and bolts in boxes and it’s all going to be used. Everytime I turn around, there’s something else we find to reuse.
“We built a store room out of recycled fencing, for example. We’ve used old shelving in strips to prevent day visitors from seeing our warehouse. It will eventually rot, but we’ve planted creepers and shrubs that will take over in time," the couple revealed.
Planting indigenous trees is another important aspect of reinvigorating the area. About 100 trees have been planted to create barriers and make shade. The repurposing spans outside of the main structures as well. Slabs of railway sleepers have been used to hold lights along pathways and longer sections have been used to create steps. Pieces of rusty metal from the old pump house have also been used as striking decor among the dry grass.
More than just repurposing materials, Goodman says that extensive solar panels on-site will ensure sustainability for the long-term and she is looking to help implement a recycling programme for general waste.
Kruger Shalati Concession General Manager Judiet Barnes explains that the luxury train hotel, which will officially open in December, uses a lot of reclaimed items salvaged from the surrounding area and the demolition of previous structures to use as building materials, features and decor.
“From concept through to construction of the site, we always knew that we had to celebrate what was there before. The Kruger Shalati Train on a Bridge Hotel is a very special hospitality development. Not only are we using a historical bridge on the old selati line over the sabie river no longer used, but our train carriages itself are recycled carriages used in the 1950’s which were scrapped years ago and converted into a luxurious hotel and positioned it on the disused Selati railway line above the Sabie river in the Kruger National Park,” said Barnes.
She said the project required a unique approach to truly respect the space and create something that would both stand out as its own entity while paying tribute to the heritage of the location.
“We are thrilled at how much thought and effort our project team - with Brian and Diana playing a critical role in this - have put into making Kruger Shalati Train on a Bridge a sustainable hotel in one of the world’s most popular game viewing destinations. We cannot wait to welcome visitors to our eco-conscious hotel in a couple of weeks," she added.