The first safe route through Cogmans Kloof, which links the western end of the Little Karoo to the Breede River Valley, was built by renowned road engineer Thomas Bain. It took him five years and was completed in 1877.
Prior to this, the district’s residents traversed the kloof (gorge) by following the river. This was a perilous trip across axle‑breaking terrain, involving several crossings of deep sandy drifts and the ever‑present threat of a flash flood.
It was such a flood, which claimed the lives of 12 locals in 1867, that prompted the Cape Colony government to take action. First, the western section of the road in the vicinity of Hodges Bridge was built and opened in 1872. Thereafter, from 1873 to 1877, Bain built the remainder of the road, including the small unlined rock tunnel. The rock formation was very hard and folded into near‑vertical strata,
which hampered the blasting.
The opening of the pass in 1877 was cause for great celebration among the district’s residents. Later, the Toll House was built about a kilometre from the tunnel, towards Ashton. Bain’s road remained in use well into the 20th century. In 1931, the road was one of the first country roads to be tarred. In 1951‑1952, the road was re‑aligned and three new bridges were built. From 2015 to 2021, the road was upgraded and two of the bridges were reconstructed.
Sections of the road built by Bain, including its dry‑stone retaining walls, have survived the harsh conditions in Cogmans Kloof. Testimony to Bain’s eye for a safe route is the fact that his road remained intact following the disastrous flood of 1981, and once again successfully carried all traffic through Cogmans Kloof until repairs to the 1950s road were made.