The Blue Train
Pretoria, South Africa
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THE BLUE TRAIN
Blue Train is unique - it is not merely a train but combines the
luxury of the
world's leading hotels with the charm of train travel. Think of it
as an all inclusive luxury rail cruise with an opportunity to view
South Africa's spectacular landscapes and visit interesting tourist
attractions along the way.
Take a journey into a timeless world
of grace, elegance and romance, where spectacular scenery stirs your imagination
and luxurious comfort soothes your body and soul. Sit back, de-stress
This unique luxury recreation and business
experience takes you where you want to go in an endless, five-star
splendor. It pauses only to
pick up prestigious World Travel awards for being a cut above the rest
and the Diner's Club accolade for its connoisseur selection of South
African wines. The Blue Train cuisine puts sheer good taste on a plate
while butler personal attention puts you on a pedestal.
It's a journey of a lifetime for those who appreciate finer things in
MAGNIFICENT WAY TO TRAVEL
South Africa boasts a major international
tourist attraction with the re-launch (September 1997)
of a magnificent
new Blue Train, voted "The World's Leading Luxury Train" at
the World Travel Awards, for four consecutive years.
This is not merely a train but combines
the luxury of one of the world's leading hotels with the charm of train
travel. Think of it as an all
inclusive luxury rail cruise with an opportunity to view South Africa's
spectacular landscapes and visit interesting tourist attractions along
the way. Once you are on board The Blue Train, you won't need an extra
penny except to acquire personal gifts such as exquisite jewelry and
The Blue Train branded mementos.
Since its launch in 1946, The Blue Train
has been synonymous with elegance and luxury and this latest incarnation
is guaranteed to make it the focus
of global attention. With interiors created by a leading interior architectural
design company, the new Blue Train rivals many a five-star hotel in
terms of grace, ambiance,
comfort and style. The suites have been superbly redesigned to offer
discerning guests and travelers the best that modern technology and
superior craftsmanship can offer.
Finally, to ensure the ultimate in hospitality, professionally trained
personnel are on call for guests in each suite 24 hours a day. The 380-meter
long (416 yards) train has 18 carriages, which accommodates up to 82
passengers and travels at a maximum speed of 110km/h (68mph).
Complete Blue Train Route Details, click Blue
The Blue Train operates a total of four
routes. Offering the biggest attractions are, Pretoria to Cape Town
or vice versa (1,600 kilometers
or 994 miles), with guests spending one night on the train. Pretoria
to Victoria Falls or vice versa (1,596km or 991 miles) offers a discerning
traveler a glimpse of some of Southern Africa's natural beauties such
as the great plains of the South West and Victoria Falls. During this
trip, guests get to spend two nights on board The Blue Train.
images of The Blue Train, click Blue
With interiors created by a leading interior architectural design company,
The Blue Train will rival many a five-star hotel in terms of elegance,
grace, comfort and style. The suites have been superbly redesigned to
offer discerning guests the best that modern technology and superior
craftsmanship can provide.
Each Blue Train suite has a fully appointed
en-suite bathroom, featuring either a bath or a shower. All suites
are equipped with telephone, television
monitor and individually controlled air-conditioning. A video channel
allows guests to access short documentaries about the area through which
the train is traveling.
The suites are fitted with water cooled
air-conditioning system. Each suite has its own fresh air intake and
individual coolant system. The
passages are also air-conditioned with the same systems. Both suites
and passages have the temperature adjusters and air speed regulators
for individual preferred setting. During cold periods, all the systems
are provided with heating cycles, not only from the air conditioning
unit but also via under floor heating.
Guests may choose between
a Deluxe and a Luxury accommodation.
Choice of twin-beds suite with a shower or a double-bed suite with a
three-quarter size bath.
Choice of twin-beds or double bed, and a full size bath with hand shower.
Luxury suites are also equipped with CD players and video machines.
Each Blue Train has two lounges:
the main lounge and the Club lounge. The Club lounge, has a more masculine
ambiance and is expected to find
flavour with those seeking a peaceful place for after-dinner cognacs,
coffees or cigars. This area is the only section of the train designated
for smokers. High tea is served each afternoon in the main lounge.
Another attraction of the opulent main lounge is the giant-size TV monitor
revealing the unfolding scenery of the track ahead, courtesy of a camera
mounted onto the front of the locomotive. The ambiance of the lounges
is one of warm elegance. Large windows allow for panoramic views of the
The second Blue Train has a third lounge, which can be used as a 22
seater conference facility with laptop computer, overhead projector,
video, slide facilities and other modern equipment that can cater for
various types of meetings and conferences. If not used for conferencing,
this lounge can be converted into an observation car.
All lounges are fitted with gas filled
air conditioning systems. The temperature is centrally adjusted to
a desired coolant temperature. During cooler periods, the under-floor
heating provides guests with desired temperature to ensure their comfort
at all times.
A sophisticated, opulent atmosphere, gourmet menu
and the finest South African wines sourced from boutique vineyards, make
dining on The Blue Train a magnificent experience. The Blue Train's own
creative team of chefs have created a menu to delight the most discerning
Only the freshest ingredients meet The Blue Train standards. Meals and
snacks are prepared in the streamlined kitchen, designed to The Blue
Train engineers' exacting specifications.
Guests are offered a choice of entrees, soups, fish, meat dishes, desserts,
coffee and cheese platters, all beautifully presented. Typically, South
African cuisine includes, Karoo lamb, kabeljou, Knysna oysters, snoek,
crayfish and impala. Also offered is an abundant array of the finest
South African fruit and vegetables. Vegetarian, Kosher and Halaal meals
are provided on request.
The Blue Train is a showcase for South African wines which have been
selected to complement each course on the menu after meticulous consultation
with top South African wine experts.
Breakfast, lunch and supper are the main meals and high tea is served
each afternoon in the main lounge. During high tea, various snacks are
served - these include cucumber sandwiches, dainty cakes, fresh scones
and cream and other irresistible delicacies with an assortment of fine
teas and coffees.
The Blue Train is
equipped with the finest bone china, cut-crystal glasses and classic
engraved with the familiar insignia.
Dew-fresh flowers add emphasis to the attention to detail. After a spectacular African sunset, the
individual lighting on each table gently highlights the beautifully
detailed burled wood paneling and original South African artworks.
The Blue Train has A maximum of
4 suites per coach.
To ensure the ultimate in hospitality, each coach has a professionally
trained butler who is on call for guests in each suite to attend to their
every need. The butlers are there to ensure that your journey is as memorable
and comfortable as possible.
The Train Manager is also on call at all times. Guests can contact him
anytime they require assistance on any matter; or when they require information
pertaining to their journey.
The Blue Train on-board services include:
A variety of delicious snacks and beverages served in the suites, on
request, by butlers;
limited on-board laundry and valet service;
are provided in all suites for the safe keeping of your valuable belongings;
luggage van is available to store any additional luggage that a guest will not
need during the journey.
these services are included in the fare.
Trained first aid personnel are on board at all times. In the event
of an emergency, doctors and medical personnel can be contacted at the
various stations en-route; or flown in by helicopter.
Two engineers with specialized expertise
on luxury trains are always on board The Blue Train and are happy to
share their knowledge with train
The telephone beside each bed allows guests to dial the Train Manager,
the personal butler or the butler on duty 24 hours a day. Should a guest
wish to make an external call (local or international), the staff will
gladly assist them in doing so at a nominal cost. Fax facilities are
also available on board.
Southbound, the train with its distinctive sapphire-blue
carriages, was known as the 'Union Limited', and on its return
journey, the 'Union Express'.
People soon began referring to them as 'those Blue Trains' and so
...a legend was born. The Blue Train celebrated its 50th anniversary
in February 1996.
Although officially named The Blue Train in 1946, the train's enthusiasts
trace its history to the 1890's and the discovery of diamonds and
Before the turn of the century,
advertisements, offering direct-route journeys to the gold and diamond
fields of South Africa,
invitingly: "England to Johannesburg in 19 days, the first 17 across
the ocean on board a Union or Castle line vessel to Cape Town, the remaining
2 on a train steaming through mountains and valleys and over the South
African veld to Kimberley and the Reef."
"It is not difficult to imagine what conditions must have been
like on these early trains. The extremes of heat and cold, the dust,
the multiplicity of insects and the smoke and coal dust from the locomotive
would all have added up to an experience of tedious discomfort," writes
author David Robbins in The Blue Train (Viking).
But the accommodation and level of passenger comfort on the trains soon
improved as the first years of the 20th century brought a new breed of
trains which were considered to be the most luxurious anywhere in the
world at the time.
These were the luxury precursors of today's Blue Train. While the hoi
polloi roughed it with smut in the eye, prospectors and men of means
were able to disembark at Table Bay and climb straight onto a train which
boasted showers, washrooms, electric lighting, fans, oak-paneled dining
saloons, smoking and card rooms. The Imperial Mail and the African Express
were among the lines which provided these special services.
At the same time Cecil John Rhodes, who
built his influence and wealth on the Kimberley diamond fields and
who founded the De Beers Mining
Company in 1880, was forging ahead with his dream of 'painting the
map red', an euphemism for extending the British Empire. His dream
was of a Trans-African railway between Cape Town and Cairo. Although
this never materialized, he achieved the construction of a line between
South Africa and, the then Congo Free State, formerly known as Zaire,
now the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Soon after the turn of the century, the railway line from Cape Town
reached Victoria Falls, enabling the luxurious Zambezi Express to make
excursions there as The Blue Train does now, almost a century later.
The Imperial Mail and the African and Zambezi Express trains were on
par for comfort and champagne service.
By the early 1920s, however, the luxury
Cape Town to Johannesburg trains were called the Union trains, with
the Union Express running from Cape
Town to the Reef and the Union Limited traveling the return route. Their
accommodation became even more luxurious and spacious with the introduction
in 1928 of articulated coaches equipped with heating, hot and cold water,
bunk lights and bells for the summoning of the coach attendant.
In 1933, a new dining saloon called Protea
was introduced on the Union trains. The new coach and attendant kitchen
car were advanced in design
and had revolutionary suspension. To demonstrate the smooth-running qualities
of these coaches, a glass of water was filled to within 6,4 millimeters
(0,2 in) of the brim during a test run. After more than 190km (118 miles)
traveling at considerable speed, not a drop had been spilt.
The exterior of Protea was finished
in very distinctive colors: azure and cream with a silver roof.
By 1936, both the Union
Express and Union
Limited were painted in the same livery. Three years later, new train
sets made in England were placed in service. Luxury all-steel, air- conditioned
trains, they were finished in blue and grey and became even more popularly
known as "those blue trains".
World War II caused a suspension of service which was only resumed in
"The Blue Trains re-emerged as the
premier express between the mail-boats in Cape Town and the industrial
and economic hub of the country
some 1,600 kilometers (994 miles) to the north- east. Only this time,
the locomotives which hauled them carried a new name board: Blue Train," writes
Steam reluctantly gave way to electrification and diesel as the grand
all-steel blue icon adapted to progress, tirelessly journeying backwards
and forwards. More and more people booked on The Blue Train for the sheer
pleasure of the experience rather than the business orientation of its
But time and wear was taking its
toll on the grand old train and in 1965, the decision to build a
new Blue Train was taken
by railways management
and detailed design specifications were prepared. The opening paragraph
of the specification document summed up the intent as follows: "These
trains are to be of a standard of luxury and quality of material and
workmanship equal to the best in the world."
Tenders came in from all over the
world but it was the South African Union Carriage & Wagon Company
outside Nigel (45km or 28 miles - east of Johannesburg) that won
the commission in 1968.
While the new
train was being created, a Blue Train Anniversary Special set off on
a historic run from Johannesburg to Cape Town on April 11, 1969. It was
a memorable occasion with two mighty old steam steeds - the 16E 855 and
16E 859 - resurrected to pull the train.
The sense of gaiety on the platform next to the locomotive was briefly
tempered by a scene, both heart warming and nostalgic. A contingent of
retired drivers had formed up alongside the 16E to have a group photograph
taken. Most of these men had, in their day, driven The Blue Train or
its predecessors like the Union Limited. What memories must have come
rushing through their minds as they saw a steam locomotive once again
at the head of South Africa's crack express.
The second generation Blue Train was completed in 1972. It became a
symbol of luxury, sophistication and technological progress. Largely
constructed by South Africans, the train incorporated the latest railway
technology from Britain and Germany.
Beyond the technology, The Blue Train's reputation for comfort, excellent
service, food, punctuality, Irish linen, crystal and silverware in the
heart of some of the world's most rugged and spectacular scenery, soon
spread around the world.
But in 1995, after 25 years of service, the time had come to build a
new Blue Train. On August 1st, 1997, the third incarnation of The Blue
Train glided out of Cape Town station heralding a new era in the history
of luxury train travel. On 5 October 1998, the second new Blue Train
commenced from Pretoria.
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