Emanating from a fantasy of travelling from Africa’s southern- to northern most tips, The Blue Train was steam-rolled into being in the 1920s. The two original trains, known then as the Union Limited and the Union Express, meandered their way as far as the Great African Railway would allow – a bridge straddling the Zambezi River, showered by the “thunderous smoke” of the Victoria Falls – a trip taken by Former State President, Thabo Mbeki in 1998.
As news of the discovery of gold and diamonds travelled afar, thousands flocked to South Africa’s Witwatersrand – Ridge of White Waters – with a dream of digging their way to untold riches. The railway lines became utilitarian, ferrying society on the move. But the ridge’s mineral wealth soon funded a burgeoning upper-class, one that came to expect a more opulent mode of transport. And the Union carriages became standard-bearers of the easy-living heyday of the 1920s, boasting everything from card tables to ceiling fans, to hot and cold water on tap.
After being pressed into military service during World War II and then reincarnated in 1946, the trains’ distinctive royal blue and cream shades gave rise to “those blue trains” intimations. It was in these shades that a legend was born, that The Blue Train would soon ride the rails to legend.
A carriage-by-carriage refurbishment in the 70s and modernisation from steam to electricity and diesel in the 90s, defined this train as an unmatched experience of luxurious modern travel, and yet invoked the romance and history of its glittered past.