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The Blue Train History

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.


On The Blue Train, the luxury of personal service comes standard. Their friendly, efficient and highly-trained staff take great pride in resolving your every query and satisfying your every need. A late night snack? An early morning wake-up call? A blouse in pressing need of a little tender care? One call and a butler will take care of it. The Train Manager is also on call at all times.

On-board services include, but are not limited to:

  • Snacks and beverages served in your private suite on request,
  • A limited on-board laundry and valet service,
  • Safes in all the suites for your valuables, and
  • A van for luggage that you will not need during the journey.

The Blue Train’s telephone system runs the full length of the train, allowing you to contact your butler or the Train Manager 24-hours-a-day. If you wish to make international calls, their staff will gladly assist you to do so, at an additional fee.

In addition, their two highly-trained on-board technicians are always eager to share their knowledge with you, and you can also enjoy a camera-view from the drivers’ perspective from the comfort of your own suite.


As the wheels of The Blue Train transport you to an era of untempered luxury and through breath-taking landscapes – both of which will become indelibly etched and cherished memories – you may wish for a more tangible reminder of this opportune time. For this reason, The Blue Train is home to an exclusive boutique, an oasis that promises to satiate your desire for a fitting memento.

Choose from a range of quality items that bear the elegant herald of the “vehicle of your dreams”. From golf shirts to playing cards, from key rings to cufflinks to lavish, leather gifts, these one-of-a-kind souvenirs will brand themselves into memory, and bring your Blue Train experience to life all over again.. The boutique limits its clientele to two per viewing, ensuring you of the best individual attention.

Should you purchase a valuable keepsake and would prefer greater security than the safe in your suite, the boutique will store the item securely until you are ready to take possession of it.


Maximum 2 guests per suite. Rates are per person, inclusive of all meals, high tea, drinks (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) and off-the train excursions excluding French champagne, caviar and external telephone calls.
Rates quoted are for a one-way journey and are subject to change without prior notification. Arrival times and off-the train excursions cannot be guaranteed. Reservations for children on request only.

Special requests for meals (e.g. Kosher and Halaal) to be specified at time of reservation.
Bed preference (double or single) to be specified when making a reservation, as double beds are limited.

Guests are requested to check in 1 hour prior to departure at The Blue Train lounges in Pretoria and Cape Town.

The Blue Train terms and conditions apply to all bookings.


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