Blue Train expands its destinations to include Durban

Posted on 16 August 2013

The window into South Africa’s soul has opened a little wider. The world-famous Blue Train is set to stretch its rails to include trips to Durban from Pretoria and vice versa later this year.

According to The Blue Train‘s executive manager, Hanlie Kotze, the Durban route was due to clients’ requests and will allow guests to enjoy a ride through some of the region’s most picturesque landscapes while enjoying the legend that is The Blue Train. The route includes a two-night stay at the five-star Zimbali Lodge in Durban.


The inaugural trip from Pretoria to Durban is scheduled to take place on 20 September, with the return trip departing from Durban on 22 September.

The Blue Train: a rich history

The Blue Train’s wheels have been turning since the 1920s when leisure travel became a commodity. Then known as the Union Limited and Union Express, its tracks took it from Cape Town harbour to the goldfields of the Witwatersrand. In 1933 and 1933 luxury was introduced with new features such as a dining saloon and air-conditioned carriages.

World War II saw luxury take a back seat until 1946 when a coat of royal blue and cream was applied. The colours later gave the trains their distinctive livery, which brought about the official Blue Train, named so as a reference to the blue-painted steel carriages.

The Blue Train has gone on to redefine luxury travel, making the switch from steam to diesel, linking the veld to the sea and tradition to progress. Riding from the age of steam to the age of the Internet, the Blue Train is an important aspect of South African culture (and has even made it’s way into the Toy and Miniature Museum in Stellenbosch) because it represents progress and pride.

The Blue Train has an aura of mystique to it that has attracted presidents and kings over the years. Image: Flickr


Luxury on The Blue Train

As a direct descendant of the Union Limited Union Express, this mobile hotel makes sure that its noise level never reaches more than 55 decibels, ensuring that guests do not hear anything louder than a gentle rainfall or casual conversation. The train is also one of the only options that allows travellers to see the beautiful landscape of South Africa while enjoying life on a five-star hotel on wheels.

It has also hosted countless presidents and royalty in its history. Noteworthy people who have boarded the Blue Train include supermodel Naomi Campbell, actress Mia Farow, cricketer Imran Khan, singer Quincy Jones and South African legends Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu.

All this luxury has to cost something. A right arm maybe? Some might say so. A luxury double suite costs around R13 oo0 a person in low season (mid November to August) and upwards of R16 000 a person in the high season (September to mid November). The prices include all meals and drinks (including French champagne and caviar) and all off-train excursions.

I have never been on the Blue Train before (on account of it being rather expensive), but I know of people who have. Their recollections bring about a sense of positivity that is sometimes difficult to find in modern society and, after all is said and done, can you really put a price on a luxurious piece of history?

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