The History of the Blue Train
The Blue Train, for decades one of the world's most renowned passenger train, owes its origins to the Union Limited and the Union Express, which - from 1923 - linked Johannesburg with the mail ships departing from Cape Town for England.
Ordinary coaches were used until 1927, when articulated saloons were imported. The two Union trains traveled the distance in 30 hours and introduced a new standard of luxury.
In July 1937 it was announced that twelve air-conditioned, all-steel sleeping coaches had been ordered from the Birmingham firm of Metro-Cammell at a cost of some R19 000 each. A later order called for all-steel lounge coaches and dining cars, kitchen-cars and a baggage van.
The coaches were delivered at the start of the Second World War, but the service was suspended in 1942 and - was only resumed in February 1946, from which year it formally bore the name "Blue Train". During this period it was used for a few State journeys.
In 1997 a new Blue Train was introduced and its traditional route between Cape Town and Pretoria was extended northwards to the Victoria Falls. In the following year, a second identical train came into service, allowing the Blue Train to add two new destinations to its schedule: Hoedspruit on the western edge of the Kruger National Park and Port Elizabeth at the eastern end of South Africa's Garden Route.
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