TV presenter and actor Maps Maponyane on The Blue Train. Picture: Instagram
TV presenter and actor Maps Maponyane on The Blue Train. Picture: Instagram

Inside The Blue Train's storied history

By Vincent Monyake Time of article published Nov 12, 2019

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If the walls of The Blue Train could talk, they would better than many, tell of a history of one of the most beautiful countries in the world, whose beauty preserved in the face of adversity. 

The story of this beautiful country is parallel to that of The Blue Train, and such, as is with South Africa, sustaining and preserving the charm therein is a balancing act. 

For any discerning traveller, walking through the compact corridors of this 73-year old national treasure, peeking out into the splendor of our countryside, understanding the complex history through which this beauty has lived is a deeply contemplative act.

That The Blue Train is a time capsule is putting it mildly. And it’s not about the decor that harks to a certain era, but rather that The Blue Train has been a constant presence in the annals of our history. 

In 1946, the name mark, ‘The Blue Train,’ came to life. This was after World War II, when many western countries were rebuilding and trying to move forward. For us in South Africa, our heartbeat was different. Jan Smuts was prime minister and we were heading for the pits of the anti-apartheid struggle. 

Even with all this history, The Blue Train still echoes a sector that has long been shrouded in delicious mysteries, thanks to English literature and Hollywood. The most well-known mystery is best captured in Agatha Christie’s Orient Express, a luxury train which would travel from Paris to Istanbul. 

Antebellum America gave us the luxury train as a heightened tour bus experience - a boudoir on the rails, as blues matriarch Bessie Smith and her mentor before her, Ma Rainey, went from city to city performing at blues revivals. 

In South Africa, trains for us are about going home. Whether its commuting or long distance. They reacquaint us with the beautiful expanse of land around us, while always taking us home – either the home where we were born and bred, or the home where we live and work as adults. 

Perhaps even the ‘home’ in our minds – the safe space we retreat to when we enjoy solitude. Where one is, trains connect us to places, to other travellers and to ourselves, and aboard The Blue Train, we have centred on that human truth.

Late last year, The Blue Train repositioned itself, reimagining it for an evolved, discerning traveller and business leader.

On top of the luxury sound-proofed, individually airconditioned suites, dedicated 24h service butlers, silver service gourmet meals, unlimited range of fine wines and spirits, Cuban cigars, more was done. The main route, which is Pretoria – Cape Town was slowed down so that the journey would take longer - from one night with an intended off-train excursion in Kimberley to two nights with a guaranteed excursion in Kimberley.

The response to date has been phenomenal.  

Through this evolution, the most amazing revelation is that to contemporize The Blue Train is to open access for people to experience the best of South African hospitality. If not on the main trip between Pretoria and Cape Town, then to the Kruger National Park, to Hoedspruit, or around Pretoria or Cape Town for a private dinner charter for that special corporate gala dinner. 

Vincent Monyake is Executive Manager at The Blue Train

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