The BLUE TRAIN may now be overrun by tourists, but is still one of the world's great journeys; alternatively, Rovos Rail offer another luxury train experience. But following this link will take you to all of the different railway services, from luxury to commuter. And clicking on the steam train below takes you to one of the best of the preserved steam lines in the Cape (the only one that still runs scheduled services).

Railways developed relatively quickly in South Africa, after quite a slow start. The very first line was in 1850, a short, oxen "powered" (dragged, surely?) track at the harbour in Natal. It was only in 1860 that the Natal railway company turned to steam - and was still two years ahead of the Cape Town - Wellington line, which opened in 1862.

The initial construction, from the Cape to Wellington was a slow process. Years between initial estimates, costings, very much the sense of bureaucracy gone mad. 

Only in 1892 did the direct line between Johannesburg and Cape Town open, just in time to be used during the Boer War. In 1910 the railway services in each province merged to form South African Railways and Harbours - which was to take over South African 
Airways in 1934. Steam turned to diesel and then some electric trains some years before the British finally kicked their steam train habit.  Early luxury trains in the 1930s with air-conditioning can be seen as foreshadowing the Blue Train. 

Basic advice for those using South African trains - for safety reasons it is better to travel first class, and in a group. City trains (with the exception of the Simonstown line from Cape Town) should be avoided. They were developed to meet the needs of the apartheid government 

for cheap labour, and tend not to head for areas of interest to tourists. The official Spoornet site should have all the information you are needing.

 

Trace