Volunteering at Reefsteamers exposed me to a lot of railway equipment that ordinarily I would never get to see. I am somewhat of a fan of railway coaches too, so when the opportunity arose to have a look at some of the former Rhodesian Railways coaches I jumped at the chance. The Dune Express and Shongololo Express were both stabled at the Reefsteamers depot in Germiston throughout the period when I was active at the depot. And they had a beautiful rake of coaches that were reminiscent of rail travel as it used to be. This page is really about those coaches.
I was shown around the train by one of the staff members who went out of his way to show me “his home on wheels”, at the time the train was being cleaned and readied for the next journey so it is not as orderly as it would be in normal service. These images were taken in 2009 and may not reflect what the trains look like over 10 years later. Between then and now the trains became part of Rovos Rail, and I do not know what the situation is now with the trains.
The coaches were beautiful with their woodwork and oldtime feel about them, although I am more of a sucker for the original style bed/seat arrangement than having a large bed in a small space.
The image above shows a comparison between the former Rhodesian Railways coach corridors (left) and a much later oval roofed saloon (right) that were on the Dune Express.
Many of the older Rhodesian railways coaches were built in the UK in the 1950’s as the builders plate from one coach (Gloucester Railway Carriage and Wagon Company) attests. Some bear the builders plates of the famous Metro-Cammell in England too.
Judging by the ducting on the roof of this Shongololo coach this may be a kitchen or power car for the train. as well as providing accommodation for crew. Unfortunately in many cases it is difficult to understand what some of the coaches were used for.
Like so many others I miss the days of rail travel in wood and leather furnished coaches so trains like this are really a glimpse at a time gone by. Unfortunately the prices on them are way beyond my reach, but then they are really marketed at the tourist market and overseas visitors yearning for nostalgia. When I was young I often used to see the “Rhodesian Train” pass through our suburb en-route to Park Station, and I always wanted to see what they looked like inside so I was fortunate to be able to see these beauties, and long may the be with us.
DRW 2021-2022. Created 24/09/2021. Many thanks to the staff of the trains and those who kept them running. Special thanks ro Rovos Rail for looking after our older rolling stock and keeping them running.