Category : Dar es Salaam

Rovos Rail’s Taunina Teddies

Rovos Rail Taunina Teddies

The tale of our Rovos Rail teddies began 19 years ago with our journey finding us in the capable and talented hands of Taunina.

On an early Dar es Salaam trip we had two delightful Australian ladies, Dawn and Annike, who travelled everywhere accompanied by teddies they collected the world over. At their suggestion, the Rovos collection of limited-edition teddies slowly evolved when, in 1998, Anthea met Bev Duncan who had a small barrow in the V&A Waterfront Shopping Centre full of her handmade teddies.

This chance encounter spanned a 17-year friendship with Bev painstakingly producing 20 collections (50 to a set) of customised, handmade Rovos teddies and 600 kiddies bears. Bev took great delight at the thought of her teddies living worldwide.

Very sadly, Bev developed a brain tumour in December 2013 and after a long, hard-fought battle we lost her in April 2015.

Anthea, deeply saddened by the loss of her friend, pressed pause on the creation and production of our teddies and it’s only recently that Taunina have taken up the helm.

The Taunina story is one of great courage and compassion for the commerce lies intertwined with community upliftment. The company focuses on improving lives of disadvantaged people who operate in communities where opportunities may be limited but where creativity and passion are abundant.

“We provide our artists with the support and market access they need to make a living by using skills many of them learned at an early age. And we actively involve them, sharing in the success of the business. Artists receive a steady income (vs. piece rate pay) in the form of wages that are significantly higher than market-related salaries. In addition, they will receive 30% of the before-tax profits of the company: 20% through the Bear Essentials Fund (which contributes towards the housing, healthcare and education of their families) and 10% in the form of productivity-related cash bonus payments.”

To date, Taunina have created 10 bespoke teddies for us each in the Rovos green, old gold and maroon in keeping with our corporate colours and each with a paw pad and ear in leopard print. The other paw pad carries with it a little Rovos Rail charm. Our first three bears went out on the Dar es Salaam train in August last year with Thebolo, Munaki and Nyenyedzi finding homes in Germany!

All the teddies carry the initials of the women who make them, symbolic of their sense of dignity and pride. Each bear travels in a handcrafted hatbox with his or her very own bespoke passport. A Taunina creation is a work of art, an heirloom to be passed from one generation to the next. It’s a gift that changes lives.

“The name Taunina is an anagram of the African word ‘TAU’, meaning ‘lion’, and ‘NINA’, an acronym for ‘No Income, No Assets’. Taunina gives women who were once without income and assets the power to become lions of their own destinies.”

We’re proud of our association with this fantastic company and are encouraged and inspired by their story. For many, living in South Africa simply means surviving so for women to stare such adversity in the face and create gorgeous teddies that live across the world is just remarkable.

Click here to watch the Taunina video.

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Rovos Rail diesel locomotives

Six New Diesel Locomotives for Rovos Rail!

After a few years of trying to grow our Rovos family of locomotives, we are proud to announce that we have finally purchased six diesel locomotives. This is a huge accomplishment for us as up until now we’ve had to outsource this haulage to private companies at a substantial cost. We were eager and excited to test their mettle to see if they measure up to our expectations and the wonderful news just in is that two were used to haul the train from Pretoria to Dar es Salaam and they made it there on Saturday with no hassles and on time! A huge thank you and congratulations to our drivers and to Eric, the train manager, and his team.

Acquiring our new locomotives wasn’t an easy task, to say the least. The search for six mainline diesels began in 2008 when we undertook a journey to Namibia to view the new Chinese SDD diesel locomotives, purchased by Trans Namib. Sparked by our interest in these locos, we decided to travel to the CNR train factory in China to explore the possibility of placing an order. Upon entering the warehouse, we noticed that their trains were mass produced. We considered making a purchase, but the price, quality and availability of spare parts concerned us. Our intuition and experience in the locomotive industry told us that we needed to look elsewhere – and so our search continued.

Since our visit to China, second-hand locomotives have become scarce. It was only in 2012, four years later, that we heard about Queensland National selling serviceable trains. We decided to go all the way to their head office in Brisbane only to be disappointed in discovering that all the trains had already been bought by Apex Industrial and resold to RRL Grindrod, AR&TS and Saflog.

After our failed endeavour to secure a purchase from Queensland National, we ventured to New Zealand after news surfaced of KiwiRail’s plan to withdraw a number of diesel locos from the Auckland suburban network. KiwiRail had ordered themselves brand new trains from China to replace their current trains but once the Chinese trains were inspected, they realised that they contained high levels of asbestos. The new trains were returned to China causing KiwiRail to withdraw its decision to sell its older working trains – this was unfortunately a further disappointment for us.

Yet we soldiered on in our search.

In October 2013, a new tender was released in Perth for the purchase of 23 locomotives. Among the 23 trains, five stood out above the rest. These five were members of the DD Class, which were built in 1970 to transport coal in Queensland. Reviewing the history of these trains proved to us that the DD Class was a reliable model – exactly what we wanted as additions to our Rovos family. The five locomotives that we were interested in were previously sent to EDI loco works in Port Lincoln where they were stripped and rebuilt using new or overhauled spares and parts, such as power units, electrics, traction motors, bogies and main generators. The trains’ cabs were also modified beautifully and fitted with air conditioning, a microwave, fridge and bathroom facilities.

Again, Apex Industrial beat us to the punch and purchased the entire lot. We were then left with no alternative but to purchase the five locomotives from them. And so we did just that.

The next hurdle to overcome was finding suitable transport to bring our newly acquired locomotives home. This proved to be a challenge, since there weren’t many suitable options and we had to take transport costs into consideration too. Fortunately, we weren’t facing this problem alone as Apex Industrial also needed to find a suitable vessel to transport their own trains from Australia to Durban. We initially hoped that we could transport our newly purchased locomotives by rail, but due to inspection and haulage fees, we realised that this would not be a viable option. Instead, we settled on a 40km road haulage from the Forrestfield depot in Perth to the Port of Fremantle, and from Fremantle our cargo would then be shipped to Durban.

The loading date was set for December 2014 but the ship that was meant to transport our locomotives was delayed en route due to a storm off Brisbane. We were hoping that our locomotives’ voyage would resume once the storm had abated, but since it was peak holiday season and abnormal loads were banned from being transported on Australian roads at that time, we had to wait for the new business year to commence. Eventually, loading was arranged for 6 January 2015. Thankfully, it was smooth sailing from there. Seven locomotives were secured on a ship called Fairlight, bound for Durban. Two weeks later on the 26 January, Fairlight docked in Durban and unloading began. The process was relatively uncomplicated, unlike our experience in Australia. Our six locomotives were held in a holding area ready to be fuelled and prepared for the journey home to Capital Park, Pretoria.

We have gained five working locomotives while one other is in the process of being repaired. We are very pleased with the outcome of our decision, and we can’t wait to send them off on thrilling African journeys.

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Rovos Rail Dar es Salaam

A Royal Letter

It’s not every day we receive a royal letter and lovely feedback such as the below is always welcome by all here at Rovos Rail.

Dear Mr Vos,

Journey Cape Town to Dar es Salaam, 17thJanuary

My wife Cammy and I have just returned from Dar – having thankfully not availed ourselves of the rest of the Noble Caledonia tour, by boat. (I particularly dislike the sea; my overriding interest was in your train!)

I wanted to write to say how absolutely enthralled we both were in what you provide! I am not a “train buff” in that I could not tell you the gauges of the railway in Canada, Cambodia or Cameroon (as some of our fellow passengers could – and did), but I have always been fascinated by Edwardian travel details – from early limousines to showman’s caravans and of course the wonderfully extravagant rail cars of American 19th century industry barons.

What you have done in creating the Pride of Africa train surpasses all and nothing short of amazing! There was no reason for me to look for fault, but if I had I could not have found it – the cabins were brilliant, the beds were exceptionally comfortable and including a shower room is quite extraordinary.

It was a total joy to sit watching Africa roll by – or perhaps more truthfully, given the state of some of the tracks, rumble by. How marvellous, in this age of safety and correctness, to be able to open the windows; how fantastic to sit on the observation deck – surely unique? My wife had never been to Africa and there can be few better ways to see it and none in such comfort. We loved every minute.

As for the service and friendliness – and efficiency – of your staff, it surpassed everything. From being greeted with champagne by the line of beautifully dressed hostesses and helpers (I persisted in calling it champagne on the basis that your South African wines are a match for any. And it is easier to say…) to the unexpected and clever touches of cold water when setting out and damp towels on dusty returns and we were looked after at breakfast, lunch and dinner. There were so many brilliant details.

We so appreciated being met in Cape Town by you, something commented on by several people, both on this trip and previous ones.

Eric Annandale, your train manager, was a star. He worked ceaselessly to overcome any operational obstacles. Craig Geater was wonderful – a great help in all matters – not only in the incredible luxury of having a hair stylist on board, but with information and organisation on trips as well.

The food was amazing, always unusual, always delicious and just the right amount. The South African wines were outstanding. The dining room and bar staff were brilliant and always ready to change menu in individual cases, willingly and efficiently. The dining car itself is superb.

Thank you too for the various splendid gifts that came with the tour – including a very fine tie and the magnificent Rovos tog bags!

All in all a most magnificent experience and one we are sure to share with our family and friends for many years.

Thank you and congratulations on your achievements.

Sincerely, 

Lord Cranworth

If you would like information on our Dar es Salaam journey then please do not hesitate to contact Alicia on alicia@rovos.co.za 

Photo credit: Jos Beltman from Icento Treinreizen in Holland.

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