Life on Board
General make-up of the train Locomotive, generator car, staff car, guest sleepers, a non-smoking lounge car (26 guests), two non-smoking 42-seat dining cars (if required, plenty of space for the maximum of 72 guests carried), kitchen car, guest sleepers, smoking lounge and Observation Car (32 guests) at the tail.
Cuisine Meals are served in one sitting only in the charming Victorian atmosphere of the dining cars and are complemented by a selection of fine South African wines. An enthusiastic team of chefs is responsible for overseeing the very important task of ensuring guests’ every need is catered for. There’s an accent on fresh local ingredients and traditional dishes such as game are a specialty. Breakfast is between 07h00 and 10h00, lunch at 13h00 and a formal dinner at 19h30. A gong heralds lunch and dinner.
Dress For days on the train dress is smart casual. Evening attire is more formal – for the gentlemen a jacket and tie is a minimum requirement while for ladies we suggest cocktail/evening dresses or suits. Please include warm clothing for cold mornings and evenings.
Mobile Devices and Internet In maintaining the spirit of travel of a bygone era, there are no radios or television sets on board and the use of mobile phones and laptops are confined to the privacy of your suites only.
Smoking is only allowed in the privacy of your suite and in the Club Lounge.
Please see GENERAL INFO or other downloads below for more details.
The Observation Cars were originally A-28 dining cars built to drawings by Mr W Day. Permission was granted by SAR to run Rovos Rail’s observation cars at the back of the trains, enabling the enlargement of the windows and the construction of unique open-air balconies. Coaches 225 NILE, 226 MODDER and 220 KEI entered service between 1935 and 1938 and stayed with SAR until 1983 when they were sold to Mr S Krok of Johannesburg. They were transported to the Jewish Guild Sports Club grounds in Morningside, Sandton, to become the nucleus of a novel restaurant. Rovos Rail purchased them in 1988 and restored them to service as observation cars. During 2010, a 1960 third-class sleeper 6320 was rebuilt as an observation car and has proved a great success. The ride is also a little better than its counterparts as the bogies are the more modern, commonwealth type.
The Classic and Edwardian trains travel with beautiful pre-1940 dining cars. Two A-22 twin diners, characterised by their carved roof-supporting pillars and arches, derived their twin designation from running with a dedicated kitchen car. Coach 195 SHANGANI was found in a scrap yard in 1986; her severely dilapidated condition required 18 months of painstaking restoration. Tragically this coach was destroyed in a fire one dismal night in 2008. Coach 197 LETABA was acquired in 1987; she became the third dining car restored to service. Coach 205 UMHLALI was purchased in Johannesburg and was fully restored by 2006. In 1936, SAR introduced the A-28/A-29 series of dining cars. This was a big step forward as they had fly-up, fixed seats, large picture windows with ventilators above and no pillars, giving clean modern lines to the interior and exterior. The first batch of four entered traffic in 1936 and Rovos has two in the fleet. Coach 232 UMVOTI was bought by Rovos in 1998. Kitchen car AA-34 286 was sold to Rovos in 1985. Her dining car 231 ZAMBEZI was extracted with difficulty from a shopping centre and returned to service in 2000. During restoration, the ceiling of the coach was improved with extensive use of wooden trimmings while button-leather seats added opulence. It was fitting that they were reunited several years later. In 2010, dining cars 6447 and 5274 were added to the consist. The first was built from a second-class sleeper, while 5274 was rusted through and a third-class sleeper conversion fondly referred to by the staff as the ‘Rust Bucket’.
Expansion plans in 1995 saw the Classic trains move from 42 to 72 guests, making a second lounge car a necessity. Coaches 3215, 8337 and 3293 were originally modern steel-sided sleeper cars. They were stripped and refurbished to create comfortable non-smoking lounge cars, which are placed in the middle of the trains usually ahead of the dining cars. Deep sofas and wingback chairs make for an extremely comfortable car in which guests nodding off for an afternoon snooze are a common sight. The lounge cars are used as lecture rooms on the annual Dar es Salaam journeys and also house a small, discreet gift shop. As with all the service cars the lounges are air-conditioned, yet the windows can be opened allowing in the sights, sounds and scents of Africa. There are few, if any, luxury trains anywhere in the world with this special feature, which has proved of particular benefit when a train has been chartered for a Steam Safari – steam enthusiasts like to enjoy the full majesty of a working locomotive and windows that open are top priority. This feature, coupled with luxury and service as well as a selection of Rovos Rail steam locomotives, makes this a truly unique opportunity to sample long-distance travel behind steam traction.
The Club Car area was created by demolishing the end suite in a deluxe carriage. This was done specifically to host the smokers on the train in a public area and also as an overflow facility adjoining the Observation Car. With a glass passage wall, guests can comfortably watch the scenery on both sides of the train.