When Named Trains Ruled The Rails

Drakensberg Express Kept Alive Colonial Rail Traditions

It was Christmas 1975 when a number of Aussie friends decide to take a rail trip from Johannesburg to Cape Town, connecting with the Drakensberg at Kroonstad.

The Drakensberg used the old wooden cars from the premier “Blue Train” after the latter modernised. These carriages were painted green to signify the second most prestigious train in the country.


23 Class On Drakensberg Express

At Kimberley, a mighty 25 Class was attached to the train for the run to De Aar, a 290 km journey at speeds up to 120 kph.

The trip ran through the Karoo Desert and was the last real main line with steam in South Africa. At the time, Diesels took over at De Aar, and worked the Blue Train, but steam still had charge of everything else.

It was Christmas day, and we had come to taste lunch and the best the SAR (South African Railways) had to offer.

While it was a long time ago, I do know that the compartments easily converted into bunks as did most carriages on long distance trains. There was amazing woodwork and a valet for each carriage.

Lunch consisted of fine dining, with a 7 course meal complete with fine Stellenbosch wine. It was “Lekker” (good). I think it took over 2 hours to complete the meal.


A 25NC speeds Across The Karoo On The Drakensberg

By the time we got to De Aar, and farewelled steam, our stomachs were full and it was a struggle to get off for a final photo of the super clean 25.

I found this video by Richard Gillett of a restored 16E 858 hauling the Drakensberg in 1977. I assume this was a special, but it is well worth watching.


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