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The Blue Train

Cape Town - Pretoria
Pretoria - Cape Town

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The Blue Train LogoThe Blue Train
South Africa

The World's Leading Luxury Train

Technical Train Details

Accommodation, guests and staff: The train accommodates 82 passengers with a contingent of 30 staff including the train manager, head chef, catering manager, two hostesses, eleven butlers, six waiters/barmen and five kitchen staff. Two technicians are on the train to perform maintenance and service functions en route.

Airconditioning: All windows are non-opening and double glazed with the external pane in ‘Spectra Float’ bronze, which reduces solar energy transmission by a third. Temperature is held to about 18 - 25C at 50 % humidity, virtually independent of outside conditions. The individual temperature control in each compartment provides a rheostatic type increase in temperature above train level to a maximum of 5C. Public cars are controlled by an automatic adjusting system.

Bogie suspension: The primary suspension between the wheel and the bogie frame is made up of steel coil springs with friction dampers in parallel, and represents 20 % of the overall deflection of the suspension. The secondary suspension is between the bogie frame and the coach, and for this stage air springs are used. These are of the Sumiride diaphragm type similar to those used for the high speed trains on the Tokaido line in Japan.

Bogie type: The bogies are of a General Steel Industries design and represent the technology of the early 70’s still acceptable in the 90’s. They are similar to those being used on many rapid transit and commuter services, as well as the high speed North East Corridor service in the USA.

Braking - compressed air operated brakes: In order to eliminate the delays in braking of successive axles in a long train, experienced with the vacuum braking system, the train has been equipped with compressed air operated brakes, termed the ‘UIC System’.

Braking - disc brakes: All wheels on the new Blue Train are fitted with disc brakes, the caliper pads of which are faced with a material giving a constant co-efficient of friction throughout the speed range.

Braking - stopping distance: The overall effectiveness of the braking system is such that the train can be stopped in approximately 1 times its own length from the full operating speed of 100 km per hour.

Comfort and speed parameters: The ride remains comfortable up to the maximum test speed of 120 km per hour, while the maximum operating speed of the new Blue Train has been set at 100 km per hour.

Compartment - water supply: Ample water is provided for washing and shaving in each compartment. Drinking water together with hot and cold beverages and Continental breakfasts can be telephoned through to one’s own coach butler.

Corridor characteristics: Due to the special attention given to the connecting area between coaches it has been possible to keep the corridor along one side of the train entirely. Except for the kitchen, dining and lounge car and club car, it is possible to see the full length of the corridor for five coaches upon leaving the club car and six coaches upon leaving the lounge car. This adds greatly to the feeling of interior spaciousness.

Couplers and drawgear: Scharfenberg short type semi-permanent bar couplers are used, mounted on spherical pivots supported by a leaf spring at the outer ends.

Coupling - inter-coach: The coupling area between coaches is sheathed in a heavy flexible membrane which helps to preserve the smooth exterior. In service the train remains permanently coupled, and the terminal maintenance facilities at Pretoria and Cape Town have been built accordingly.

Dimensions - carriage: The carriages are 2.9 meters wide, 50mm wider than standard South African passenger rolling stock. They are 21,168 meters long, 380mm longer than standard stock. With thinner body sides, there is an interior gain of 88mm.

Dimensions and composition of train: The train is 396 meters long and comprises 18 carriages of which 9 are Deluxe (Sapphire) comprising 1 double suite with bath and 3 twin suites with shower (of which 1 has a paraplegic facility including a specially designed wheel chair providing access to the public areas); 2 luxury coaches (Royal) comprising 1 double suite with bath and 2 twin suites with bath; one lounge car; kitchen car; club car; dining car and a service coach which accommodates 14 staff; baggage van and power car.

Door operation: The external doors to each coach are of the sliding type, air-operated and pneumatically sealed when closed.

Exterior profiles: The exterior profiles of all cars are nearly identical, and present a smooth external surface for the complete length of the train. 3CR 12 material is used for the body cladding and then painted.

Fire detection: A fire detection system is installed throughout the train.

Fuel supply: Fuel supply is from frame-mounted 4 000 liter tanks which provide for 40 hours full load capacity.

Heating: Heating is mainly produced by the airconditioning elements and stabilized with the floor heating system.

Kitchen car: The kitchen car is fully air-conditioned. Its design followed the menus selected to promote optimum efficiency. Large extractor fans remove any cooking odors. The outside corridor has a higher air pressure which results in corridor air being directed into the kitchen. Walk-in coolrooms and freezers ensure wines remain at optimum temperatures as well as hors d’oeuvres remaining at the correct pre-serving temperature. A combination of electricity and gas as well as microwave ovens are used for cooking. Automatic dish washers with a 5 x minute cycle are used. The kitchen is a masterpiece of stainless steel design.

Lighting: Fluorescent lighting has been replaced by incandescent lighting throughout the train although technically there is no advantage. However incandescent lighting provides a more modern look while using more current.

Motive power:
Pretoria to Kimberley:
2 x 12 E Electric locomotives (kV direct current), each weighing 83600 kg with a tested maximum speed of 100 km/h (62 mph)
Kimberley to De Aar:
2 x 34900 class Diesel locomotives each weighing 111 metric tons with a tested
maximum speed of 100 km/h (62 mph) and a diesel capacity of 5400 litres each.
De Aar to Beaufort West:
2 x 7E Electric locomotives (25 kV alternating current), each weighing 123500 kg with a tested maximum speed of 100 km/h (62 mph)
Beaufort West to Cape Town:
2 x 6E Electric locomotives (3kV direct current), each weighing 83600 kg with a
tested maximum speed of 113 km/h (93 mph)
Pretoria to Hoedspruit:
2 x 12 E Electric locomotives (kV direct current), each weighing 83600 kg with a tested maximum speed of 100 km/h (62 mph)
Pretoria to Victoria Falls:
2 x 34900 class Diesel locomotives each weighing 111 metric tons with a tested
maximum speed of 100 km/h (62 mph) and a diesel capacity of 5400 litres each.
Cape Town to Port Elizabeth via Garden Route:
2 x 34900 class Diesel locomotives each weighing 111 metric tons with a tested
maximum speed of 100 km/h (62 mph) and a diesel capacity of 5400 litres each.

Noise prevention - inter-compartment: Inter-compartment sealing has also been given close attention and it is not possible to hear sounds from adjoining compartments.

Noise prevention - general: Considerable measures were taken to ensure a sound level of not more than 55dB at maximum service speed of 100 km per hour. The significance of this will be realized when compared with the noise levels of large luxury motors cars in which the 55dB level is reached at about 50 km per hour and about 75dB level at 110 km per hour.

Owner: The Blue Train is owned by Transnet Limited, a South African public company in which the state is the only shareholder. A division of Transnet called Spoornet, which is in charge of South Africa's railway lines, operates The Blue Train.

Passengers: Ninety per cent of The Blue Train patrons are international visitors, divided into country of origin as follows:

  • Europe: 33% (Germany: 20%)
  • Japan / Far East: 5%
  • Australia / New Zealand: 10%
  • USA: 17%
  • African continent: 24%

Power car and supply system: Noise levels have been cut from 108dB (a) scale to 74dB (a) scale. Apart from the gas stoves in the kitchen, supplied from four 45 kg gas bottles, all the services on the train are electrically operated, and these supplies, together with the compressors air for suspension and brakes, are provided by a separate power car at one end of the train.

Power - emergency: A 24 volt battery with charger is also provided for emergency lighting, control and ancillary equipment which is automatically switched on in the event of a main power failure normally rated at 280 kW at 0.8 power factor.

Power - generation: Two Perkins generators producing 350 kW at 1600 m altitude at 45C ambient temperature (one always on standby). The 650 volt power supply is provided via buslines down the entire length of the train.

Routes / distances:
Pretoria to Cape Town: the journey is 1 600 kilometers (994 miles) long; guests spend one night on the train.

By the year 2022 the two trains are expected to cover approximately 12-million kilometers (7.5 million miles).

Speed traveled: Maximum permissible speed is 110km/h (68 mph).

Structural design - standard cars: Structural design is common as far as possible for all car types, excepting the power car which requires special attention to the floor area and engine alternator mountings so as to distribute evenly the concentrated loads into the main side frame girders.

TV monitoring of journey: A camera mounted on the front of the train provides passengers with a driver’s-eye view of the scenery ahead, which can be seen on a giant screen in the Club Car and one of the TV channels in suites and compartments for private viewing.

Water supply: 31,000 liters of water are stored.

Weight of train: The complete train weighs approximately 100 metric tons.


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Last modified: 23 Mar 2015 00:36