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A train ride through Africa

The trains of Rohan Vos

Africa by train

The successful South African businessman Rohan Vos bought several old train carriages at an auction in the 1980s. His goal was to restore them – a nice challenge for a train enthusiast like Vos. But then he decided he wanted to drive them as well. This decision transformed a fascinating hobby into an exciting rail business.

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The dream

When Vos asked permission to start using his historic carriages, the South African government agreed as long as he sold tickets. This meant starting a business. Vos had always dreamed of the past, nostalgically looking back to the heyday of rail travel when it was associated with luxury and wellbeing. The enthusiastic Vos continued to buy more old carriages and a locomotive.

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The carriages were meticulously restored. Everything had to be as it once was to bring the romance of train travel back on track.

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The result was astounding, with wooden panelling, leather armchairs, and a well-equipped bar. Travellers were treated to a stunning journey back in time as well as through the South African landscape.

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The train company

In 1989 the train made its first journey in South Africa from Pretoria to Eastern Transvaal. The number of paying passengers was just four. For Rohan Vos the train company was to be a business like any of his other ventures, but Rovos Rail grew and cost an increasing amount of money. Eventually Vos sold all his companies in order to stay afloat.

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Sergi Reboredo / Alamy Stock Photo
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After five years public interest grew. More historical carriages were bought, restored and taken into use. Then more routes were added and Rovos Rail travelled through South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Tanzania. It even had its very own station built in Pretoria.

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The stylish carriages are a feast for the eyes. The beautifully decorated dining cars serve top-quality dishes three times a day, the observation car allows guests to enjoy a drink and good conversation with fellow passengers, and the sleeping royal compartments provide a relaxing bath while the train transverses the beautiful landscape.

The trains

Over the years Rohan Vos has carefully restored countless carriages in his spacious workshop, returning them to the Victorian era. The preliminary result comprises three nostalgic trains that travel through the south of the African continent and offer all the required modern amenities.

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The journeys

Rohan Vos is happy when his passengers are happy. This should mean that Vos is the happiest man on earth as everyone who steps onboard a Rovos Rail train has the time of their life. One of the contributing factors is the type of journeys on offer. You can travel from Pretoria to Durban, Cape Town, Windhoek, Dar-Es-Salaam and the Victoria Falls.

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During the various journeys the train stops at regular intervals, giving passengers plenty of time to explore a city, take an excursion or explore vast and impressive nature parks. There is even a special golf safari in which you can tee off at the most spectacular greens.

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KLM

iFly Magazine

November 2017

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