Roberta Writes – Thursday Doors: Outeniqua Transport Museum Part 2, The White Train

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The Outeniqua Transport Museum in George, Western Cape, houses two coaches of the White Train, one of which was used by the British Royal family when they toured South Africa 1947.

Here’s what Wikipedia says about the first coach:

“White Coach 49

Type = Private
Name =
Total built = 1
Built by = Metropolitan Carriage & Wagon Co. in England
Number = 49 (Old no126)
Date in service = 1947

It was specifically ordered for use on the Governor-General’s White Train and was built by the Metropolitan Carriage & Wagon Co. in England. It was placed in service as Car No.126 in June 1947.

This coach was neither intended nor ordered for the 1947 Royal train. It is often incorrectly linked to the 1947 Royal Train in the historical sense, but this is probably due to the fact that the car was intended for the White Train but only after the Royal Tour had been completed. This car being intended for specialised use on the White Train is undoubtedly one of the most luxurious diners in service on the South African Railways (SAR), but it was not used for general passenger service

The car’s saloon contains one large longitudinal table which can accommodate sixteen persons. The kitchen is fitted out in stainless steel and the whole vehicle is air-conditioned. The wall paneling is satin-finished figured timber. A small bar is provided at the end opposite to the kitchen. The exterior profile is identical to the present Drakensberg stock.

The coach which was renumbered 49 in 1969, served on the White Train from June 1947 to 1975, when the State President’s special train was officially withdrawn from service at the personal request of president Nico Diederichs.

This coach is notable as it was the central conference coach of the train which was placed in the centre of the Victoria Falls Bridge in August 1975 in one of the early abortive attempts to bring about peace in Rhodesia.

Here’s what Wikipedia says about the second coach:

“Coach 51

Coach R7 (Princesses and Ladies-in-waiting)

The Royal Tour 1947

For this momentous occasion, eight new air-conditioned coaches were ordered from (Metro-Cammell Carriage & Wagon Co. Ltd.) In England. J. Stone & Co. Ltd. Provided the ‘Stone-Carrier’ air-conditioned equipment for the coaches. Under normal conditions, delivery of such luxury vehicles would be effected in about two and a half years but in this instance the contractors were given nine months to do so! They rose to the occasion and in doing so they certainly did not compromise on quality workmanship! Two Senior SAR Draughtsmen and a Senior Electrical Engineer were sent to England to Supervise the construction of the coaches

Five of the eight coaches ordered, were specialised luxury saloons while the remaining three, were built to standard (C-31-A/B Blue Train) design. The luxury saloons included the accommodation for the Royal Family and other dignitaries.

Use after Royal Tour

Saloon R7 for the Princesses and ladies-in-waiting, was also made available for the (White Train) as coach no.39) renumbered No.51 in May 1969 and used as the (Governor-General/State President saloon). When the ‘White Train’ was withdrawn from service in August 1975, this saloon was handed over to the S.A. Railway Museum for the National Collection.

76 thoughts on “Roberta Writes – Thursday Doors: Outeniqua Transport Museum Part 2, The White Train

      1. It would be lovely if we could go inside, Liz. The whole world has changed with regards to travel, hasn’t it? People don’t travel by train or ship in a luxurious and leisurely manner, unless they are on an expensive holiday. There is always a huge rush to get from A to B as quickly as possible.

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  1. I LOVE trains! And I LOVE museums and history. Your post was a perfect way to start my day! Many thanks, Robbie. I am delighted that Dan has this challenge. I’ve traveled the world from my kitchen table today.

    Liked by 3 people

      1. I agree wholeheartedly. In a recent telephone call, Frances was reminiscing on how communication had changed over her lifetime. She remembers a time without phones. I remember Sarah’s first cell phone (she is an early adopter of technology) that had to weigh at least 3 pounds. YIKES!

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  2. I always love to read about the history when I go to the museum. This post is very interesting, Robbie! I went to Titanic museum once and found out that not every passenger was dead. It shows the classes of decks and different dishes and silverware they used.

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      1. Yes, Robbie. The exhibition in Las Vegas also has a creepy set up with black wall and black background. It’s a permanent exhibition. I heard that the artifacts were divided so some don’t have to travel constantly. There are some unclaimed jewelries!

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  3. This is a great post, Robbie. I can see why you held it for its own showing. I love the look of the coaches and the history you shared. The last railroad museum I toured had an extensive display of china from various railroads. Railroads were so proud of their china and meal service.I love seeing those artifacts from an age of rail travel that was so special. Thanks for this.

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    1. Hi Dan, I am so glad you enjoyed these trains and their history. I have one more trains post and its for the train that is called The President. It is like the one that appeared in my book about the Second Anglo Boer War. I’ll share it next week.

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      1. I’d love to take a train like this, it’s such a unique way to see the countryside without having to drive, and flying over just misses all of the texture and depth of the landscape!

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      2. I can imagine that travelling by train is a wonderful visionary delight, just like driving. Terence does all the driving but I always nod off form the motion. It is so annoying, I just can’t keep my eyes open and I miss so much. I am the same on a plane.

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  4. Amazing history. There are quite a few myths about famous trains and their stops. We have a local train museum that we went to that has several different cars that we were able to see. It certainly was and is a different kind of travel. Once my family took a trip and used a sleeper car. I ended up on the floor. The births aren’t that big – unless you pay for a larger room and have a double bed!

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      1. Comparable to flying… I think the cost of a high end car on a touring train is much more expensive. The space we had was probably equal to the smallest inside cabin on a cruise ship (which I am only guessing has some kind of foldable sleep/sitting combination. . I’m not sure if meals are included on a touring train?

        Of course the regular subway trains are differetent from communter trains that also have (like some airlines) upgraded buisness class.

        My hubby had to go overseas (hopefully business class but I don’t recall) and I think the longest flight was about 15 hours.

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      2. Hi Jules, when we flew to New Zealand, it was a 22 hour flight of 18 hours with a 2 hour stop over in Oz, and then 4 hours to NZ. It was a killer with a 10-hour time difference. Anything that is not run of the mill is expensive, and trains are now unusual and a luxury.

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      3. Most of our more recent flights have been on one airline. There are no different seats. If you are A-list or some other prioritiy you get to board first. And it seems to be the easiest to switch flights without extra fees which was important when hubby was working and might have had to stay somewhere an extra day.

        There is a small train ride (well two that I’ve been on) close enough for us to drive too. One car, the one with the most space, recliner like chairs and gets free food service (though the round trip rides are probably less than an hour) of course cost more than the seated cars and then, the open air ‘cattle-type’ bench seat car… are steam engines. They are tourist attractions just to show how things used to be. One has Thomas the Train and friends come and visit.

        When our grandson was younger his folks took him there often. Now his interest has changed to cars, planes and ships. 🙂

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      4. Hi Jules, there interests do shift to more modern modes of transport. Males are assessed with cars and I can barely differential the logos. Haha! I am sure the air transport service is much bigger and more competitive in the US than here, Jules.

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      5. My extent of car knowledge is if something has two or four doors. My latest (used) car is 7 years old. The previous one still had handles to roll down the windows! Oh, I do know what Jeep looks like, and yes Vans are different too. 😉

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  5. Both my dad and his dad worked for British Rail (as it was then). My dad had a ‘first class all stations pass’ as one of the perks of his job and back in the day he and my mom travelled extensively by train, including a trip to Madrid when my mom was pregnant with me. I’ve inherited the love of train journeys – I want to go on one of the luxury trains here one day.

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      1. I once got upgraded to first class on a plane because they screwed up my ticket so bad and had to give me what was left. It was very nice – but I wouldn’t say it was even close to luxurious. Just slightly bigger treat bags.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Oooh, really? That is luxurious. If I ever manage to get overseas, maybe I’ll have to go first class (or lament that it’s too expensive, haha).

        No, I was on a short flight from Texas to NC. About 3 hours, I think, so not really a big deal.

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