The International Steam Pages

Football (steam) Specials in Zimbabwe 2010

Trevor Heath sent me this snippet from the Bulawayo Chronicle of 10th May 2010. The more conventional gricing report is at the bottom of the page... Sadly FarRail have subsequently had to cancel their tour owing to the collapse in the value of the EUR against the de facto Zimbabwean currency, the USD. See also Ralf Mandera's June 2010 report.

Steam Safari Train on Roll

More than 300 people yesterday boarded a special Steam Safari Train on a trial run from Bulawayo to Plumtree ahead of the 2010 World Cup next month in South Africa. Of the passengers, about 250 were local tourists.

The train departed from Bulawayo main railway station at 10 am amid pomp and fanfare. The tourists were offered world-class treatment by the well-organised railway staff. It was an experience for many to hear the chook-chook-chee sound of the engine pulling the coaches. Some of the passengers were boarding a steam train for the first time since 1960 and it brought back memories of the old times.

The train arrived in Plumtree at 2pm, where tourists were treated to a sumptuous lunch which included a braai. Guests were treated to entertainment punctuated with refreshments and at 3.30pm it was time for departure back to Bulawayo where it docked at 7pm. Speaking in an interview during the tour, the NRZ public relations manager, Mr. Fanuel Masikati, said the safari train was a trial run in preparation for the
forthcoming 2010 World Cup.

"Steam engine locomotives are popular with tourists and we are going to run them more often to contribute to our tourism because tourists attach some sentimental value to the locomotives. Steam engine enthusiasts want to take photos aboard the train," said Mr Masikati.

He said the NRZ used to run the train on a yearly basis but stopped last year. "We used to run them from Bulawayo to Victoria Falls every June and July. Only last year we had a break but let me hasten to say the response has been overwhelming as we had people from as far as Harare who have come to board the train. It is also popular with external visitors from the United Kingdom, United States of America, New Zealand and Australia," he said.

Mr Masikati said there were about 50 bookings from outside the country from tourists who were coming for the World Cup. "We are working with an organisation called FarRail Tours based overseas which markets us there and we use our facilities to cater for their clients on their behalf. With that in mind, we would be boosting tourism and also revenue to the country. This year, we are going to run in June and July, in addition to those which we have organised ourselves," said Mr Masikati. He said the NRZ had three steam locomotives, which are running but were looking to refurbish seven others to bring the number to 10. "This is not for 2010 alone, but we will continue because of popularity but at intervals. Some will be used for shunting purposes in our terminals. However, we have a lot of inquiries from overseas, so we are planning to run another one at the end of the month to Victoria Falls but dates would be advised," he said.

Mr Masikati said 10 percent of the proceeds from the tour would be channeled to charity. "NRZ as an organisation thrives in the community and it is our way of giving back to the community, as part of our corporate responsibility. In that vein we are going to exhibit at the Sanganai/ Hlanganai Tourism Expo and run them more regularly, as part of our contributions to tourism in the country," said Mr Masikati.

Previously Mike Taylor reported on progress behind the scenes:

"On Monday May 3rd 2010 16A 611 was in steam and being prepared for test run to Plumtree and return on Tuesday 4 May (200km).

395 replacement superheater tubes completed.

525 is the third loco designated for safari tours in July and August 2010.

On Tuesday 4th May 611 departed with a load of South African loaded freight wagons. Unfortunately an inexperienced fireman killed the fire at Plumtree and the locos return was delayed by eight hours. (Fireman are being trained for the safari tours - come back all ex Rhodesian Railways firemen!!!)

There were no major mechanical problems. The consist planned for Sunday 9th May was thirteen coaches, including two refurbished dining cars, museum coaches and observation car - a load of approximately 600 tonnes, a major test for 611.

Cash flow problems continue making the supply of cotton waste and superheated steam valve oil problematic. Motor vehicle gear oil is being used for general lubrication. Much interest has been generated locally in steam hauled trains and a planned 3 day trip to Vic falls later this month will be oversubscribed. Problems with the supply of coal have eased."

Rob Dickinson