Footsteps Through Time

The following text is adapted from 'Footsteps Through Time - A History of Travel and Tourism to the Victoria Falls', researched and written by Peter Roberts and published in 2017. The book is available to order online through Amazon and specialist book suppliers.

The Weekender

From 1910 a weekly special cross-border passenger train service ran from Livingstone to Victoria Falls on Saturdays, known popularly as ‘The Weekender’ and transporting Livingstone socialites over the Bridge for Saturday night dances at the Falls Hotel.

"As Livingstone grew in size and population some diversion was needed at weekends, and what better than a picnic on the river bank with an exploration of the rain forest and views of the gorge, ending up with a visit to the Falls Hotel. Not only was there no real road from Livingstone to the river but the bridge then only provided for the railway. To meet the desires of the residents, a local train service was started and this was operated from about 1910 for many years on Saturdays and Sundays... The train was colloquially known as The Weekender and the Saturday night dances at the Falls Hotel brought good patronage from the young people, especially as the railway detached one or two carriages at Victoria Falls station into which in the small hours the tired dancers would retire for a few hours rest before the carriages were coupled up to the northbound train back to Livingstone. (Croxton, 1982)

By 1910 the population of Livingstone was estimated to have grown to nearly 300. The train comprised a Nasmith Wilson locomotive, imported by the Mashonaland Railway for the Umtali-Salisbury section in 1899 (Rhodesia Railways Magazine, September 1965), hauling just one composite first and second class coach.

"The train usually consisted of one first-second class composite carriage and a good’s guard’s van hauled in the early days by one of the Nasmyth Wilson 4-4-0 tender locomotives and later by a 7th class 4-8-0." (Croxton, 1982)

The Weekender on the Bridge

The Weekender (MR 4-4-0 No.3) on the Bridge, 1913
(From an original photograph held in the archives of
the Bulawayo Railway Museum)

Between 1916 and 1922 a petrol-driven railcar operated the service between Livingstone and the Victoria Falls, at the modest price of sixpence return.

"For a time in 1916 the steam train was replaced by the first Rhodesian railcar. This ‘rail motor coach,’ as it was officially described, was propelled by a 70 hp petrol engine; it was 24 ft [7.3 m] in length and seated twenty passengers with a little space at one end for light packages. Built by the Drewry Car Co in England it did not remain in service for a very long." (Croxton, 1982)

The Railcar on the Bridge

The Railcar on the Bridge
(Rhodesia Railways Magazine, September 1965)

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Croxton, A (1982) Railways of Zimbabwe [Originally published in 1973 as Railways of Rhodesia]

Rhodesia Railways Magazine (September 1965) Early Local Services, RRM Vol 14 No5 p17-19. [BMRA]

Further Reading

Roberts P (2017) Footsteps Through Time - A history of Travel and Tourism to the Victoria Falls. Zambezi Book Company. Available to buy online.

Amazon's UK site

Discover Victoria Falls with Zambezi EcoTours