THIS MONTH National Railways of Zimbabwe will take delivery of the first of 58 main line coaches for its two principal routes: Bulawayo - Harare and Bulawayo - Victoria Falls. A radical departure from the familiar clerestory roofs and brown livery, the new stock will transform NRZ’s long-distance overnight and daytime inter-city trains when they enter service in October after two weeks of testing.

NRZ hopes to order up to 155 coaches by 2000. Funding from the African Development Bank has enabled an initial US$22·8m order for 56 vehicles from local supplier More Wear Industries and Union Carriage & Wagon of South Africa. This covers 24 Economy class coaches, 20 Standard class, 8 Sleeper class and 4 baggage vans (later increased to 6). The vans are also equipped with generator to provide power for the heating, public address and entertainment systems. The stock will be formed into four trains, each comprising 6 Economy, 5 Standard, 2 Sleeper and a van.

The all-welded coaches are built of corten steel which has good corrosion resistance. Drainage for rainwater and condensation is provided between body pillars and the windows which open to the outside. The semi-elliptical roof has corrugations running the full length, and the sides are flush between the cantrail and solebars. The body and underframe have been designed to withstand compressive end loads of 40 tonnes at 370mm above the coupling centre line, 30 tonnes at waist level, and 30 tonnes at cantrail height.

Particular attention has been paid to insulation against heat, noise and drumming. Noise levels inside the coaches do not exceed 65dB(A) at 100 km/h on welded rail behind a diesel locomotive. In addition to flame-retardant insulation in the roof, sides, ends and floor, surfaces have been sprayed with sound deadening material. Interior panels are lined with 1·5mm thick resin bonded melamine sheets. Partitions are made from plywood and blockboard. All windows are 6mm armour plated glass inscribed with the railway’s monogram.

Interior ambience

The new stock will also transform the range of classes offered to NRZ passengers. Sleeper class will replace the existing First, and Standard will replace Second. Economy class will transform the old Fourth class, with modern high-back airline style seats in a 3+2 arrangement (right). Standard class cars will have 68 three-position reclining seats in a 2+2 layout, fitted with cloth covers. These are specifically targetted against the luxury bus services which have abstracted considerable traffic from NRZ in recent years. All passenger coaches have large panoramic windows and modular toilets. Wide doors, extra handrails and wheelchair spaces will accommodate disabled travellers.

Each coach will have video and audio entertainment, and public address systems; passengers will find the controls in the back of the seat in front, and a headphone slot in the armrest. Some cars will also have vending machines, whilst the Sleeper class cars will have shower facilities. Interior screens will feature inscribed scenes depicting Zimbabwe wildlife and scenery. NRZ is planning to offer on-train baggage check-in facilities for passengers with bulky luggage. o