Geoff Cooke – Your Host

Geoff and Sheelagh Cooke

Geoff’s Travel Club is owned and operated by Geoff Cooke. One of
the few full time specialist rail tour specialists who share their
passion for railways and knowledge of tourism to offer a personal
tour service. Since 1986 Geoff has offered tours to many exciting locations.

Geoff was born in London but raised in central Africa where his father
worked on the railway. Bulawayo is the headquarters of the National Railways
of Zimbabwe, and it is where Geoff attended high school prior to heading to
African Railways in Natal, first at a station that is now under a lake, next in a
town that no longer has a railway, followed by a station that is now at the end
of a partially preserved steam railway and finally in Durban docks.

Returning to Rhodesia, Geoff trained in radio communications and installed
microwave radio systems across the country, often on the top of hills in areas
of outstanding scenic beauty that entrenched an interest in photography. He
married Sheelagh in 1979.

Involvement in theatre lighting precipitated a career move when Geoff started
a company to give technical support to theatre, film and television. Hair-raising
experiences whilst working on political rallies and rock concerts in African
football stadiums added another chapter to a life that has been far from
mundane. His railway interests resurfaced when he researched a television
series to promote tourism to the newly independent Zimbabwe when he
concluded that it would be great to feature a steam tourist train that ran from
the historic city of Bulawayo to Victoria Falls via the Hwange Game Reserve.

The train did not exist, so Geoff persuaded the railway that the idea would
work and in 1986 the first privately owned safari train in the world was
launched. The train, called the Train de Luxe, competed with the finest in the
world. It was always great fun, particularly when Geoff or Sheelagh managed
the tours themselves.

In 1999 Sheelagh and Geoff sold the train. Geoff once more wanted to do
new things which, of course, included the railway. He organised a steam
railway festival called Zimfest and started hosting group visits to southern
Africa. Recognised as one of Africa’s leading authorities in tourist train
operations, Geoff has travelled on most of the continent’s tourist trains, as
well as many that are not so famous.

Geoff and Sheelagh now live in Kidderminster, England, where they can hear
the steam whistles on the Severn Valley Railway from their garden. From
there Geoff pursues his interest in trains and photography around the world. Recent tours have included visits to Africa, Europe, Great Britain and the USA.

Luxury or Lunacy
Owning a train in Africa

Click here
to buy Geoff’s book that explains how his interest in trains resulted in his building and operating the Train de Luxe in Zimbabwe.

A light hearted story about a career that has been anything but mundane.