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9. The Victoria Falls hotel trolley

By Nicole Sithole

This hand-propelled trolley system ran on interconnected rail tracks that skirt the iconic Victoria Falls Hotel in Zimbabwe. Since their debut in 1920, a substantial number of black African men pushed and pulled approximately two million white guests to various scenic points around the Victoria Falls. Plaques displayed under the preserved trolleys, which can be found today in the courtyard of the Victoria Falls Hotel and the National Railways of Zimbabwe Museum in Bulawayo, point out that these trolleys stopped running after “37 years of romantic, yet reliable service”.  

The display of this idealized trolley system is intended to attract tourists from all over the world to Zimbabwe to experience what was perceived to be a small piece of British colonial paradise, Guests had the opportunity to marvel at the supposed ingenuity of colonial settlers at the time, that led to the birth of this trolley system.[1] Yet, the way in which this trolley system continues to be memorialized in the country today, all under the guise of heritage preservation and cultural tourism, is problematic and raises the question, “whose heritage and what history is being preserved, and what silenced.”[2]


  1. Cowen, William W. A, Central African Odyssey (London: Radcliffe Press, 1995).
  2. Drayton, R. ‘Rhodes Must Not Fall?’ Third Text, 33, 4–5 (3 September 2019) 651–66.

Images: Taken by author at the National Railways of Zimbabwe Museum Archives.

One Comment Post a comment
  1. I always marvel at folks who profit from displaying obvious symbols of colonialism and oppression, and presenting them as nostalgia. We’re finally seeing a crackdown on some of this in the U.S. I hope the trend continues.

    December 9, 2020

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