The man-eating lions of Tsavo may be no more. The silverware in the restaurant carriage has definitely seen better days.
And where once besuited British colonial administrators occupied the elegant, leather-furnished cabins, now backpackers in cut-offs lounge in style.
Yet more than a century after its inception, one of Africa's most famous train rides - the "Lunatic Express" - still retains many of the characteristics of its early days.
Waiters in starched white jackets serve four-course evening meals on pristine tablecloths to first-class passengers as the train chugs painfully slowly through the darkness between the Kenyan coast and highlands.
A quaint four-chime gong is rung outside sleeping compartments when it's time for breakfast, leaving passengers to marvel at giraffes and impalas as they tuck into bacon and eggs and watch the sun rise over the plains.
"It's a wonderful journey, I still enjoy it," said Kennedy Aswani, a train steward who, like his father and grandfather before him, has been going up and down the line for 25 years.
When the British East Africa Company announced at the end of the 19th century its plan to lay tracks from the coastal town of Mombasa, across a vast wilderness into the highlands and over the Great Rift Valley into Uganda, how sceptics laughed.
"It is naught but a Lunatic Line," went one satire.
"Going from nowhere to utterly nowhere," scoffed a politician.
But in a remarkable feat of engineering - and at huge cost both in money and lives - the 1,200-mile (1,930-km) line was successfully laid between 1896 and 1901. It helped open up the continent.
The story of the line's construction is the stuff of legend.
There is the true tale of the man-eating lions of the Tsavo plains that preyed on workers. A British policeman, Charles Henry Ryall, fell asleep in a carriage while waiting to shoot one of the lions and it attacked him, dragging him to his death through the window.
The carriage remains on display in Kenya's capital Nairobi.
Several thousand Indian and African workers, and a handful of British workers, died in the endeavour, most from disease.
"Construction was plagued with numerous difficulties," a Kenya Railways history reads. "Including man-eating lions, hostile tribes, wild animals that attacked the trains, mosquitoes, flies, locusts and caterpillars that caused the locomotives to slip on the rails."
Not to mention the tropical downpours which washed away bridges, or the endless ups-and-downs of the Kenyan highlands.
Sadly neglected in recent decades, the line has become an icon of faded decadence.
While the third-class carriages are full every day of Kenyans eager to take advantage of cheap fares, first- and second-class belong to foreign travellers or rich locals who want to enjoy a taste of colonial-style living.
Soon, however, it will be all change for the much-loved "Lunatic Express".
A South African-led group called The Rift Valley Railways Consortium has won a 25-year concession to revamp Kenya's railways and is scheduled to take over in July - Birmingham-based lawyers Wragge & Co worked with the International Finance Corporation to advise the Kenyan government on the deal.
Wragge's rail partner Michael Whitehouse said: "Kenya's railway system is a strategic asset, both for national and international freight from Mombassa and also for Nairobi commuters.
"It was necessary to design a concession structure to retain and improve the railway for the country's economy and, also, to incentivise the concessionaire to invest and increase traffic flow. The joint concession arrangements with Uganda required close teamworking in the harmonisation of the concession structure and documentation."
Judy Odhiambo, spokeswoman for current operator Kenya Railways, said the group plans to slash the current, 9,000-strong workforce by two-thirds, and invest #152 million to upgrade the lines.
Whispering to a journalist to avoid being heard by their boss, train stewards said they hoped the South Africans would be more generous than their current employers.
"You see my uniform?" said one, pointing at a frayed white suit already stained with sweat as the train pulled out of Mombasa on a sultry night. "They don't give us a new one for six years. And the shirt and tie you have to buy yourself."
Ms Odhiambo recognised the need for a fresh cash injection.
"There is quite a lot to be done," she said. "But we hope they retain the character."
Character abounds, although not always pleasant.
While the sleeping cabins are snug and well-lit, the corridors are too tight and even the first-class toilets are just a hole in the floor.
Sudden stops in the night are not always for stations.
About twice a week, the train hits an elephant or giraffe, so staff have to get down and drag the animal off the track.
"If it's a big animal, we have to stop. If it's just a gazelle or something like that, we can carry on," explained another long-time railway steward Josphat Kiongo.
Thieves frequently jump on the roof of the train, sticking their hands through sleeping passengers' windows for pickings.
A British traveller going to Mombasa recently had to jump off the train on the outward journey and hitch a lift by car after the locomotive inexplicably stopped.
On the way back to Nairobi - just a watering-hole until the advent of the railway turned it into a major settlement - a 13-hour journey stretched to 17 hours due to mysterious stops in the middle of the night attributed to "weak engines".
At least he had a bed, however.
"I have to tell you it is not very much comfortable," said regular third-class passenger Aloice Mukala, packing on with hundreds of other Kenyans travelling back to Nairobi after visiting family over Easter.
"Not everybody gets seats. I cannot say I enjoy the views in these circumstances."