From the Blog

A Brief History of the Orient Express


Perhaps one of the most romantic forms of travel is by train; ever since the steam locomotive was invented, trains with exotic names such as The Flying Scotsman, Rajadhani Express and Indian Pacific conjure up vivid images of clouds of smoke billowing behind a roaring engine, clattering along a metal track. Perhaps the most famous of all the classic locomotives is the Orient Express, and its fame has become legendary, starring in Hollywood blockbuster films and detective novels by famous authors. In this blog we travel the tracks alongside this legendary train and learn all about it.

The Orient Express

The Orient Express is shrouded in mystery and legend, many tales surround this classic train such as a president being thrown off it, spies using it as a secret weapon, and Adolf Hitler wanting to destroy it. There is no other train in the world that has had so much notoriety or tales told about it. The Orient Express to most people is far more than a method of transport. Even those who have never traveled on it, know all about it due to its incredible life in fiction and on the wide screen. A Lady vanished from the Orient Express, Inspector Poirot solved a murder on it, and even James Bond traveled on it from Istanbul to London.

An Entrepreneur’s Vision

The story of the Orient Express all started back in 1865, when Georges Nagelmackers first had a revolutionary idea of a train that could span an entire continent. The Belgian had taken inspiration from a trip to America and was struck by the advanced developments the locomotive industry had in the United States. The biggest innovation was the sleeper car, which was invented by George Pullman. There were tremendous problems getting his project off the ground as you can imagine. Nagelmacker had to negotiate with numerous governments and railway companies, to get appropriate licenses, permissions, and technical problems sorted before finally in 1883, on October the 4th, the Orient Express made its very first journey.

The Route

The route for the very first journey was from Paris to Constantinople, and it was the press that came up with the name for the train due to its route. The train’s décor was resplendent, and many of the first passengers commented that it was like being in one of Europe’s finest hotels. This was not surprising as no expense had been spared with the coach work and the interior fixtures and fittings. The wooden paneling was intricately carved, there were plush leather winged chairs to relax in, silk sheets on the beds, and thick carpets on the floor to walk on. Nobody had ever seen a train like it before, it was indeed something that should be written about and star in movies.

The Passengers

All this opulence was at a cost, and to make the train profitable then it was not cheap to travel on. Kings and Queens used the Orient Express on royal visits, and in the dining car you could very easily be sitting next to movie stars and famous personalities. There has never been a train like the Orient Express before or since. The romance that surrounds train travel was amplified by the luxury of the train and the mystic route that it traveled on. Previously the only other way of crossing continents was by boat, the Orient Express certainly changed all that.