The Orient Express combines a refined heritage, elegant
carriages and the highest class of on board service to offer
passengers a once-in-a-lifetime experience on history's greatest
In the past
In 1883, Belgian national Georges Nagelmackers decided to create
the first iteration of the Orient Express. The new train was
designed to replicate the style of the Pullman trains of the USA,
prioritising comfort and style over all else.
The first ever Orient Express journey embarked on June
5th 1883, leaving Paris and travelling 1,243 miles
to Vienna. Hauled by steam engine, the train would continue on the
same route for several months before the route changed, taking
passengers from Paris to Istanbul (or Constantinople as it was
known then), through Germany, Austria, Romania and Bulgaria. It was
over the next fifty years in which the Orient Express cemented its
position as the world's best luxury train, unmatched in intrigue,
romance and elegance.
Luxury on the Orient Express
After a short break for the First World War, the Orient Express
enjoyed what is regarded as its 'Golden Age', thanks to the
considerable popularity of rail travel at the time. Through the
roaring twenties and into the thirties, the Express played host to
scandalised princes, ambassadors, writers, composers and artists. A
variant of the train, from London to Baghdad, was even granted a
place in literary notoriety with the publication of Agatha
Christie's 'Murder on the Orient Express' in 1934.
The Orient Express was also the site for several important
events and meetings in history. Famously, the armistice for the
First World War was signed on board the train and later, the year
before the Second World War saw the French sign surrender papers to
Nazi Germany in another of the carriages.
In fictional events, Bram Stoker's 'Dracula' sees Jonathan
Harker, Van Helsing and Mina travel back to Transylvania to battle
the titular vampire on board the train, while James Bond fought a
rival spy in a carriage for the book and film versions of 'From
Russia with Love'. All these events and characters have seen the
Orient Express become arguably the most well-known train and rail
journey in history.
The Venice Simplon-Orient-Express
With the sixties and seventies, use of the European rail network
declined with increased use of the car. A number of variants on the
Orient Express stopped running around 1962, including the original
Orient Express and the Arlberg Orient Express. Only the Simplon
Orient Express remained, and this too was removed from the rails in
1977, hailing the end of George Nagelmacker's Orient Express.
In that same year, James Sherwood, an entrepreneur from the USA
bought a number of the original carriages, still decked out with
the original wooden panelling and art-deco décor. Using specialist
craftsmen, some of them from families who worked on the original
train, he restored the carriages of the Orient Express to their
former grandeur and christened his new luxury train the Venice
Simplon-Orient-Express. Relaunched in 1982 as a leisure train, the
Venice Simplon-Orient-Express maintains the tradition of high-class
elegance and sophistication which its namesake first pioneered in
the late 19th century, journeying on many of the
same routes as the original.
Nowadays, the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express harks back to the
halcyon days of luxury rail travel in Europe enjoyed by the
passengers of the original Orient Express. Magnificent carriages of
polished wood, tasteful white decorations and plush comfortable
furnishings combine with excellent service and the cuisine of a
5-Star restaurant to make the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express one of
the greatest rail journeys on the planet.