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A Peek Inside The Orient Express

Updated: Mar 13, 2022

The "Orient Express" was a long-distance passenger train service created in 1883 by Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits. The carriages which now make up the world renowned, luxury train - the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, have each acquired their own history and special character developed over years of travelling the original Orient Express route, which was simply a normal international railway service across Europe.

In 1864, George Mortimer Pullman, a creative railway constructor, built a train in England that featured all the up-to-date technology of the time. His train employed more advanced technology and was far more luxurious than anything else that existed in Europe at the time.

From the 1870's parlour cars and sleeping carriages were put in service in Britain and passengers of those trains were the first to enjoy the novelty of having their meals served on board a train. In 1881 the Pullman Limited Express began operating an all Pullman service between London and Brighton and George Mortimer Pullman progressed by connecting train services to ferry services to offer luxury train travel between London and Paris.

Around the same time, a Belgian railway entrepreneur named George Nagelmackers started building luxury rail carriages and in 1883 started the first Orient-Express service from Paris to Giurgi in Romania. His train featured sleeping carriages and the first restaurant cars to be offered on a continental train.

In 1906, the Simplon Tunnel was completed. It was the longest tunnel in the world at the time and connected Switzerland to Italy under the Alps and drastically reduced the travelling time between Paris and Venice.

In the 1920's the Orient-Express name became synonymous with intrigue and luxury travel and it had started its Simplon-Orient-Express journey from Paris to Constantinople (Ïstanbul) ushering in the heyday of luxury rail journeys that were enjoyed by celebrities, Royalty and spies alike.

This opulent method of travel featured fine wines served with elaborate meals and luxurious accommodation. The Orient Express service was a showcase of luxury and comfort at a time when travelling was still rough and dangerous.

During the Second World War, frontiers across Europe were closed and ferry services cancelled, putting an end to this decadent mode of travel. Cheaper and faster air travel was the nail in the coffin for the Orient-Express and the service ceased in 1977.

The train carriages were sold off at a Sotherby's auction in Monte Carlo that year and two of the carriages were purchased by rail enthusiast and millionaire entrepreneur, James B Sherwood. Over the next few years he spent many millions tracing and purchasing 35 of the original CIWL vintage carriages from the 1920s and 1930s and restoring them to their former glory.

In 1982 the legend of the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express was reborn as the world-famous train made its maiden journey from London to Venice. Today, you can board the beautifully restored, luxurious carriages and participate in one of the most famous and romantic journeys in the world on the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express.

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