Historic railway vehicles: Orient Express

Historic railway vehicles: Orient Express
photo: Archives/Railway
30 / 10 / 2020

Originally, the name Orient Express meant a connection between Europe and the Balkan Peninsula. Until World War II, Orient Express were luxury sleeping trains of the Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits. They connected Paris with Constantinople (Istanbul). Orient Express gained its fame mainly thanks to the author of the detective stories, Agatha Christie,who wrote the famous book called Murder in the Orient Express and thanks to it and the movies based on the book, the train became a legend.

The first ride of the Orient Express took place on June 9, 1883. The train was assembled of luxury first class wagons, from dining wagons and saloon wagons. The route to Constantinople was 3186 km long. The Orient Express surpassed it in 69.5 hours.

However, there have been many unusual raids in the History of Orient Express. For example, in 1891 a train derailed a Greek robber about 100 km from Constantinople. He captured four men, whom he released only after paying the ransom. That was 8,000 pounds sterling in gold. In the following years, an envoy of the French government was assassinated in its coupe. In 1950, an American military attaché was attacked and robbed on the Orient Express. This event is attributed to Eastern Secret Service agents.

During the First World War, the train route was suspended. From 1916 it was operated by the German company Mitropa. It rode on the route Berlin-Constantinople. It is interesting that it also passed through the territory of Serbia, which was occupied at that time. After the war, it was renamed Simplon-Orient-Express. It was designed primarily for politicians. The route was also changed to bypass the defeated Germany and Austria. It was not until 1921 that the Orient Express began to transfer public passengers, but initially only to Bucharest.

After World War II, this train ran like a basic express train. It connected Paris, Stuttgart, Munich and Vienna. In 1950, it also drove 3rd class cars for the first time. In 1961, it was decided that due to the Iron Curtain, the final stop of this train would be Vienna. From 1964, however, it began travelling to Budapest, and later to Bucharest, Romania.

After 1977, when the last journey from Paris to Istanbul took place, the train began to fall into disrepair. In the mid-1980s, the Orient Express became an ordinary night train between Budapest and Paris.

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