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Orient Express

The Orient Express
Poster advertising the Winter 1888–89 timetable for the Orient Express
Locale Europe
Transit type Inter-city rail
Number of lines 5
Number of stations 18
Began operation 1883
Ended operation 2009
Operator(s) Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits
System length 3,200 km (2,000 mi)
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) (standard gauge)

The Orient Express was the name of a long-distance passenger train service created in 1883 by Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits (CIWL).

The route and rolling stock of the Orient Express changed many times. Several routes in the past concurrently used the Orient Express name, or slight variants thereof. Although the original Orient Express was simply a normal international railway service, the name has become synonymous with intrigue and luxury travel. The two city names most prominently associated with the Orient Express are Paris and Constantinople (Istanbul),[1][2] the original endpoints of the timetabled service.[3]

The Orient Express was a showcase of luxury and comfort at a time when travelling was still rough and dangerous. CIWL soon developed a dense network of luxury trains all over Europe, whose names are still remembered today and associated with the art of luxury travel (such as the Blue Train, the Golden Arrow, North Express and many more). CIWL became the first and most important modern multinational dedicated to transport, travel agency, and hospitality with activities spreading from Europe to Asia and Africa.

In 1977, the Orient Express stopped serving Istanbul. Its immediate successor, a through overnight service from Paris to Vienna, ran for the last time from Paris on Friday, June 8, 2007.[4][5] After this, the route, still called the "Orient Express", was shortened to start from Strasbourg instead,[6] occasioned by the inauguration of the LGV Est which affords much shorter travel times from Paris to Strasbourg. The new curtailed service left Strasbourg at 22:20 daily, shortly after the arrival of a TGV from Paris, and was attached at Karlsruhe to the overnight sleeper service from Amsterdam to Vienna.

On 14 December 2009, the Orient Express ceased to operate and the route disappeared from European railway timetables, reportedly a "victim of high-speed trains and cut-rate airlines".[7] The Venice-Simplon Orient Express train, a private venture by Orient-Express Hotels Ltd. using original CIWL carriages from the 1920s and 30s, continues to run from London to Venice and to other destinations in Europe, including the original route from Paris to Istanbul.[8] In March 2014 Orient-Express Hotels Ltd. was renamed Belmond.

All intellectual property rights of Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits (CIWL) are managed by Wagons-Lits Diffusion in Paris.[9][10][11]


  • Train Eclair de luxe (the 'test' train) 1
  • Routes 2
  • Original train 3
  • Final years 4
    • EN468-469 Orient-Express 4.1
  • Privately run trains using the name 5
  • CIWL phototheque and historical archives 6
  • In popular culture 7
    • Literature 7.1
    • Film 7.2
    • Television 7.3
    • Music 7.4
    • Games and animation 7.5
    • Exhibitions 7.6
  • See also 8
  • References 9
    • Bibliography 9.1
    • Notes 9.2
  • Further reading 10
  • External links 11

Train Eclair de luxe (the 'test' train)

CIWL logo

In 1882,

  • Orient-Express
  • Venice Simplon-Orient-Express Luxury Train
  • Wagons-Lits Diffusion, management of CIWL brands and historical archives
  • Brief youtube video about the VSOE
  • Belmond Website

External links

  • Orient Express: The Life and Times of the World's Most Famous Train by E H Cookridge.
    Detail from a copy of the first publication of the book with black and white plates by Allen Lane London in 1979 (ISBN 978-0-7139-1271-5)

Further reading

  1. ^ Orient-Express
  2. ^ Orient Express : attention au départ
  3. ^ a b Zax, David (1 March 2007). "A Brief History of the Orient Express".  
  4. ^ a b c d e Calder, Simon (22 August 2009). "Murder of the Orient Express – End of the line for celebrated train service".  
  5. ^ a b c "A History of the Orient Express". Agatha Christie Limited. 17 May 2011. Retrieved 2013-03-13. 
  6. ^ hidden europe' magazine e-news Issue 2007/15"'". 2007-06-07. Retrieved 2007-06-07. 
  7. ^ "The Orient Express Takes Its Final Trip".  
  8. ^ Venice Simplon-Orient-Express
  9. ^ a b c d Unauthorized use of CIWL property is illegal. For any request , contact
  10. ^ a b c d Wagons-Lits Diffusion
  11. ^ All CIWL logos, poster, archives: (c) & TM Wagons-Lits-Diffusion, Paris
  12. ^ Lambert, Anthony (21 January 2013). "The Orient-Express: Great Train Journeys".  
  13. ^ Piegsa-quischotte, Inke. "Memories of the Orient Express". Travel Through History. Retrieved 2013-03-13. 
  14. ^ a b c d e f g h i Smith, Mark. "A history of the Orient Express". Seat Sixty One. Retrieved 2013-03-13. 
  15. ^ "The Orient Express – Across Europe from London to Istanbul". Eng Rail History. Retrieved 2013-03-13. 
  16. ^ Turtles on the Orient ExpressNinjaturtles:


  • James B. Sherwood; Ivan Fallon (13 April 2012). Orient-Express: A Personal Journey. Robson Press.  



See also


  • The role-playing game Call of Cthulhu RPG used the train for one of its more famous campaigns, Horror on the Orient Express.
  • Heart of China has a final sequence in the Orient Express. An action scene takes place on the roof.
  • The Orient Express plays host to an adventure game by Jordan Mechner: The Last Express is a murder mystery game set around the last ride of the Orient Express before it suspended operations at the start of World War I. Robert Cath, an American doctor wanted by French police as he is suspected of the murder of an Irish police officer, becomes involved in a maelstrom of treachery, lies, political conspiracies, personal interests, romance and murder. The game has 30 characters representing a cross-section of European forces at the time.
  • The Adventure Company developed a point-and-click adventure based on Agatha Christie's novel, Agatha Christie: Murder on the Orient Express.
  • The 1987 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon spent the better part of an episode on the train.
  • In 1994's season 1 episode of Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego? called, "The Gold Old Bad Days", Carmen Sandiego and her V.I.L.E. gang are given a challenge to do something low tech by The Player robbery. Carmen's goal is the train.
  • The train is featured in Microsoft Train Simulator, where its route is a 101 kilometres (63 mi) section from Innsbruck to Sankt Anton am Arlberg in Austria.
  • The Orient Express was featured in two scenarios in the Railroad Tycoon series:
    • In Railroad Tycoon II, players get to connect Paris to Constantinople in a territory buying challenge.
    • In Railroad Tycoon 3 players need to connect Vienna to Istanbul.
  • The Orient Express cars were made available for download to use in Auran's Trainz Railroad Simulator 2004 or later versions by the content creation group: FMA.
  • In the game Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped for PS1, the third level (which is Asian-themed) is named after Orient Express.
  • The first scenes of The Raven: Legacy of a Master Thief, a 2013 game for PC, involve a mystery set amongst train carriages inspired by the Orient Express.
  • The entire Orient Express set was used in the Facebook game, TrainStation.


Games and animation


  • Orient Express was a syndicated TV series in the early-to-mid-1950s. Filmed in Europe, its half-hour dramas featured such stars as Paul Lukas, Jean-Pierre Aumont, Geraldine Brooks, and Erich von Stroheim.
  • Mystery on the Orient Express: a television special featuring illusionist David Copperfield. During the special, Copperfield rode aboard the train and, at its conclusion, made the dining car seemingly disappear.
  • "Minder on the Orient Express" (1985): a special episode of the long-running ITV sit-com Minder.
  • Whicker's World – Aboard The Orient Express: Travel journalist Alan Whicker joined the inaugural service of the Venice-Simplon Orient Express to Venice in 1982, interviewing invited guests and celebrities along the way.
  • Gavin Stamp's Orient Express: in 2007 UK's Five broadcast an arts/travel series which saw the historian journey from Paris to Istanbul along the old Orient Express route.
  • The 1987 cartoon Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles had an episode entitled "Turtles on the Orient Express". As the title suggests it is primarily based on the train.[16]
  • The episode "Emergence" of the science fiction television series Star Trek: The Next Generation partially takes place on a Holodeck representation of the Orient Express.
  • On the May 15, 2007 broadcast of Jeopardy!, the think music was played by a person on the train's piano, since the Final Jeopardy clue was about the Orient Express.
  • In the British soap opera EastEnders, in 1986, characters Den and Angie Watts spent their honeymoon on the train. It was also where it was revealed that Angie was lying about her illness, preceding the ultimate storyline in Christmas 1986.
  • "Aboard the Orient Express" Get Smart series 1, episode 13 is set on the Orient Express, though filmed on set.
  • In one episode of the British cartoon series Danger Mouse, called "Dangermouse on the Orient Express" (a parody of Murder on the Orient Express), Dangermouse and Penfold travel on the train on their way back to London from Venice. Dangermouse's arch enemy Greenback is also on the train.
  • In an episode of the television series Chuck, Chuck and Sarah decide to go AWOL and take a trip on the Orient Express.
  • At the end of the Doctor Who episode "The Big Bang", the Doctor receives a call for help from the "Orient Express — in space". This setting is used in the episode "Mummy on the Orient Express", including a reference to the ending of "The Big Bang".
  • In episode 15 of television series Forever (U.S. TV series), Dr. Henry Morgan traveled from Budapest to Istanbul with his wife Abigail Morgan on his honeymoon in 1955. He performed an appendectomy on a member of the fictional Urkesh royalty.
  • The Backyardigans episode "Le Master of Disguise" features the Orient Express, showing Uniqua, Pablo, Austin, Tasha, and Tyrone going to Istanbul from Paris.


WL agences de voyages



The glamour and rich history of the Orient Express has frequently lent itself to the plot of books and films and as the subject of television documentaries.

In popular culture

The CIWL archives contain more than 100 years of posters, photos, plans and communication material that represents a tremendous interest for cultural, academic or commercial projects. The greatest creators and artists have been hired by CIWL since 1883 in order to create luxury conditions and comfort in travel, as well as a particular graphic style that is now recognized worldwide by its quality. Great efforts have been made to digitalize images (photos, plans and posters), although vast paper archives remain preserved, waiting to be sorted and classified in the future. As of today, available digital archives consist of more than 250 CIWL posters, 800 PLM posters and more than 6,000 archive photos, representing probably one of the most extensive poster collections in the world with works dating from the end of the 19th century to the late 1950s. These archives are regularly used for all types of publishing and media projects, all over the world, as well as cultural events (see below: Exhibition).[9][10]

CIWL phototheque and historical archives

Orient Express poster

In North America, the American Orient Express, formerly the American European Express, operated several train sets in charter service between 1989 and 2008.

The company also offers a similarly themed luxury train in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Laos, called the Eastern and Oriental Express.

  • Istanbul–Bucharest–Budapest–Venice
  • London–Venice
  • London–Venice–Rome
  • Paris–Budapest–Bucharest–Istanbul
  • Paris–Venice
  • Rome–Venice
  • Venice–Budapest–London
  • Venice–KrakówDresden–London
  • Venice–London
  • Venice–Paris
  • Venice–Prague–London
  • Venice–Vienna–London
  • Venice–Rome

In 1982, the Venice-Simplon Orient Express was established as a private venture, running restored 1920s and 1930s carriages from London to Venice. This service runs between March and November, and is firmly aimed at leisure travellers, with tickets costing over $3,120 per person from London to Venice including meals. As of October 2009 the company offers once a year service from Paris to Istanbul in August and Istanbul to Paris trip in September.[4] Other routes include:

Privately run trains using the name

The luxurious dining car, where scenes for Murder on the Orient Express and other movies were filmed, is now in the OSE museum of Thessalonica. The local authorities plan to refit the train to make it available for tourist use around the Balkans in the near future.

Though the final service ran only from Strasbourg to Vienna, it was possible to retrace the entire original Orient Express route with four trains: Paris–Strasbourg, Strasbourg–Vienna, Vienna–Belgrade and Belgrade-Istanbul, each of which operate daily. Other routes from Paris to Istanbul also exist, such as Paris–MunichBudapestBucharest–Istanbul, or Paris–Zürich–Belgrade–Istanbul, all of which have comparable travel times of approximately 60 hours without delays.

The train consisted of sleeper cars, couchette cars and saloon cars of the Austrian (ÖBB) and Hungarian (MÁV) national railways.


Orient Express in Poland, in 2007

From 14 December 2008 until December 2009, the Orient-Express (with a hyphen) ran as EuroNight services EN468 and EN469 between Vienna and Strasbourg.[4][14] Four through carriages operated from Budapest to Frankfurt am Main and three additional carriages Vienna–Frankfurt. The trains operated daily. EN468/469 was discontinued as of the December 2009 Deutsche Bahn timetable change.

EN468-469 Orient-Express

It provided a convenient connection from the TGV arrival from Paris.

Final years

The withdrawal of the Direct Orient Express was thought by many to signal the end of Orient Express as a whole, but in fact a service under this name continued to run from Paris to Budapest and Bucharest as before (via Strasbourg, Munich, and Budapest). This continued until 2001, when the service was cut back to just Paris–Vienna, the coaches for which were attached to the Paris–Strasbourg express. This service continued daily, listed in the timetables under the name Orient Express, until June 8, 2007.[4] However, with the opening of the LGV Est Paris–Strasbourg high speed rail line on June 10, 2007, the Orient Express service was further cut back to Strasbourg–Vienna, departing nightly at 22:20 from Strasbourg, and still bearing the name.[5][14]

In 1971, the Wagon-Lits company stopped running carriages itself and making revenues from a ticket supplement. Instead, it sold or leased all its carriages to the various national railway companies, but continued to provide staff for the carriages. 1976 saw the withdrawal of the Paris–Athens direct service, and in 1977, the Direct Orient Express was withdrawn completely, with the last Paris–Istanbul service running on May 19 of that year.[4][5]

By 1962, the Orient Express and Arlberg Orient Express had stopped running, leaving only the Simplon Orient Express. This was replaced in 1962 by a slower service called the Direct Orient Express, which ran daily cars from Paris to Belgrade, and twice weekly services from Paris to Istanbul and Athens.

Luggage tag

Following the end of the war, normal services resumed except on the Athens leg, where the closure of the border between Yugoslavia and Greece prevented services from running. That border re-opened in 1951, but the closure of the BulgarianTurkish border from 1951 to 1952 prevented services running to Istanbul during that time. As the Iron Curtain fell across Europe, the service continued to run, but the Communist nations increasingly replaced the Wagon-Lits cars with carriages run by their own railway services.

The start of the Second World War in 1939 again interrupted the service, which did not resume until 1945. During the war, the German Mitropa company had run some services on the route through the Balkans,[15] but Yugoslav Partisans frequently sabotaged the track, forcing a stop to this service.[14]

WL Golden Arrow

The 1930s saw the zenith of Orient Express services, with three parallel services running: the Orient Express, the Simplon Orient Express, and also the Arlberg Orient Express, which ran via Zürich and Innsbruck to Budapest, with sleeper cars running onwards from there to Bucharest and Athens. During this time, the Orient Express acquired its reputation for comfort and luxury, carrying sleeping-cars with permanent service and restaurant cars known for the quality of their cuisine. Royalty, nobles, diplomats, business people and the bourgeoisie in general patronized it. Each of the Orient Express services also incorporated sleeping cars which had run from Calais to Paris, thus extending the service right from one edge of continental Europe to the other.[14]

Badge of the Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits on a car of the Orient Express

The onset of World War I in 1914 saw Orient Express services suspended. They resumed at the end of hostilities in 1918, and in 1919 the opening of the Simplon Tunnel allowed the introduction of a more southerly route via Milan, Venice and Trieste. The service on this route was known as the Simplon Orient Express, and it ran in addition to continuing services on the old route. The Treaty of Saint-Germain contained a clause requiring Austria to accept this train: formerly, Austria allowed international services to pass through Austrian territory (which included Trieste at the time) only if they ran via Vienna. The Simplon Orient Express soon became the most important rail route between Paris and Istanbul.[14]

In 1889, the train's eastern terminus became Varna in Bulgaria, where passengers could take a ship to Constantinople. On June 1, 1889, the first non-stop train to Istanbul left Paris (Gare de l'Est). Istanbul remained its easternmost stop until May 19, 1977. The eastern terminus was the Sirkeci Terminal by the Golden Horn. Ferry service from piers next to the terminal would take passengers across the Bosphorus to Haydarpaşa Terminal, the terminus of the Asian lines of the Ottoman Railways.[14]

WL Orient Express

The original route, which first ran on October 4, 1883, was from Paris, Gare de l'Est, to Giurgiu in Romania via Munich and Vienna. At Giurgiu, passengers were ferried across the Danube to Ruse, Bulgaria, to pick up another train to Varna. They then completed their journey to Constantinople by ferry. In 1885, another route began operations, this time reaching Istanbul via rail from Vienna to Belgrade and Niš, carriage to Plovdiv and rail again to Istanbul.[14]

On June 5, 1883, the first Express d'Orient left Paris for Vienna. Vienna remained the terminus until October 4, 1883. The train was officially renamed Orient Express in 1891.[14]

The first Orient Express in 1883

Original train

Historic routes of Orient Express — the cross denotes the Simplon tunnel


Orient Express, 1930

The first menu on board (October 10, 1882): oysters, soup with Italian pasta, turbot with green sauce, chicken ‘à la chasseur’, fillet of beef with ‘château’ potatoes, ‘chaud-froid’ of game animals, lettuce, chocolate pudding, buffet of desserts.[13]

  • Baggage car
  • Sleeping coach with 16 beds (with bogies)
  • Sleeping coach with 14 beds (3 axles)
  • Restaurant coach (nr. 107)
  • Sleeping coach with 14 beds (3 axles)
  • Sleeping coach with 14 beds (3 axles)
  • Baggage car (complete 101 ton)

The train was composed of:

Georges Nagelmackers was the founder of Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits, which expanded its luxury trains, travel agencies and hotels all over Europe, Asia and North Africa. Its most famous train remains the Orient-Express.

on Tuesday, October 10, 1882, just after 18:30 and arrived in Vienna the next day at 23:20. The return trip left Vienna on Friday, October 13, 1882, at 16:40 and, as planned, re-entered the Gare de Strasbourg at 20:00 on Saturday October 14, 1882. Gare de l'Est The train left Paris [12][3]

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