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Traveling on the Orient Express

By John D'Angelo
  Wagons-Lits logo from Wikipedia.

Adventure! Intrigue! Opulence!

Those words come to my mind when I hear the words Orient Express. Who can forget Agatha Christie’s wonderful novel “Murder on the Orient Express.” I think of all those interesting characters traveling across Europe together in a type of rolling Casablanca. The Orient Express was really more than a single train; it was a company and a time.

The company behind the concept of the Orient Express was Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits and the English translation is International Sleeping-Car Company. The company was also known as CIWL and Wagons-Lits.

Georges Nagelmakers, a Belgian, got the idea for the company when he visited the United States in 1867. He was very impressed by the railroads using Pullman night-trains. When he returned home he established a network of European night-trains. He also felt that they should represent the cream of the crop in travel accommodations.

The first train was called the Express d’Orient and started running in 1883. In 1891 the Express d’Orient was officially renamed the Orient Express.

The Orient Express was an international conveyance and used the motive power of the country it was running through. The route extended from Paris across Europe to Venice and continued all the way to Istanbul. There was a connection from London. The London train ran from Victoria Station to Folkestone, where the passengers were driven to the docks and then traveled by ship to Calais to board the Continental train. The company was at its peak in the 1930’s and the Orient Express was the way to travel for the upper class.

The golden age of the Orient Express was during the 1930s . During this time the Simplon Orient Express was the flagship of the line. The route it took was from Calais to Paris, then Dijon, Lausanne, Milan, Venice, Trieste, Zagreb, Belgrade, Sofia, and finally Istanbul.

By 1939 the activities of the Orient Express were cut because WWII was starting. Following WWII, although the company started operations again, it started losing money and the equipment and passengers suffered. By 1971 the company was on the brink of being dissolved. They sold or leased their sleeping cars to railways all over Europe.

Today, you can travel on the Venice Simplon Orient Express. The train uses restored cars from those golden days and offers four-course dinners and the champagne flows all day long. A round trip for two from London to Budapest would probably cost close to $10,000. The saying is that “You can never be overdressed on the Orient Express” and black tie at dinner is NOT optional. People who like to travel in jeans and sweaters need not apply. To travel on the Orient Express today it would help if you are rich, hopelessly romantic, and an adventurer.

If you are a Trainz user, you can travel on the Orient Express today without leaving your study, although it might be nice to have a glass of champagne handy for old time’s sake! The Trainz Hungary site has a beautiful collection of models of the classic Wagon-Lits cars that can make up the 1930’s version of the Orient Express. These cars not only have exquisite exterior detail, they also have highly detailed interiors that allow you to travel while being inside the cars. The cars are a free download, the only requirement is that you register yourself at their site. There is no cost for this.

Once you are registered, you will need to go to the Painted Grace Workgroup. Their logo is at the bottom of the page, just click on the logo. You will then see their opening statement. Click on the Painted Grace Workgroup logo at the bottom of their statement. It may take time to get the site to respond due to Internet traffic. The next page will show HoTTrainz, Hungarian Railroad Simulator Site. You are finally where you can pick your downloads. You want to choose CIWL. There are 16 cars available. Download all the cars, including the grouped choices and all the dependencies. These cars will make up a complete 1930s vintage Simplon Orient Express.

Simplon Orient Express.

For the above illustration I used the Black Forest route from TRS2006 and am driving the train with a German 2-10-0 locomotive, CFL 5404, by konni, available from the Download Station; kuid:142675:500880 (get the entire pack).

CFL 5404 locomotive.

Wagons-Lits sleeping cars.


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Article and screen shots 2008 John D'Angelo. All rights reserved.

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