Invent / Reinvent

The history of the Orient-Express is a technical, industrial and artistic saga. Building on this history and its emotional legacy, the company has always sought to find new ways to travel.


Georges Nagelmackers' journey of discovery
 - 1867
Belgian-born Georges Nagelmackers travels to the United States, where he finds the railways feature sleeping cars and dining cars. Upon his return to Europe, the young engineer begins what will become his life's work: designing luxury trains to take passengers to the gateway to the East.


The Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits
 - 1876
Georges Nagelmackers founds the Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits (CIWL). His innovative train design provides travellers with comfort and hotel-style service in luxurious surroundings. This means people can travel through Europe without having to find lodgings each night.


The first journey
 - 1883
Between 4 and 20 October, the Orient-Express makes the first return journey between Paris and Constantinople, covering 3,959 miles in 13 days. In a single journey, the entire geography of Europe is turned on its head.


La Compagnie Internationale des Grands Hôtels
 - 1894
Georges Nagelmackers goes on to found the Compagnie Internationale des Grands Hôtels. From Paris to Beijing, from Istanbul to Cairo, throughout the countries crossed by the company's luxury trains, sumptuous palaces are remodelled as hotels to provide the CIWL's customers with luxury, modern accommodation before or after their train journey.


The Simplon-Orient-Express's new route
 - 1919
The midnight blue cars of the first Simplon-Orient-Express train open a new route linking Paris to Istanbul via Milan and Venice. The train crosses the Alps thanks to a new route offered by the construction of the Simplon Tunnel.

1926 – 1929

Art Deco to serve the railway
 - 1926 – 1929
New Pullman lounge cars are introduced in Europe, kitted out with all the latest fixtures and fittings. With designs by master glassmaker René Lalique and decorator René Prou, they exemplify all the refined luxury of the French style of travel.


Murder on the Orient Express
 - 1934
On 1 January, Agatha Christie's "Murder on the Orient Express" is published. This work, together with the many film and television adaptations that are to follow, will forever mark the Orient-Express as mysterious and legendary, fixing its image in the collective imagination.


The final journey
 - 1977
On 20 May, the Orient-Express makes its final direct journey from Paris to Istanbul. The growth of the airline industry at the end of the 20th century sees the end of the legendary company, forcing it to sell its cars at auction.


A new chapter begins
 - 2016
The French railway company SNCF creates a subsidiary called Orient Express to preserve its railway heritage. They research the train's fabulous history to capture its identity and style. This new chapter in the Orient Express story opens in Paris, during the FIAC contemporary art fair.


New horizons
 - 2020
Building on the concept of travel as novel, luxurious and romantic, Accor has created rare hotels, inspired by the legend of the train. Opening a new chapter in the history of the Orient Express, an experience filled with mystery that promises enchanting encounters.

The Endowment Fund

Remember / Dream

Orient Express has a particularly rich heritage. In addition to the historic cars operated by Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits (CIWL) until 1977, it also has many archival documents at its disposal. This remarkable heritage also evokes an intangible dimension made up of landscapes, sounds and scents, literary and film works. Orient Express is therefore not just a train, but a set of representations, images and fantasies that have shaped its history and broadened its heritage.

Preserve / Promote

In 2017, SNCF and Accor created the Orient Express Heritage Endowment Fund. This represents a commitment to preserving, enhancing and sharing this unique heritage, ensuring the promotion of a cultural institution that has become universally known. The general-interest organisation aims to maintain constant dialogue between past and present, particularly by supporting artistic and documentary creations through collaborations and commissions involving photographers in particular.

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