HISTORY AND MYTH COMBINED
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
The first hotel, Bangkok
Building on an idea of travel as novel, luxurious and romantic, the Accor group creates rare hotels, inspired by the train's legend. Bangkok is the first city to host an Orient Express hotel.