The legendary train, returning soon to railways

June 2022

Dream / Travel

Orient Express, artisan of travel since 1883, announces the return of its legendary train in a new and unique format.

Almost 140 years after the first Orient Express luxury trains changed rail travel forever, the legend continues with the official announcement of the upcoming launch of the future Orient Express.

 

Architect Maxime d’Angeac has brought the legendary railroad sensation back to life by dreaming up a brand-new train concept. His contemporary vision of luxury and extreme comfort will pay tribute to the legacy of the Orient Express.

 

Beginning in 2024, Orient Express will invite travelers to relive the legend aboard 17 original Orient Express cars dating back to the 1920s and 1930s, adorned with exceptional décor – a set of cars formerly known as the ‘Nostalgie-Istanbul-Orient-Express.’

© Photo by Xavier Antoinet

The Orient Express: a legend, rediscovered

Artisan of travel since 1883, Orient Express began as the realization of the dream of its founder, Georges Nagelmackers. Inspired by his trip to the Americas, he launched the most luxurious train in the world and the rest is history: a legend was born. The Orient Express traversed the great European capitals, linking the West to the gates of the East. It was an era filled with magic, that ended in 1977.

 

In the early 1980s, two private entrepreneurs decided to resurrect the legend. James Sherwood, the American owner of the Cipriani Hotel in Venice, put the Venice-Simplon-Orient-Express back on track. In addition, the Swiss tour operator and businessman Albert Glatt inaugurated the Nostalgie-Istanbul-Orient-Express. This “cruise train” of dreams, made up of the historic cars of the Orient Express, ran between Zurich and Istanbul and was a resounding success. In 1992, the King of Pop, Michael Jackson, travelled on the train for a few weeks during his European tour for Dangerous. Called the “Extrême-Orient-Express”, the train embarked on its longest journey, linking Paris to Tokyo. Despite this great achievement, the Nostalgie-Istanbul-Orient-Express stopped service a few years later and disappeared off the rails and off the grid.

In search of the last Orient Express

In 2015, Arthur Mettetal, a researcher specializing in industrial history, conducted a worldwide inventory of the Orient Express for France’s national train service, SNCF. During the course of his research, he discovered a providential video of a train in full service, posted by an anonymous person on YouTube. Arthur says that “we knew that the Glatt train existed somewhere, but nobody knew exactly where. While deciphering the video, we saw the sign for the “Malaszewicze” station, a name widely used in Poland. With a bit of persistence, Google Maps and Google 3D put us on the right track. The car roofs, visible on the aerial views, were indeed those of the Nostalgie-Istanbul-Orient-Express, neatly lined up on the border between Belarus and Poland.”

An Art Deco gem

The treasure was discovered a few months later. Arthur Mettetal went to Warsaw accompanied by a translator, a photographer and Orient-Express’ Vice President Guillaume de Saint Lager. After a 4-hour drive from the Polish capital, the group reached an isolated marshalling area in the middle of the steppe, right on the Belarusian border. The visit took place the next day, at dawn. The cars appeared to have been sleeping there in the open air for about ten years. Surprisingly well preserved, the interiors still revealed the Morrison and Nelson marquetry, as well as the Lalique panels, emblematic of the Art Deco style, which remained intact and engraved with “blackbirds and grapes” motifs.

 

A true miracle and discovery of a lost treasure.

 

After two years of negotiations, the owner of the Nostalgie-Istanbul-Orient-Express ceded his coveted train to Orient Express. The agreement was signed at the Bristol Hotel in Vienna in July 2018. A Dantesque convoy of trucks escorted by several police vehicles brought the 17 cars – 12 sleeping cars, 1 restaurant, 3 lounges and 1 van – back to France.

The rebirth of the Orient Express

Today, Orient Express has entrusted architect Maxime d’Angeac with a crucial and historic mission, namely to revive the Orient Express, to sublimate and extend its history by reinterpreting the decor of the Nostalgie-Istanbul-Orient-Express. In 2024, just in time for the Paris Olympic Games, the first cars restored to d’Angeac’s savoir-faire and imagined in collaboration with the finest French artisans, will reveal the new charms of the Orient Express.

Maxime d'Angeac: a passionate architect

Passionate about history and fascinated by revolutionary artistic movements, whether it be the Italian Renaissance to the Viennese Secession, or Art Nouveau to Art Deco, the architect began his career with the creation of sceneography for Daum and Hermès, in collaboration with the American designer Hilton McConnico.

 

For the last 20 years, Maxime d’Angeac has taken on prestigious restoration and decoration projects, such as the Maison Guerlain on the Champs-Elysées, breathing new life into all the apartments, castles and private villas that are entrusted to him.

 

D’Angeac is an architect with a passion for literature, and a collector of old books, including treatises on architecture and industrial history, with his interests extending into travel novels. In his library, you can read stories by Paul Morand, Henry Miller and Ernest Hemingway. Further, you will find Wagon-Lit by Joseph Kessel, Prose on the Trans-Siberian Railway by the poet Blaise Cendrars, and biographies of artists of the new century such as the art collector Peggy Guggenheim, the philosophy of Walter Benjamin and even a collection of Agatha Christie novels. Each piece serving as references that make him the natural choice to lead the new Orient Express project.

“The rebirth of the Orient Express is a technological challenge, meeting scientific, artistic and technical criteria, where the entire project has been conceived as a work of art. From the nuts and bolts stamped with Orient Express’ signature to the innovative concept of the suites, an exact science of detail will allow travelers to rediscover the great splendor of the Orient Express. Entrusted to the best artisans and decorators specializing in their unique fields, this embassy of French luxury will unveil a setting of absolute refinement, faithful to the art of tailoring. It will be an incomparable train travel experience, imagined through a contemporary vision of comfort and extreme luxury.” – Maxime d’Angeac, architect Orient Express.

 

“Reinventing the Orient Express of tomorrow from historical cars dating back to the Golden Age of rail travel has been nothing sort of an adventure. It is a treasure that we have rediscovered: the last Orient Express, which disappeared for ten years and has now been saved. In just a few months, the talent and passion of Maxime d’Angeac and the best French artisans will reveal a train like no other, whose appearance will remain faithful to the memory and the Art of Travel according to Orient Express. The legend is back, and with it, a redefinition of luxury rail travel.”– Guillaume de Saint Lager, Vice-President Orient Express.

About Orient Express, part of Accor, a world-leading hospitality group

Artisan of travel since 1883, Orient Express sublimates the Art of Travel with its luxury trains, unique experiences, and collections of rare objects. And coming soon: its first hotels around the world, with the opening of Orient Express La Minerva in Rome and Orient Express Palazzo Donà Giovannelli in Venice in 2024. An additional project has been announced in Riyadh, the first city in the Middle East to announce the arrival of an Orient Express hotel. In parallel with the launch of the Nostalgie-Istanbul-Orient-Express, Orient Express La Dolce Vita will welcome its first passengers on board its luxury trains in early 2024 – making up a full universe that will offer Orient Express travellers a complete ultra-luxury travel experience.

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