The Orient Express, the legendary train designed by visionary Georges Nagelmackers, celebrates its 140th anniversary today. An anniversary marked by a video celebrating its heritage and announcing its rebirth by 2024 under the leadership of SNCF and hotel giant Accor.
Elegant, comfortable and exclusive, the train nicknamed “the king of trains and the train of kings” has retained a special place in the collective unconscious. This cultural legacy is due as much to the destinations crossed as to the sumptuousness of its service and carriages, and to its legendary passengers from the worlds of literature and cinema.
While the Venice-Simplon-Orient Express has been owned by the LVMH group since 2019, the SNCF, owner of the “Orient Express” name, is preparing to put another train back on track, inherited from the disappointed Nostalgia-Istanbul-Orient-Express project.
In collaboration with hotel group Accor, the French rail group intends to restore the spirit of the 1883 luxury train, and even revive a route serving ancient Constantinople (now Istanbul).
Europe’s first luxury sleeper train
Descended from a large family of Belgian bankers, Georges Nagelmackers was totally fascinated by André Pullman’s “sleeping cars”, which he discovered during a visit to the United States.
Europe in the infancy of the Belle Époque was still unaware of comfort on rails, and seemed resistant to any idea of innovation. But at the same time, around 1860, luxury hotels were springing up all along the railroads.
The engineer is convinced that this golden age of travel, which saw the European elite (financial, cultural and diplomatic) gradually cross the vast world, needed cars that were reliable, comfortable and clean. Above all, crossing borders was often hazardous, if not dangerous.
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Featured Photo: © Orient Express