Are you like me? Do you daydream about taking the Orient Express and sitting with spies, exiled Russian royalty, artists and socialites? [side note: while I was researching the Orient Express, I was reminded that there is a chinese restaurant in Seattle with the same name. It is housed inside a few cobbled-together train cars down in the industrial area. I read a couple reviews on Yelp, and my favorites excerpts were “They still had their Christmas decorations up in March, we should have just left” and “I felt like I was in a SAW movie.”] The obvious source of inspiration is “Murder on the Orient Express” by Agatha Christie in novel and film form, I am obsessed with Hercule Poirot, more the David Suchet than the Albert Finney portrayal. You have to see “From Russia With Love,” the second film in the James Bond series. James has a fight on the Orient Express. So, in my daydreams, I have a combination of Agatha Christie and Ian Fleming as the visual source, naturally, I would be solving a murder and fighting off spies. This should help:
This date marks the first formal run of the Orient Express in 1883. The train was the brainchild of Georges Nagelmackers. He had been impressed by trains he’d seen in America in the 1860s — particularly the Pullman “sleeper cars” — and envisioned a richly appointed train running on a continuous 1,500-mile stretch of track from Paris to Istanbul. For its formal launch from the Gare de Strasbourg, Nagelmackers arranged battered, rusty Pullman cars on adjacent tracks to show his luxurious conveyance to its best advantage. Many of its first passengers on the 80-hour journey were journalists, and they spread the word of its paneled interiors, leather armchairs, silk sheets, and wool blankets. They also dubbed the train “the Orient Express” with Nagelmackers’ blessing. The train later earned another nickname, “the Spies’ Express,” due to its popularity in the espionage community.
One particular car played a role in both world wars. On November 11, 1918, German officers signed their surrender documents in an Allied commander’s private car. The car was a museum piece in Paris until 1940, when Hitler commandeered it and used it as the setting to dictate the terms of the French surrender. Later, when his defeat was imminent, he blew the car up so that it wouldn’t become an Allied trophy again.
The original Orient Express stopped serving Istanbul in 1977, and its new route ran from Paris to Vienna until 2007, when the route was shortened, departing Strasbourg instead of Paris. Finally, in 2009, the Orient Express ceased operation, citing competition from high-speed trains and discount airlines. It has spawned several offspring that have adopted the name for promotional purposes, including the Direct Orient Express and the Nostalgic Orient Express. Only the Venice-Simplon Orient Express, which runs from London to a variety of European destinations and charges $2,300 U.S. to ride in the restored original cars, approaches the original “King of Trains and Train of Kings.”