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The Orient Express (clockwise from upper left) taking on passengers, the dining
car, and the passageway outside the first-class compartments.
It was 1865, and Georges Nagelmackers, a prominent Belgian banker’s son,
dreamed of trains. On a trip to America, he’d seen a number of railway
advancements he’d never seen before, including George Pullman’s luxurious
Nagelmackers wanted to build a train that would be as comfortable and beautiful
as a fine hotel, running the length of Europe from Paris to Constantinople, a
distance of more than 1,500 miles.
In 1883, after many difficulties, he established his route. The newspapers called
the new train the Orient Express.
The Orient Express (ignore the plugin; click on Part 2 for photos of less familiar part
of route) made the trip in just over 80 hours. It featured art deco wood and glass
paneling, generous leather armchairs, silk sheets and wool blankets, and silver,
crystal and starched napkins.
The train has an aura of romance and intrigue, with kings, secret agents,
millionaires, big game hunters, smugglers and movie stars among its riders.
People would dress for dinner in its glittering Lalique dining car, decorated by the
One car was used for the signing of the German surrender on November 11, 1918.
The French exhibited the car in Paris until 1940, when Hitler dictated the terms of
French surrender. Four years later, he ordered it blown up to keep the French from
using it again when German loss appeared imminent.
The original Orient Express gave rise to several other train routes—the Direct Orient
Express, the Venice Simplon Orient Express and the Nostalgie Orient Express.
The Orient Express provided the setting for one of Agatha Christie's most famous
mysteries, Murder on the Orient Express. This month's website features Agatha
Christie, her detective Hercule Poirot, and the actor who played him in the long-
running TV series, David Suchet.
If you love mysteries as much as I do (or even if you don't), please tell me about it at