The World’s Most Glamorous Train

Samuel Reason | November 15th, 2017

The Orient Express has been noted as being the world’s most glamorous train, but how did it get that title?  Well, the story of The Orient Express takes off in the 1860’s when the concept of globetrotting tourism was still fairly new.  For years, the ultra-rich had been the only people that could afford to travel throughout Europe.  As the rail travel expanded, luxury hotels began to open regarding catering to travelers needs and desires.  An entrepreneur by the name of Georges Nagelmackers started to combine trains and hotels in Europe.  Mr. Nagelmackers was also a member of the Belgian banking family, as having investments in the European railroads.  

Now, after the Civil War, his family sent him to The United States to help him get over an unsuccessful romance and he found a new love, which was trains.  At that time, Americans were just beginning to travel in Pullman cars, which were designed by George Pullman.  They were specifically designed for long-distance travel.  When Nagelmackers was introduced to this new and comfortable way of traveling, he became immediately captivated and approached Pullman with a proposal to collaborate with him, spreading the cars throughout Europe.  So, when Nagelmackers returned home, he planned to copy Pullman.  In 1873, Nagelmackers formed his own company, Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits, but he just wasn’t content with the idea of a simple sleeper car.  

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Nagelmackers desired something entirely different and with more luxury.  He wanted to create something brand new, which would be a bonus travel experience that swept passengers to and from various locations without stopping.  To get the job completed, he recruited an influential ally, King Leopold II of Belgium.  The king was an infamous railroad fanatic with family ties to some of Europe’s most authoritative royals, so he assisted Nagelmackers in obtaining permission to run his trains across intercontinental borders without intrusion.  In the year 1883, the luxurious train nicknamed the “Orient Express”, made its first ever expedition.  It took Europe by complete storm in which people had never witnessed before.  Never had Europeans seen such extravagance.  Instead of soot and bad amenities, it had luminous wood exteriors, plush chairs, and beds with silk sheets that equaled those found in guesthouses.  Inside the trains was a restaurant which served elaborate dishes like oysters and caviar, and bands sang to the passengers as they sped over various borders.

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