Venice Simplon Orient Express History

The History Of The Venice Simplon Orient Express

The carriages (or rolling-stock) which now make up the world famous Venice Simplon Orient Express luxury train, have each uniquely acquired their own history and special character over years of travelling the length and breadth of Europe and beyond.

Orient Express Interior

George Mortimer Pullman, a creative railway constructor in 1864, built a train in Great Britain that featured all the up-to-date technology of the time employing more advanced technology and far more luxurious than anything else that existed in Europe to date.

Following this, in the 1870’s, parlour cars and sleeping carriages were introduced and passengers of those trains were the first to enjoy the novelty of having their meals served on board a train.

In 1881 the Pullman Limited Express began operating an all Pullman service between London and Brighton and George Mortimer Pullman progressed by connecting train services to ferry services to offer luxury train travel between London and Paris.

At a similar time, a Belgian railway entrepreneur, George Nagelmackers, began building luxury rolling stock and in 1883 started the Orient Express service from Paris to Giurgi in Romania.

His train was unique in that it featured sleeping carriages and the first restaurant cars to be offered on a continental train.

In 1906, the Simplon Tunnel was completed – the longest tunnel in the world at the time connecting Switzerland to Italy under the Alps.

The effect was to drastically reduce the travelling time between Paris and Venice.

Orient Express Logo

In the 1920’s the Orient Express began its Simplon Orient Express journey to Istanbul ushering in the heyday of luxury rail journeys that were enjoyed by the social elite of the time.

The unique and opulent approach to travel featured fine wines and the highest level of service throughout the journey.

The Second World War put an end to the decadence of this form of travel, with Europe seeing ferry services cancelled and borders closed.

Following recovery after the war, and the development of air travel, it was inevitable that the Orient Express would suffer as cheaper and faster travel took over. This resulted in the Orient Express service conducting its last trip in 1977.

The train carriages were auctioned at a Sotherby’s in Monte Carlo that year and two of the carriages were purchased by rail enthusiast and millionaire entrepreneur, James B Sherwood.

Over the next few years he spent many millions procuring 35 of the original vintage carriages and restoring them to their former glory.

In 1982 the Orient Express was reborn as the world famous train made its maiden journey from London to Venice under the new name, the Venice Simplon Orient Express which still runs to this day.