Today, Train World in Brussels‘ Schaerbeek railway station opened its Orient-Express exhibition. The exhibition recounts the story of this legendary train brand and its creator, Georges Nagelmackers.
For the occasion, mythical Orient-Express carriages are exhibited in the Belgian railway company museum. This major exhibition of the Europalia Trains & Tracks festival, will also present decorative works of art and unique documents retracing the adventure of the Orient-Express and the Wagons-Lits company.
“The exhibition will also evoke the imaginations awakened by this legendary train and the dreams it generated, from the most famous like Agatha Christie to the most tenuous, while paying tribute to the craftsmen who helped build its legend”, the Train World website says.
The Orient Express (with or without hyphen) was a long-distance passenger train service created in 1883 by Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits (CIWL) that operated until 2009.
The route and rolling stock of the Orient Express changed many times. Several routes in the past concurrently used the Orient Express name, or slight variations.
Although the original Orient Express was simply a normal international railway service, the name became synonymous with intrigue and luxury rail travel. The two city names most prominently associated with the Orient Express are Paris in France and Istanbul in Turkey, the original endpoints of the timetabled service. But travel agents also offered trip further south and east, with Cairo in Egypt, Aleppo in Syria, Bagdad in Iraq and even Tehran in Iran.
In 1977, the Orient Express stopped serving Istanbul. Its immediate successor, a through overnight service from Paris to Bucharest in Romania, was later cut back in 1991 to Budapest in Hungary, and in 2001 was again shortened to Vienna in Austria, before departing for the last time from Paris on Friday 8 June 2007.
After this, the route, still called the Orient Express, was shortened to start from Strasbourg in France instead, occasioned by the inauguration of the LGV Est which afforded much shorter travel times from Paris to Strasbourg. The new curtailed service left Strasbourg at 10.20PM daily, shortly after the arrival of a TGV from Paris, and was attached at Karlsruhe in Germany to the overnight sleeper service from Amsterdam in the Netherlands to Vienna.
On 14 December 2009, the Orient Express ceased to operate and the route disappeared from European railway timetables, reportedly a “victim of high-speed trains and cut-rate airlines”.
The Venice-Simplon Orient Express train, a private venture by luxury train operator Belmond using original CIWL carriages from the 1920s and 1930s, continues to run from London in the United Kingdom to Venice in Italy and to other destinations in Europe, including the original route from Paris to Istanbul.
As was the case with the ‘From Peking to Hankow: a Belgian adventure in China‘, ‘Orient-Express’ has exhibits everywhere in the museum. So don’t look for a special section.
Train World clearly uses a similar template. First you’re introduced to the Zeitgeist of the second half of the 19th century. A time where travel by train is developing rapidly. There’s hunger for exploration (tourism) and fortune (business). There’s orientalism, falling under the charms of the East.
On the other hand, the geopolitical situation hinders operations, with wars such the Franco-Prussian War and the Balkan Wars.
Next up, the exhibition shows how the multiple Orient-Express services were marketed. You can see many posters, illustrating the changing design tastes over the decades.
The exhibition pays attention to the operations. Staff, uniforms, cutlery, tablewear, china, menus etcetera.
The highpoint of the exhibition is definitely the two CIWL carriages on display. The Côte d’Azur 1927 first class seating carriage and the 1929 Riviera dining car. All in pristine condition and with its lovely Prussian blue livery.
The exhibition ends with a focus on famous passenger and how the Orient-Express has inspired books and films.
As usual, Train World has delivered a well-balanced exhibition. If you already know Train World, the exhibition forms a perfect opportunity to go back. If the museum is new to you, it’s an extra lure to go and explore.
On railway museums
- REVIEW | Train World exhibition ‘From Peking to Hankow: a Belgian adventure in China’.
- PHOTOS | Train World railway museum in Brussels.
- Railway and transport museums (not) to visit.
- Nuremberg Transport Museum / DB Museum.
- Slovenian Railway Museum in Ljubljana.
- VIDEO | Mail Rail and The Postal Museum in London.
- Train World to operate steam train between Brussels and Mechelen.
- PHOTOS | Museo del Ferrocarril de Madrid Delicias railway museum.
- VIDEO | Museu del Ferrocarril de Catalunya – Catalonia Railway Museum in Vilanova.
- REVIEW | Romanian Railway Museum ‘Muzeul CFR’ and Bucharest.
- PHOTOS | UK’s National Railway Museum (NRM) in York.
- PHOTOS | Swiss Museum of Transport Verkehrshaus in Lucerne.
- PHOTOS | Het Spoorwegmuseum – Dutch Railway Museum in Utrecht.
- VIDEO | Return to Spoorwegmuseum Utrecht for the dining car exhibition ‘Tosti’s, truffels, treinen’.
- VIDEO | Stoomtram Hoorn – Medemblik steamtram light rail in Holland.
- Visiting Odense and the Danish Railway Museum.
- Deutsches Museum’s Verkehrszentrum or Transport Centre in Munich.
On night trains
- CONFIRMED | 2022 RegioJet night train from Ostend to Berlin, Warsaw and Prague.
- SJ EuroNight announces 2022 night train service from Stockholm to Hamburg, no Malmö – Brussels for now.
- NIGHT TRAINS TO BERLIN | Stronger European Sleeper effectively takes over Moonlight Express.
- Moonlight Express and European Sleeper join forces under the brand European Sleeper.
- Malmö – Brussels night train to become Malmö – Brussels – Paris?.
- Moonlight Express wants a Barcelona – Perpignan – Brussels – Berlin night train.
- Ostende-Vienne Orient Experience plans tourist season night trains from Brussels and Antwerp to Salzburg, Innsbruck and Milan.
- GreenCityTrip: chartered night trains from Breda in the Netherlands to Venice, Prague, Milan, Vienna, Prague, Verona and Innsbruck.
- Not only Prague: RegioJet European Sleeper preparing Ostend – Warsaw night train.
- European Sleeper announces Berlin and Prague as destinations.
- Moonlight Express to offer night train services between Brussels, Liège and Berlin from April 2022.
- The couchette and sleeping cars for the Ostend – Brussels – Amsterdam – Berlin – Prague European Sleeper by RegioJet.
- ‘Hotel on rails’ Midnight Trains to link Paris to Edinburgh, Brussels, Hamburg, Copenhagen, Berlin, Milan, Venice, Florence, Rome, Barcelona, Madrid and Porto.
- The couchette and sleeping cars for the Brussels – Liège – Berlin Moonlight Express.
- Moonlight Express to include bar / restaurant coaches and sustainable quality food on Brussels – Liège – Berlin night train.
- 2021, European Year of Rail.
- ‘Green Speed’: Train operators Thalys and Eurostar to become one.
- European Sleeper to launch night train services from the Netherlands and Belgium in April 2022.
- Nightjet Vienna/Innsbruck to Brussels, or how we got thrown off the train in Aachen.
- NIGHTJET | Austrian Federal Railways ÖBB and Swiss Federal Railways SBB-CFF-FFS present 2024 Austro-Swiss night train plans for Europe.
- Why the expensive ÖBB Nightjet is really not that expensive.
- Reliving the era of the great railway journeys, travelling overnight on Nightjet.
- How we plan a big rail trip.
- Ticket Distribution: the failure of railways to sell themselves.
- Malmö – Cologne – Brussels Night train.
- BOOK REVIEW | ‘Night Trains, The Rise and Fall of the Sleeper’ by Andrew Martin.
- To use night trains in Portugal and Spain or not?.
- Night trains in Europe.
- Low-cost, long-haul trains to conquer Europe?.
- Fly now before it’s taxed and consider using the train instead.
- A passengers train from Antwerp in Belgium to Shanghai in China?.
- Venice Simplon-Orient-Express comes to Brussels in June 2021 and April 2022.
- 2013 Scotland Rail Trip.
- 2016 America Rail Adventure.
- 2017 Eastern Europe, Balkan and Greece Rail Trip.
- 2018 Poland Trip.
- 2018 Rail Tour of France, Italy and Switzerland.