Murder on the Orient

Photograph By: William Hands


The Orient Express is possibly on of the world’s most famous steam trains if not the most famous. Made famous by Agatha Christie’s novel  ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ where the train becomes a crime scene for fictional detective Hercule Poirot, the train is run by a private company called Companie Internationale des Wagons-Lits and the service was created in 1883 as a long distance passenger train. The two cities that are most prominently associated with the Orient Express are Paris and Istanbul, which were the original endpoints of the timetabled service, with the current service running between London and Venice.

The Orient Express was a pillar of luxury and comfort at a time when travelling was still rough and dangerous. CIWL soon developed a dense network of luxury trains all over Europe, and the names of these trains are still remembered today and associated with luxury travel, these names included the Blue Train, the Golden Arrow and the North Express.

In 1977, the Orient Express stopped serving Istanbul and its immediate successor, a through overnight service from Paris to Vienna, ran for the last time from Paris on Friday, June 8, 2007. After this, the route, still called the “Orient Express”, was shortened to start from Strasbourg instead.

On 14 December 2009, the Orient Express ceased to operate and the route disappeared from European railway timetables, and this move made the train a “victim of high-speed trains and cut-rate airlines”. The Venice-Simplon Orient Express train, a private venture by Orient-Express Hotels Ltd. using original CIWL carriages from the 1920s and 1930s, continues to run from London to Venice and to other destinations in Europe, including the original route from Paris to Istanbul.

Photograph By: William Hands

The glamour and rich history of the Orient Express has frequently lent itself to the plot of books and films and as the subject of television documentaries. The evidence of this in Literature include:

  • Dracula by Bram Stoker: whilst Dracula escapes from England to Varna by sea, the cabal sworn to destroy him travels to Paris and takes the Orient Express, arriving in Varna ahead of him.
  • Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie is one of the best known stories related to the Orient Express. It takes place on the Simplon Orient Express
  • Oriënt-Express a novel by A. den Doolaard: it takes place in Macedonia.

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