Orient Express steams into service

In 1950, the route was extended through to Athens.

THE legendary Orient Express – which carved an international reputation running through the heart of Europe – began operating on this day in 1883.

The first passengers on the Express could not travel the whole way by rail, because of the state of the tracks in the eastern sector.

So, they were obliged to leave their coaches at Giurgio, not far from Bucharest, cross the Danube on a steam ferry and pick up another train on the other side which took them to Varna on the Black Sea coast.

There they boarded a steamer which, fifteen hours later, re-deposited them at Constantinople. Yet the entire trip took thirty hours less than by any other route.

In time, the various rail networks improved and between the wars, two other routes were constructed: the Arlberg-Orient Express serving Basle, Zurich and Innsbruck and the and the Simplon Orient Express serving northern Italy.

In 1950, the route was extended through to Athens.