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Travel: Trains: Luxury Train Journeys

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The Glamorous World of long-distance Luxury Trains:
Past and Present of Luxury Train Journeys
© 2001 Elegant-Lifestyle.com Ltd. All rights reserved.

First Beginnings
Train journeys have come a long way since Trevithick built the first steam engine in 1804 and G. Stephenson opened the Stockton-on-Tees-Darlington railway line in England in 1825 - the world's first railway line. In fact, early railway travel was quite uncomfortable until the American industrialist George Mortimer Pullman introduced sleeping and dining cars to railway travel and these cars came to be known as the legendary Pullman cars in the 19th century.

Glamour and Luxury
And then started the era of the great European luxury trains. It is a fascinating history of stylish travel of the upper classes, the aristocracy, of wealthy travellers of a fashionable world in a bygone age. The gracious world of luxury trains and grand hotels was born when George Nagelmackers founded the world-famous 'Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits et des Grands Express Europeen' (the CIWL).

The Compagnie Internationale des Wagon-Lits
Nagelmackers, son of Belgian financier Edmonde Nagelmackers, was sent to America in 1868 by his father where he experienced the comforts of traveling in Pullman cars in the New World. With the help of Belgian king Leopold II and some other business partners Nagelmackers built an empire of not less than 31 luxury trains, which offered services from Vladivostok in the East to Lisbon in the West, from St. Petersburg in the North to Luxor in the South.

The Legendary Orient Express
The most famous train of all was the 'Orient Express'. Its name is shrouded in legend and has been immortalized by Agatha Christie's 1933 book 'Murder on the Orient-Express'. The Orient Express was the first luxury train in Europe. On 5th June 1883 she embarked on her maiden voyage from Paris Gare de l'Est across Europe and by 1889 offered a non-stop service from Paris via Munich, Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade, Sofia to Constantinople (today's Istanbul).


 
The Venice Simplon Orient Express
For the discerning traveler of the present luxury is by no means a thing of the past. The 'Venice Simplon Orient Express' (VSOE) promises its prospective passengers the most romantic train journeys in the world. Travellers have the choice between the London-Paris-Venice or the legendary Paris-Budapest-Bucharest-Istanbul route. In the elegant atmosphere of the dining cars dinner is served with French silver and heavy crystal on crisply starched linen. Glamorous 1920s atmosphere.
Venice Simplon-Orient-Express
The Venice Simplon Orient Express

 
The Royal Scotsman The Royal Scotsman
Scottish Highlands and ancient castles provide the backdrop for the 'Royal Scotsman'. Combining Edwardian splendour with modern luxury, this stately train revives the decadent age of railway travel. Board the train to the sound of the bagpiper in Edinburgh, sample Single Malt whisky, pass the shores of Loch Lomond and visit Glamis Castle, the childhood home of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother. Pastimes include meeting members of ancient clans and tasting the best of Scottish cuisine.
The Royal Scotsman

 
The Al Andalus Express in Spain
Vintage sherry, Flamenco, bullfighting and the performances of the Royal Spanish Riding School are the themes on the exquisitely restored and appointed 'Al Andalus Express'. The name is steeped in history as the famous Compagnie Internationale des Wagon-Lits first introduced an 'Andalusia Express' in 1911, which ran from Madrid to Seville until the First World War, when it was discontinued. These days the 'Al Andalus Express' takes its passengers on a 7 day journey through Seville, Cordoba and Granada. 
 Al Andalus Expreso
The Al Andalus Express

 
Rovos Rail Rovos Rail in Southern Africa
Experience the opulence of Pre-War African travel with Rovos rail in Southern Africa. The train runs between Cape Town-Pretoria-Victoria Falls and embarks on two grand tours to Dar Es Salam in Tanzania (12 days) and to Swakopmund in Namibia (former South West Africa) in 7 days once a year. Travel through the African bush, magnificent game reserves and the Kalahari desert and visit the headquarters of the De Beers diamond empire in Kimberley in cars that date back to the 1920s.
Rovos Rail Tours

 
The Blue Train in South Africa
Prior to the renaissance of luxury train travel South Africa's legendary 'Blue Train' had been for decades the only luxury train in operation world-wide. The blue colour of the passenger cars can be traced back to the sapphire railway carriages of the 1920s luxury 'Union Trains'. The train runs from Johannesburg in the north to Cape Town in the south. In the dining car liveried waiters serve ostrich steak with Stellenbosch Riesling on tables that are set with crystal and silver.
The Blue Train
The Blue Train

 
The American Orient Express The American Orient Express (AEO)
1940s and 1950s vintage trains have been revived for the 'American Orient Express'. The 'Great Transcontinental Journey' takes travellers coast to coast from Washington D.C. in 10 days across America to Los Angeles. Stop overs include Savannah in Georgia, Charleston in South Carolina after which the fashionable dance of the 1920s was named, New Orleans the cradle of jazz on the banks of the Mississippi River, San Antonio in Texas, Santa Fe in New Mexico and a visit to Arizona's Grand Canyon.
American Orient Express

 
The Great South Pacific Express in Australia
The 'Great South Pacific Express' (GSPE) recreates early Australian opulence not seen since the turn of the century. The train starts in Sydney, Australia's largest city founded in 1788, goes on to Brisbane, Queensland's vibrant sub tropical capital city and winds its way northwards along the Eastern seabord to Cairns. Excursions by helicopter to the 2000 kilometer long Great Barrier Reef and viewing kangaroos, koalas and emus present a pleasant pastime in the land of the Outback, Ayers Rock, the opal diggers and aborigines.
Great South Pacific Express
The Great South Pacific Express

 
The Eastern & Oriental Express The Eastern & Oriental Express (South East Asia)
If you really want to do South East Asia in grand style, then start in the famous Raffles Hotel in Singapore, which has fascinated travellers since it opened in 1887. Then board the 'Eastern and Oriental Express' (E&O), which takes you up through the Malayan Peninsula to Bangkok in Thailand - Siam as it was known in the old days. The train winds its way through coconut and rubber plantations and steaming jungle. In Bangkok the place to stay for extravagant travellers is 'The Oriental' overlooking the Chao Phraya River.
Eastern & Oriental Express

 
The 'Palace on Wheels' in India
To travel like a maharajah through Rajasthan must be anyone's dream. The 'Palace on Wheels' makes it possible by taking its passengers on a leisurely 8 day train journey through one of India's most beautiful states. This train with its cream saloons embellished with intricate designs commences its voyage in Dehli, stops at three different maharajah palaces and also visits the Taj Mahal in Agra, one of the Seven Modern Wonders of the World. This world-famous mausoleum was built by Emperor Sha Jahan for his wife Mumtaz Mahal.
Palace on Wheels
The Palace on Wheels

 
The Royal Orient The Royal Orient in India
Take a journey back in time in the gold embossed saloon cars of 'The Royal Orient Express' a further luxury train in India that combines Rajasthan with the previously undiscovered state of Gujarat. Highlights include visiting 'the Pink City' of Jaipur, capital of Rajasthan, riding elephants in style of the maharajahs, paying homage to Mahatma Gandhi in Gujurat's capital Ahmedabad and being carried in a sedan chair up the 3000 steps of Palitana's 863 temples, the second most important holy shrine of the Jains.
Royal Orient 
© 2001 Elegant-Lifestyle.com Ltd. All rights reserved.
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