“The Orient Express, Once Upon a Time” exhibition was officially launched on Thursday 3 April 2014 to mark the 130th anniversary of the legendary service.
A preview of the exhibition, offering visitors the chance to view the train and interior displays, was held on the afternoon of 3 April, followed by the official launch in the evening by Jack Lang, the former French Minister of Culture and President of the Arab World Institute, Guillaume Pepy, President of SNCF (French Railways) which owns the “Orient Express” brand, and Laurent Fabius, the French Minister of Foreign Affairs.
The first part of the exhibition involves walking along a platform flanked by a small-scale replica station before boarding a real train comprising three prestigious carriages: the bar-restaurant car called the Train Bleu (immortalised in the film Murder on the Orient Express, based on the novel by Agatha Christie), the Flèche d’Or (Golden Arrow) saloon car in the ‘Lalique’ style, and the Orient Express sleeping car.
The second part of the exhibition continues inside the Arab World Institute and focuses on the origins of the Orient Express, through the personality of its ‘inventor’ the banker Georges Nagelmackers, and on the train’s various technical, social and cultural aspects. Three enormous ‘trunks’ showcase all the things for which the train is so famous: from washbasins, silverware and suitcases to posters, travel documents, timetables and itineraries. A slideshow consisting of documentary images from the Orient Express’s extensive filmography presents all the cities on the train’s journey, the famous hotels in major cities of the Orient, as well as the first excavation sites as they appeared to the travellers well over a century ago.
SNCF, which has owned the Orient Express brand since 1977, wants to restore the full Paris-Istanbul route to its former glory, and will launch a new Orient Express company in the spring. The re-launched service will initially run between Paris and Vienna, but will eventually expand onwards to Istanbul.
The Orient Express exhibition runs until 31 August 2014. After Paris, the exhibition will be travelling to Venice, Istanbul, Vienna, Liège, Berlin, Lyon and London.