The Beginning of Services

The company was not an instant success. Strife in Europe prevent his first projected service from taking place, leaving the company with 5 new four wheel sleeping cars and no work. Although contracts were signed for an Oostende to Cologne service and also an Oostende - Berlin service involving the ordering of a further 14 sleeping cars, this time 6 wheelers, it appears that delays in ratification between railway companies prevented services starting when they should have done.

A number of trial services did operate but were terminable without notice and while the passengers appreciated the services, this was not always the case for the railway companies, who tended to view the carriages as being too heavy for the limited passenger carrying capacity. It would appear the bank withdrew their support resulting in real financial difficulties for the company. (I would like to see some original documentation to this effect, as I am not totally persuaded a family bank would act in this way over such a short period of time. Perhaps there are other influences. Was the company really in trouble or did it simply want to expand faster than its banks thought wise?)

On the 4th Jan 1873 a rather "colourful" American named Colonel Mann took over the company, although Nagelmackers remained on the Board. A third director named Forbes also joined. The company was now named ‘Mann's Railway Sleeping Carriage Co. Ltd.’ (The original name was also retained to protect existing contracts).

Many books write plenty about Colonel Mann and certainly his money was a convenient asset at the time. This very dubious character soon lost interest in the company and resigned his position in the company on the 31st August 1875 leaving the running of it to Nagelmackers. On the 4th December 1876 Nagelmackers brought out Colonel Mann for two million dollars and the company reverted entirely to its former title of ‘Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits’ with King Leopold II of the Belgium's as head of its list of investors.

The director with rather more lasting influence in the success of the company was Forbes, also the director of the Dutch-Rhenish Railway and General Manager of the London, Chatham & Dover Railway (LC&DR), latterly the Managing Director. This resulted in two Mann's Sleeping cars being built by the LC&DR with one running on the Great Northern in 1873 and the North British Railway services fromLondon Kings Cross to Edinburgh. This was car no 42 with 12 berths. Car No.43 ran on the LC&DR and was the first saloon and seated 20, connecting with the continental Mann cars now running from Oostende. However Pullman had now got an agreement with the Midland Railway and was to establish quickly resulting in the termination of Mann activities in the UK. (Until CIWL became majority shareholders in the Pullman Car company in the UK). Critically important to the long term health of the company was that Forbes was able to give CIWL its first 10 year contract, giving the stability necessary to attract long term investment.