The most famous of all the CIWL trains and also its pioneer long distance international service, was the Orient Express. Commencing in 1883 it ran between Paris and Giurgiu and then in 1888 between Paris and Constantinople.
After World War 2 it was reintroduced in 1946 and continued to run until the night of the 12th of December 2009. What remains of the Orient Express is but a shadow of its former self, running only from Strasbourg to Vienna, formed of Austrian stock but staffed by Wagons-lits.
Many would claim the Orient Express ceased to run on the 22nd May 1977 when the final timetabled run of the Orient Express took place covering the entire Paris to Istanbul route. However the timetable has continued to show the Orient Express service on the shortened route up until the 12th December 2009, so this date must be taken as the completion of the service.
To those not so familiar with the services of the CIWL you may be confused with the Venice Simplon Orient Express which continues to run. However this is a cruise train and not a regular timetabled service train and therefore cannot be counted as a continuation of the Orient Express.
Complicating matters further, the Orient Express was not the only CIWL service to incorporate orient in its title; there was the Simplon Orient Express, the Arlberg-Orient Express and the Direct Orient Express (which replaces the Simplon-Orient Express in 1962).
Today, mention of the Orient Express conjures up a vision of Great Luxury, however for much of its life the service was very mundane, unlike the Train Bleu it was not composed of the Luxurious LX sleeping cars, although commencing with considerable luxury for its day and certainly being frequented by the rich and famous, most of its customers simply needed a way to cross Europe and by 1977 its most usual customer was the back packer.
Although CIWL continued to staff the train until the end of its life, the last time that company owned sleeping cars were used on the service was in 1971.
For an extended history and a timeline of the service we recomend visiting the excellent Seat 61 website. This can be found by clicking here.