International passenger

trains in 20th Century Europe

International passenger trains in 20th Century Europe

Orient services 1914-39

Services up to 1914

Post 1919 Europe

 The first ever service linking Paris with Istanbul was the Orient Express which started running from Paris to Bucureşti in 1883 and through to Istanbul in 1889 via Sofia.

 This had been preceded by a service linking Paris and Wien starting in 1872. Its route from Paris included München, Salzburg, Linz, Wien, Budapest and then Beograd-Sofia-Istanbul or Bucureşti-Constanţa where a connection was made with a steamship for Istanbul.

 The Orient Express served Thessaloniki, then in Turkey, twice weekly from Beograd. Other services used this route, principally those from Ostend and Hoek of Holland which joined the Orient spine at Salzburg. The Budapest-Beograd section also carried traffic from other centres such as Berlin.

 The peace treaties of 1918-20 saw the reintroduction of services with some changes. The Allies acknowledged the need to restart services from the Low Countries to Germany, Austria along the Orient routes.

 The peacemaking process after World War 1 changed many boundaries and effected the Orient Express routes. Firstly, France regained  Alsace Lorraine which moved the French-German boundary to Kehl on the Rhine.

 Hungary shrank and Romania was awarded a slice of Transylvania, previously in Hungary. Yugoslavia was created mainly from former Hungarian and Serbian territory. The former Orient route from Budapest to Timișoara and București now crossed Yugoslavia between Szeged and Jimbolia and this resulted in its diversion northward to Arad, then Timișoara. The Yugoslav/Hungarian frontier moved northwards to Subotica on the Budapest-Beograd line. (szeged2jpg)

Services 1918-39

 The Orient route was revived after the First World War with the commencement of a service from Paris to Budapest and Bucureşti twice-weekly starting in February 1919 via Zürich, the Arlberg and Wien. The Budapest-Bucureşti part of the journey was altered to run via Arad and Braşov instead of the former Szeged-Timişoara route. This avoidance of German territory lasted until late 1920 when the former route from Strasbourg to München and Salzburg was regained. The French occupation of the Ruhr in 1923 caused the train to be re-routed via the Arlberg for one year.  

Up to 1931, the Orient Express ran thrice weekly from Paris to Bucureşti and Istanbui via München. From 1931, a train titled the Arlberg-Orient Express started from Paris to Bucureşti and Athenai via the Arlberg route in Austria. This started life as the Swiss-Arlberg Express in 1924 and it ran on the days when the Orient Express didn’t. The Orient Express served Bucureşti whereas the Arlberg Orient Express additionally served Athenai.


 The Orient spine used two routes between Wien and Budapest. The northerly route took in Bratislava and Szob and was used by the Orient Express (with some temporal exceptions). After 1920, two new border crossings at Marchegg and Szob interrupted this route and this caused much of the Austria to Hungary traffic to be diverted via Hegyeshalom which incurred only one border crossing.

The importance of holiday destinations re-asserted itself after 1919. Karlovy Vary was one such resort in western Bohemia. Its link with Paris was restored on 1 June 1923 using the Arlberg-Orient route to Linz thence to Plzeň and Karlovy Vary, a  roundabout route omitting German territory. Later this train would travel more directly to Nürnberg and Cheb. The Paris-Karlovy Vary service also carried through cars to Praha. Likewise it enjoyed a through service from Ostend usually as part of the Ostend-Vienna Express which also contained summertime through cars from Ostend to Praha.

Szeged diversion Orient routes

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