International passenger

trains in 20th Century Europe

International passenger trains in 20th Century Europe

 The concept of long distance, luxury travel was largely the vision of George Nackelmackers, a Belgian engineer who had travelled in the USA in sleeping cars for which he saw a market in Europe. For day travel, Pullman cars were established in Europe

 Accordingly he set about negotiating agreements at governmental level to run long distance sleeping car trains on a number of routes. The Orient Express was one of the first of such trains.


 In 1876, his company was born – Compagnie Internationale des Wagons Lits(CIWL) which oversaw the introduction and running of luxury rolling stock. This was a revolutionary advance in standards of passenger traffic on long distances but its trains remained first class only, often plus supplement, for a considerable while.

 The CIWL held a monopoly on such services, challenged only by the advent of the Germany company Mitropa during the 1914-18 conflict. CIWL services were often challenged by political events which often saw the seizure of CIWL assets – the new Soviet Union in the 1920s and Soviet bloc states in the 1940s and 1950s.

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