International passenger

trains in 20th Century Europe

International passenger trains in 20th Century Europe

Balt Orient route to 1939


With the elevation of Praha to the capital city of the new state of Czechoslovakia in 1918, this route increased in importance. Berlin’s route to Praha varied only in Germany after 1918 - either via Röderau or Elsterwerda.

From Praha two principal routes connected it to Wien- via Gmünd, or via Břeclav. Between 1920 and 1939 the Břeclav route was used by Balt Orient traffic to Bratislava, Budapest and beyond whilst Wien traffic was more focussed on the Gmünd route.  

After 1920, for the first time, through trains ran between Praha and Budapest via Břeclav. Hitherto, eastern destinations from Praha were served through Wien often with a change of train.

With the new Czech-Austrian frontier being implemented after the Peace Treaties, any traffic from Berlin or Praha to Budapest could now avoid Wien by using the Břeclav-Bratislava route to the Hungarian border at Szob. Meanwhile, traffic from Wien to Budapest had two choices of route – northerly through Marchegg and Bratislava or southerly via Hegyeshalom. Both these routes included border crossings.

There was another alternative for the Berlin-Wien traffic namely Berlin-Leipzig-Nürnberg-Passau-Linz being on entirely Austrian and German territory.

Balt Orient route 1946-89


The period immediately after 1945 saw a slow resumption of services. Firstly boundaries in Central Europe were reset to the way they had existed pre-1938 except for Poland. After 1948 the political division between the socialist states and western states found this route serving four capitals of the new socialist bloc – East Berlin, Praha, Wien and Budapest with onward through connections to Bucureşti, Beograd and Sofia. After 1946, traffic from Berlin to Wien was routed solely through Praha, and Gmünd or Břeclav.

Meanwhile, Berlin had been reconnected with Budapest and Beograd four times weekly on 1 August 1946. A further service from Berlin to Praha commenced 14 July 1947. A service linking Praha with Budapest and Beograd was started in 1946 running four times weekly.

The flagship service on this route was the Baltic, later the Balt Orient Express which linked Scandinvaia with the Soviet bloc states from Berlin to Bucureşti. This is described separately.

Balt Orient route 1989 on


The political changes after 1989 affected the route and started to change its traffic patterns. The independence of Slovakia in 1993 meant that Bratislava became a capital city for the second time and the Praha-Budapest traffic remains routed this way. Some rationalisation of traffic flows has taken place. Three border crossings are used on the Bratislava-Budapest segment of the route - Rajka, opened on 31 May 1987, Szob and Komárno.

The Balt-Orient train was truncated to run between Budapest and Bucureşti in 1996 but by 1997 the name had disappeared. The Pannonia Express to Bucureşti was altered to start at Praha in 1992 and ceased in late 2008.

Berlin-Wien routes 1946-89


A combination of rationalisation and new borders brought frontier crossings down to two by 1950 -Gmünd and Břeclav. For Berlin-Wien trains, one route predominated by the end of the 20th century – that via Břeclav. In part at least this was due to the designation of this route as a European priority. Track upgrades and faster trains combined to achieve the lowest ever transit time between these cities. The new political circumstances after 1989 gave an opportunity to rationalise routes from Berlin and Praha to Wien and for this purpose Břeclav was the chosen route.


B2: Balt Orient routes

Balt-Orient 1929-39 Baltic-Orient Express Praha as a hub to 1939 Praha as a hub after 1946 Balt Orient

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