The first images of the train evoke a cocoon on rails, in which a maximum of 64 wealthy people can travel. Marble, rosewood, mother-of-pearl and bronze beads, deep armchairs, an impressive witch mirror above a bed worthy of an African luxury lodge, pillows that we guess are soft and a car very art deco restaurant.
Orient Express, the subsidiary responsible for promoting the heritage of the famous train that inspired Agatha Christie, wants to “be one with the myth”, explains to AFP its vice-president Guillaume de Saint Lager. And “reinventing the myth” with a luxury hotel moving from one capital to another.
The new train will of course take up the historic route of the Orient-Express, which linked Paris to Constantinople/Istanbul from 1883 to 1977 (with interruptions during the two world wars). But not only. “We’re going for a walk,” says the young leader, a bit mysterious.
“We never talk about price,” he says. It will probably be necessary to have several tens of thousands of euros in front of you, given the prices charged by luxury trains.
Everything in its time. The marketing plan, perfectly oiled, provides for successive “revelations”. The images of the presidential suite — promised with a bathtub — will be unveiled in December in Miami and those of the “winter garden” next year. “This car is extraordinary, it’s the most anticipated,” laughs Mr. de Saint Lager.
More concretely, the first three redone cars, including the bar and the restaurant, will be exhibited in Paris during the 2024 Olympic Games.
The team obviously has a lot of money at its disposal to remodel 17 vintage cars from the “real” Orient-Express from the 1920s, 13 of which were found, abandoned, on the Belarusian border.
They were in good enough condition to enthuse railway archeology enthusiasts, but “unable to withstand the slightest technical control”, notes Maxime d’Angeac, the architect responsible for transforming them.
While their bodies are undergoing a makeover, he is putting the finishing touches to the design, his nose in the original plans of the venerable International Sleeping Car Company.
“This is the third version of the Orient-Express, after the first generation – end of the century – from 1880 and the second – art deco – from 1920”, he explains. With a decor paying homage to its elders while being “extremely contemporary”, and all modern comforts.
“We recovered everything, crumb by crumb”, from the art deco elements of the transformed cars, assures Mr. d’Angeac: “The Lalique flowers (lampshades, editor’s note), the Lalique glass plates, marquetry … Everything we were able to keep, we reused it!”
Almost everything will be transformed: “Ten cabins with toilets at the end of the corridor, it was strictly impossible to reuse”, notes the architect. Orient Express is now talking about suites: there will only be 32 on the train.
The small private dining car lounge is original.
All the work of restoration and development of the train must be entrusted to luxury houses and French craftsmen, assures Guillaume de Saint Lager.
Accor, the sixth largest hotel group in the world, is now alone in charge of Orient Express, since the SNCF sold its shares to it in the spring.
The subsidiary is to launch “Orient Express La Dolce Vita”, another luxury train which will travel around Italy from 2024. This will use Trenitalia cars from the 1970s, obviously revamped to become luxury traveling hotels.
Two very beautiful hotels must also reopen with the Orient Express label, in Rome and Venice, before setting up in Ryad.
Well before that, the new design of the Orient-Express will be presented, confronted with archival documents, in an exhibition from October 17 to 21 at the Domus Maubourg, in Paris.