Venice-Simplon Orient Express

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Franchise(s): Railtour Operator
Main service(s): Venice Simplon-Orient-Express
Belmond British Pullman
Belmond Northern Belle
Belmond Royal Scotsman
Eastern & Oriental Express
Fleet size: 17 rail carriages (restaurant, Pullman)
Parent company: Belmond
An Ae 6/6 locomotive of the SBB is seen pulling the train through Sierre, Switzerland.

The Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, or VSOE, is a private luxury train service from London to Venice and other European cities.

The original company was founded by James Sherwood of Kentucky, USA, in 1982; five years earlier, in 1977, he had bought two of the original carriages at an auction when the Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits withdrew from the Orient Express service, passing the service on to the national railways of France, Germany, and Austria. Over the next few years, Sherwood spent a total of US$16 million purchasing 35 sleeper, restaurant and Pullman carriages. On 25 May 1982, the first LondonVenice run was made.

It is currently owned by Belmond Ltd. Belmond operates 45 luxury hotels, restaurants, tourist trains and river cruises in 24 countries.


VSOE runs services today to eight major destinations in Europe between March and November:

The VSOE has separate carriages for use in the UK and for continental Europe, but all of the same vintage (mostly dating from the 1920s and 1930s). Passengers are conveyed across the English Channel by coach on the Eurotunnel shuttle through the Channel Tunnel. Whereas restored Pullman carriages are used in the UK, in continental Europe restored dark blue former Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits carriages are used. Note that the service in the UK is called the Belmond British Pullman, and it has a brown and cream livery and is a day-only train that serves elaborate teas and brunches and visits such sites as castles and spa towns. The service in Europe is the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express and has sleeping carriages for full overnight, luxury service. Both the VSOE and the Belmond British Pullman are among the World's Top 25 Trains as listed by The Society of International Railway Travelers for high levels of dining, food, off-train experience and accommodation on board.

These VSOE services are not to be confused with a regularly scheduled train called the Orient Express, which ran nightly between Strasbourg and Vienna until 14 December 2009. This latter was a normal EuroNight sleeper train and was the lineal descendant of the regular Orient Express daily departure from Paris to Vienna and the Balkans. Until 8 June 2007, this train originated in Paris, but thereafter was curtailed at its western extremity to Strasbourg after a TGV line was opened between Paris and Strasbourg. While this descendant train was primarily used for transportation to Vienna and cost only the standard train fare between the two cities, the VSOE train is aimed at tourists looking to take a luxury train ride.


Venice Simplon-Orient-Express at Dresden station
  • Bar Car 3674 – a dining car built in France in 1931.
  • Dining Car 4095 L'Oriental – built by the Birmingham Railway Carriage and Wagon Company in 1927.
  • Dining Car 4110 Etoile du Nord – built by the Birmingham Railway Carriage and Wagon Company in 1926.
  • Dining Car 4141 Côte d’Azur – built in 1929.
  • Sleeping Car 3309 – built in 1926 in Belgium.
  • Sleeping Car 3425 – built in England in 1929.
  • Sleeping Car 3473 – built in Birmingham in 1929.
  • Sleeping Car 3482 – built in England in 1929.
  • Sleeping Car 3483 – built in Birmingham in 1929.
  • Sleeping Car 3525 – built in France
  • Sleeping Car 3539 – built in France
  • Sleeping Car 3543 – built in France
  • Sleeping Car 3544 – built in France
  • Sleeping Car 3552 – built in France
  • Sleeping Car 3553 – built in France
  • Sleeping Car 3555 – built in France

Other services[edit]

Services are also run to supplementary destinations. Fares on the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express are high: the service is intended not as an ordinary rail service, but as a leisure event with five-star dining included. The company also operate services in South-East Asia (the Eastern & Oriental Express) and Peru (PeruRail). The luxury train in Peru is called the Belmond Hiram Bingham. Its sister train, running between Cusco and Puno, is called the Andean Explorer. Between 1998 and 2003 the Company also ran a service on the East Coast of Australia named the Great South Pacific Express. Those cars remain in storage in Australia after the service ceased.

In Britain[edit]

35028 Clan Line hauling the 'British Pullman' in 2013, west of Bath

VSOE operates services within Great Britain separate from its main continental services as an "open access" operator. The Belmond British Pullman (which runs the London–Folkestone leg of the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express) consists mainly of former Brighton Belle Pullman coaches. It operates services mainly in the South of England and the Midlands, with York as its most northerly terminus. Usually operating from Victoria Station in London, specials run throughout the south of London to historic sites, including elaborate dining along the way. On 9 October 2007, the Westfield Group rented the whole train to open its new shopping centre in Derby, departing from the former LNER London King's Cross station.

The Belmond Northern Belle is a more extensive day service operating throughout the country, as far north as Inverness and south to Plymouth. It is composed of more modern British Rail Mark 2 coaches, with British Rail Mark 1 kitchen cars, liveried and named to resemble the older Pullman coaches. Both services have their own dedicated sets of carriages, and are hauled by Direct Rail Services locomotives, usually two Class 57s. Locomotives 57305 & 57312 have been painted in the Northern Belle livery. Selected services are also hauled by preserved steam locomotives.

Belmond British Pullman[edit]

See Belmond British Pullman



Media coverage[edit]

  • British travel journalist Alan Whicker joined the inaugural service in 1982, interviewing invited guests and celebrities along the way for his Whicker's World TV series.[1]
  • Comedian Michael Palin travelled on the train on the first leg of his journey Around the World in 80 Days in 1988.
  • Actor David Suchet hosts the Masterpiece Mystery episode "David Suchet on the Orient Express" about a real trip on this train[2] which originally aired 7 July 2010
  • British science fiction TV series Doctor Who had an episode on its eighth season about the train on 11 October 2014.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "BFI: Whicker's World – Aboard The Orient Express". 26 September 1988. Retrieved 2010-07-10. 
  2. ^ "David Suchet on the Orient Express" (Web, Video). New York City: PBS. Retrieved 2010-07-10. 

External links[edit]