Luxury trains are - often historical - trains of long distance with very comfortable furnishings. Today they are often of importance for tourism and are operated in the form of rail cruises. A luxury train runs according to its own timetable on a railway line that is also served by normal trains in regular passenger traffic.
Luxury train as a type of train
The train type luxury train (L) existed in Europe since the introduction of the Orient-Express in 1883 by the Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits (CIWL). The CIWL operated and managed most of the luxury trains in the following years, only a few were operated by other operators such as national railway companies or MITROPA . Most of the train routes classified as luxury trains ended with the beginning of the Second World War in 1939, only individual train routes in neutral countries continued to run as "L". A luxury train led to 1931 only cars of first class and was usually made sleeping cars , dining cars and vans . Some trains also ran saloon cars . Luxury trains in daytime transport were known as the Pullman Express ; these did not have separate dining cars, but the passengers were served at the seat.
After the war, individual trains were again run under this type of train, but they also ran normal seating cars of all three classes. In 1950 the train type was therefore abolished, the remaining L trains were classified as normal D trains or F trains in Germany and as Rapides in France.
The passengers had to pay a surcharge in addition to the regular fare for the first carriage class. In 1914 a trip from Berlin to Paris in first class cost 89.30 M (equivalent to today's equivalent of around 360 euros ), the surcharge for the luxury train cost 31.50 M (around 127 euros). Since December 1, 1931, the luxury trains used as night trains also carried second-class cars because the global economic crisis had led to a decline in wealthy passengers. Previously, the CIWL had already introduced the second class for individual pullman suits from 1927.
Almost all luxury trains on the European continent from the introduction of the Orient Express in 1883 to the outbreak of war in 1914 have been operated by the Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits . Attempts by individual railway companies in France and Austria to also enter the lucrative business failed after a few years. The first luxury trains, especially the Nord-Express , the Rome-Express , the Ostend-Wien-Express and the Süd-Express , connected the European capitals Berlin, Madrid , Paris, Rome , St. Petersburg and Vienna . London was not directly involved, but various luxury trains began at canal ports such as Calais and Ostend , where there were connections to shipping connections to England. Later, the CIWL set up seasonal luxury trains to well-known spa and bathing resorts such as Cannes , Taormina , Karlsbad and Marienbad . The Prussian State Railways preferred the three-class D-trains in domestic German traffic and only tolerated the luxury trains in international traffic. In the event of delays, express trains had priority over luxury trains.
The German sleeping car company MITROPA , founded in 1916, operated only three luxury trains, the London-Holland-Munich-Express (1922), the Berlin-London-Express (1922-1926) and the Scandinavia-Switzerland Express (1924-1925), which however did not pay off. The first train only ran for a few weeks, the other two were converted into two-class FD trains in 1926. The Balkanzug from Berlin to Istanbul operated during the First World War from 1916 to 1918 as a replacement for the Orient Express carried first class sleeping cars, but was not classified as a luxury train, but as a normal express train . The Rheingold from Amsterdam to Switzerland, often referred to as a luxury train and managed by MITROPA, was formally a long-distance express train (FD, at times also with the abbreviation FFD) and not classified as a luxury train.
After the war, the CIWL rebuilt a network of luxury trains, and from 1921 the Orient Express also ran its traditional route. The CIWL was able to set up additional luxury trains through Germany in 1925 ( Ostend-Wien-Express ) and 1926 ( Nord-Express ), which had been interrupted by the First World War. In addition, in 1925, the CIWL again set up luxury trains with the Engadin Express and the Oberland Express from the ferry ports in Calais and Boulogne to the Swiss holiday areas around Chur and Interlaken . In the same year, the CIWL's first Pullman Express , the “Milano-Nizza-Pullman-Express”, was used. To celebrate its 50th anniversary, the CIWL introduced the Flèche d'Or as a pullman suit between Paris and Calais a year later . In addition to numerous luxury trains in France and Italy, the CIWL opened a luxury train between Istanbul and Ankara (Anatolie Express) in 1927 and started pullman trains in Romania in 1929.
During the Second World War, the operation of luxury trains in the warring states was discontinued because the transport capacities for troop transports were needed. Only in neutral Spain were two luxury trains from Madrid to Barcelona and Lisbon (the Lusitania Express ) set up in 1943 . After the end of the Second World War, when thousands of passengers had to stay behind on the platform because of overcrowded trains, the use of first-class cars as well as the use of luxury trains was viewed as a waste of valuable transport capacity and the train type was abolished in 1950.
A certain replacement were the Trans-Europ-Express trains introduced in 1957 , which only ran first class. The railcars and train sets used were much more comfortable than conventional first-class cars. As early as the 1960s, however, the airplane developed into the preferred mode of transport for the wealthy upper class. As one of the last TEE, the Rheingold , which was in operation until 1987, was characterized by a particularly comfortable train set. The Rheingold lost the eye-catching observation car back in the 1970s.
Today there are no longer any purely first-class luxury trains in scheduled traffic in Europe and North America. In high-speed traffic , it is more economical to transport passengers with different willingness to pay and comfort requirements on the same train, because first-class passengers alone would not generate enough revenue. Despite constant technical improvements to the rolling stock, the equipment and service no longer make the effort that was common in the times of luxury trains. On the one hand, this is argued with the shorter travel times, on the other hand, the most affluent customers have migrated to air traffic on longer routes. Modern express transport must therefore inevitably make compromises in terms of travel culture .
For customers with higher demands, with car classes such as Business ( ÖBB ), Executive ( Trenitalia ), Club ( Renfe and NTV ) or Premium ( LEO Express ), an offer above the first class has been created in some long-distance trains, in which a more private atmosphere, more space and improved service is provided. In night travel there are deluxe compartments (referred to as Gran Clase by Renfe ) with their own bathroom (toilet / shower), a facility that did not exist in this form in the sleeping cars of the luxury trains. Meals are sometimes included in the fare. However, the number of seats in these upper classes is generally small and only takes up a small portion of the train.
With the first run of the Nostalgie-Istanbul-Orient-Express (NIOE) in 1976 with renovated wagons from the time of the luxury trains before 1939, the operation of modern charter trains with luxurious equipment and their use for rail cruises began . In addition to the NIOE, the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express (VSOE) has established itself as a European luxury charter train. In the meantime, such trains, some with deliberately nostalgic design, also exist on other continents, for example the Eastern and Oriental Express from Singapore to Bangkok . In contrast, the Blue Train in South Africa, which runs between Pretoria and Cape Town and was introduced in 1923, is one of the last remaining traditional luxury trains from the years before the Second World War.
One form of luxury train travel that has been gaining in importance in recent years is the so-called rail cruise , in which a tour operator lets a complete train run on a route that is interesting for tourists . These trains operate according to a separate timetable and can usually not be used with normal train tickets.
- George Behrend: History of Luxury Trains. Orell Füssli, Zurich 1977, ISBN 3-280-00918-9 .
- Wilfried Biedenkopf: Across old Europe. The international train and through car runs as of the summer of 1939. Publishing house and office for special traffic literature Röhr, Krefeld 1981, ISBN 3-88490-110-9 .
- Albert Mühl: International luxury trains . EK-Verlag, Freiburg im Breisgau 1991, ISBN 3-88255-673-0 .
- Albert Mühl, Jürgen Klein: Traveling in luxury trains. The International Sleeping Car Society. EK-Verlag, Freiburg im Breisgau 2006, ISBN 3-88255-696-X .
- Albert Mühl: International luxury trains. EK-Verlag, Freiburg im Breisgau, p. 92
- Eisenbahndirektion Mainz (Ed.): Collection of the published official gazettes from February 5, 1900. Volume 4, No. 5. Announcement No. 44, p. 30.
- Albert Mühl: International luxury trains. EK-Verlag, Freiburg im Breisgau 1991