Mystery (and history) on the Orient Express
With a new film of the Poirot classic about to be released, Adrian Bridge embarks on the world’s most iconic rail journey
‘Will there be a murder during the journey? I can’t make any guarantees. After all, we are famous for that.” Michele Rocca, the train manager, had a mischievous grin on his face as he played with the prospect of some serious skulduggery on board the train that more than any other conveys the magic, the mystique, the romance and, yes, the intrigue of travel – the Orient Express, known today as the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express.
What an extraordinary story – and what an extraordinary train.
More than 80 years after the publication of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express, the story continues to exercise an unbelievable hold on the public imagination. So much so that despite the fact there have already been several film versions of the story (see overleaf), this November will see the release of another star-studded take on the story, an all-singing, all-dancing reworking directed by Kenneth Branagh, and starring, in addition to Branagh himself as super sleuth detective Hercule Poirot, Dame Judi Dench, Penélope Cruz, Johnny Depp and Derek Jacobi.
In Christie’s book, the murder takes place after the train gets stuck in a snow drift somewhere north of Belgrade, a key stopping point on what was the Orient Express route between Paris and Istanbul that was started in 1883.
The routing fell on hard times after the war and by the late Seventies services to Istanbul stopped altogether. But for travellers keen to have an inkling of what it might