Simplon Orient Express
After World War I, the victorious powers were forced to find a new route for the Orient Express, since the terms of the Versailles Treaty forbade transit through German and Austro-Hungarian areas. Actually, only a route south of the Alps was considered, whereby the Simplon Tunnel between Switzerland and Italy played a crucial role. The Simplon Tunnel built in 1898 to 1905 (first tube) and in 1912 to 1921 (second tube) at 19.8 km / 12.4 miles was the longest mountain tunnel in the world until the end of the Seventies. On April 11, 1919, the brand new Simplon Orient Express ran for the first time from Paris across Switzerland through the Simplon Tunnel to Milan and further to. Initially, connecting trains ensured the connection via Zagreb to Belgrade. Starting in January of 1920 the Simplon Orient Express was able to run continuously to Belgrade and in the summer of the same year even to Istanbul (at that time still called Constantinople). In addition, there were now through cars to Bucharest.
As another special feature, the Simplon Orient Express ran daily in the years between the wars. Its run began in the Paris station Gare de Lyon in the evening hours, after the through cars arriving from Calais with the "Flèche d´Or" ("Golden Arrow") (connection to the canal ferries from Great Britain) had been coupled to the train. It came to Brig via Dijon, Vallorbe, and Lausanne and then hurried through its namesake Simplon Tunnel, in order to reach the Italian Domodossola. The next morning it went on via Stresa, Milan, Verona, Venice, and Padua to Trieste. After Trieste came the second night run via Ljubljana, Zagreb, and Vinkovci to Belgrade. The through car to Bucharest was uncoupled in Vinkovci and then reached the Rumanian capital by avoiding Hungarian territory going via Subotica, Timișoara, Orșova, and Craiova. In Belgrade, the train received through cars depending on the day from the "Orient Express" reintroduced starting in 1921 as well as from Berlin, Ostend, or Prague. The Simplon Orient Express then continued its run via Niș, Sofia, and Svilengrad, until it reached the station Istanbul-Sirkeci the morning after the third night.
In the Twenties and Thirties, the new Simplon Orient Express became the most luxurious form of transport for the Balkans, Turkey, and the Middle East, preferred by diplomats, artists, authors, and wealthy tourists. A remarkable sidebar story: In February of 1929, the French weekly "l´Illustration" reported about a violent incident. About 80 kilometers / 50 miles north of Istanbul, near Tscherkessköy, the Simplon Orient Express remained stuck in a massive snowfall for five days. Apparently, this event inspired the mystery writer Agatha Christie for her novel "Murder on the Orient Express". She herself was an enthusiastic patron of the train.