'Orient Express' arrives in London for first time for movie debut

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Interior of the dining car on the Orient Express from the 1920s.
Keith Fender
A photo of the exterior of Pullman-built luxury Orient Express passenger cars at London St. Pancras station Nov. 2.
Keith Fender
Orient Express Pullman chair car No. 4151, sans passengers, at London St. Pancras station. Certain cars of the train were used in filming the new movie: "Murder on the Orient Express."
Keith Fender
LONDON — Look closely at the photos, you might see those passenger interiors again if you watch the new “Murder on the Orient Express” debuting in theaters across the U.S. on Nov. 10.

Passenger cars from a mid-1920s iteration of the famed Paris to Istanbul luxury train made an unusual appearance at London’s St. Pancras station Nov. 2 to coincide with the movie’s U.K. debut. French national railway SNCF maintains the set of 1920s-built Pullman cars in running condition as “national monuments.”

The new movie features Kenneth Branagh, Judi Dench, Penelope Cruz, Johnny Depp, and Michelle Pfeiffer, among others in a star-studded cast. The movie is based upon the book of the same name by British author Agatha Christie.

The original Orient Express train operated as a Pullman service between Paris and Istanbul from the 1880s through 1977. After then, a regular international train between Paris and Vienna, Austria, and Bucharest, Romania, used the name for two more decades before ceasing operations. Christie traveled on the train in 1928 and this is said to have provided the inspiration for her book published in 1934. This is the second movie adaptation. The first was in 1974.

The cars now owned by SNCF were built between 1925 and 1929 by different builders in France, Italy, and the U.K. The oldest — 1925 vintage diner No. 2869 Anatolie was made in Birmingham, England, as part of an export contract for the Paris based Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits which operated the cars throughout Europe. The cars were built for the bigger European loading gauge and had not visited the U.K. in service.

They were able to visit in 2017 as the high speed line from the Channel Tunnel to London is built to a bigger structure gauge than regular British tracks but they arrived without passengers; moving empty overnight hauled by diesel locomotives once high speed train moves had stopped for the night.

More information about the movie is available online.
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