For years, several vintage Orient Express train carriages lay, forgotten, at a small railway station on the border between Poland and Belarus called Małaszewicze.
One day in 2015, French railway fan Arthur Mettetal spotted the distinctive blue carriages in a YouTube video, kickstarting a journey across Europe to track down the lost trains.
Hospitality group Accor purchased the rediscovered carriages and enlisted Parisian architect Maxime d’Angeac to meticulously restore them, ready for operation on a Paris to Istanbul rail route that’s set to operate from 2025.
The first glimpse of the renovated interiors suggest a glamorous travel experience combining Art Deco glamor with modern luxury.
Past meets present
While the long-distance, trans-Europe Orient Express train immortalized by crime author Agatha Christie no longer exists, the name lives on, still synonymous with old fashioned glamor.
Luxury travel company Belmond operates an Orient Express homage between cities including London and Amsterdam. Separately, Accor – as well as having grand plans for the rediscovered Małaszewicze carriages – is also launching an Italy-based Orient Express service in 2023.
When Mettetal first peeked inside the carriages at Małaszewicze station, he was struck by the fact that, while they hadn’t been used for at least a decade, there was “almost no damage, just the wear and tear of time.”
“All the decorations were intact and it was as if time had stood still,” Mettetal told CNN Travel in July.
The interiors included Art Deco marquetry panels by English decorators Morrison and Nelson, as well as glass panels by French craftsman René Lalique.
While the carriages were pretty well-preserved, it was clear to the team at Accor that a conscientious restoration was in order before the cars could return to the rails. That’s when d’Angeac stepped in.
The designer this week told CNN Travel that the goal was preserving the train’s history while also looking towards the future.
“We absolutely must think about how this train would be perceived even further into the future, we needed to make sure that we maintained its strong roots,” said d’Angeac.
He added that while the vintage carriages are smaller than their modern counterparts, he enjoyed the challenge of “finding ways to achieve extreme comfort and luxury in particularly small spaces.”
The first images released by Accor depict sumptuous interiors, with dark wood panels creating a cozy ambiance, punctuated by pops of rich color, such as green velvet couches.
A recurring motif of glass and mirrors enhances the feeling of openness, including in the dining car, where there’s a stunning mirrored ceiling.
Corridors are described by Accor as “theatrical.”
Classic features are also peppered with fun, modern twists – in the bar car, tables have a call button for champagne.
D’Angeac told CNN Travel he’s proudest of the suites, suggesting the designs captures “the spirit of the 20s” and will be as evocative at night and during the day. The suites include beds that transform into couches during the day, and also have circular tables and mirrors, designed by d’Angeac to add “softness and balance” to the angular train.
Arthur Mettetal, who rediscovered the Małaszewicze carriages seven years ago and now works as Accor’s Orient Express heritage and culture director, says he’s delighted with the first glimpse of the reimagined interiors.
Mettetal told CNN Travel that he thinks d’Angeac “immediately captured the character and atmosphere of this train and its history while also meeting modernity.”
From October 20 to October 21, Accor will open a temporary, pop-up immersive exhibition in Paris, showcasing the new designs. Orient Express fans can sign up at this link to learn more.