T h e M y t h
Riviera-Express Ventimiglia - (Rome -) Amsterdam, near Oberwesel, Rhine, 1972 (WS)
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Goethe and Eichendorff already had dreamt of Italy and traveled to the South - by stage coach. More than hundred years later there was a schoolboy (the author) who dreamt of a big-wheeled Hudson, streamlined, Franco-Crosti technology, cab-in-front, which would cross the Alps, or better would run beneath the mountains by a Brenner-Tunnel to Italy, the country of the dreams…
Since 1883 there had been a variety of expresses, de-Luxe and other ones connecting the West and the North of Europe with the Mediterranean. And on the islands, Corsica, Sardinia, Sicily and Malta, other trains connected with the steamers.
The trains to the South were patronized by Thomas Mann’s bourgeois travelers on their (mostly tragic) trips to Italy, a train from Italy had been used by Axel Munthe, the doctor of “The story of San Michele”, when he had to accompany two coffins on their trip to the North… Highest level was the travel by Wagons-Lits. Its CIWL de-Luxe trains of the Belle Époque however often were running almost empty. The Rome-Express, the oldest one from France to Italy, was not always a de-Luxe and most expresses from Germany were seasonal trains. Prussia forced the Riviera-Express to take the route through conquered Alsace, but the competing state of Baden on the other side of the Rhine had the nicer locomotives - the Pacifics IV f and then the IV h from Maffei, which attained more than 150km/h on test runs. In the twenties, the short-lived Art Deco époque, CIWL’s “Grand Luxe” LX sleepers appeared on the Train Bleu and the Rome-Express. The CIWL van was equipped with a shower and George Behrend reported the story of a lady who was taking a bath whilst her sleeping-car had been detached for Florence….
Mail passing the Mont Cenis (L. Blancheau, contemporary press)
Rome-Express with French Nord engine 2142 (Railway Magazine 1897, coll. WS)
Canadian Pacific observation car "Britannia", special trip on the Mittenwaldbahn near Innsbruck before WWI (coll. Walter Kreutz)
De-Luxe (Taormina-, Palermo-) Neapel-Rom-Wien-Express (or the Nizza-Express?), Suedbahn class 170, on the Semmering line before WWI, a painting by F. Witt (old postcard, coll. Ing. F. Scholz)
Glory of the past: DB 18 323, the former IVh of Baden, with a test train at Gemuenden in 1959 (WS)
Wagons-Lits had competitors. The fiercest was George M. Pullman from America. In 1873 his Pullman Palace Car Co. got a contract with the British Midland and then with the Alta Italia for Modane - Florence, with Strate ferrate Romane for Florence - Naples and with the Meridionali for Bologna - Brindisi, connecting with the Indian Mail. Pullman’s sleepers did run from 1876 to 86, then they were taken over by Wagons-Lits. Also French PLM railway rivaled by offering its own Lits-Salon cars. The French Nord had 1st2nd class cars with a “Lits” sleeping-compartment and the inscription “Rapides pour l’Italie”. From 1912 Canadian Pacific operated observation saloons in Austria. Mitropa of Germany, established in 1916 during the war, tried to run own de-Luxe trains southward: The all-sleeper Skandinavien-Schweiz-Express in winter 1922 and 1924 and, in connection with the Hoek Continental, the rather unknown London-Holland-Muenchen-Express in summer 1922 (“discovered” by historian Dr. Albert Muehl), consisting of two ex-Imperial saloons. And there was a short-lived regular “Luxuszug” Muenchen - Oberammergau, its green Bavarian six-wheelers presumably being from the royal special. In 1928 Deutsche Reichsbahn started its famous day saloon train Rheingold Hoek -/Amsterdam - Basle (- Luzern). After WWI Italy had confiscated the Canadian Pacific observation cars from Austria and attached them to Rome - Naples; Rome - Florence and Genova - Ventimiglia trains, until 1923. Then FS hided the “stolen” cars away.
The myth of the great trains to the south continued with the Rheingold, the Mistral, the Trans-Europ-Expresses and the fantastic Settebello. Then the famous old expresses vanished one after the other. Only the myth survives…
Documents suitable for a book and an extensive photo collection are kept by the author.
About traveling in luxury see Albert Muehl/ Juergen Klein: Reisen in Luxuszuegen, EK-Verlag, Freiburg, Germany.
Intercity Rome - Ancona, the refurbished famous ETR200, Rome 1996 (WS)
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D2700 Rome - Dortmund with a TUI couchette car, 4 FS cars and a sleeper type MU, Rheinstein, Oct. 1991 (WS)
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TEE Mediolanum Milan - Munich, Austrian 1044, FS consist, near Jenbach, Tyrol, December 1983 (WS)
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