All Aboard! Orient Express pulls into Singapore with trove of history (Photos)

Passenger setting and dining in a Pullman carriage. Photo: Coconuts
Passenger setting and dining in a Pullman carriage. Photo: Coconuts

Hop aboard a vintage train deep-rooted in French history at a pop-up exhibition now open at Gardens by the Bay.

Steeped in romance and history and made famous by murder mystery author Agatha Christie, the Orient Express came over the weekend to fill 2,000sqm of space with two opulent, original carriages and a treasure hoard of vintage artifacts from the 19th century.

Four years in the making and first teased in September, Coconuts took a tour Friday through the route’s 135 years of history since 1883. We were greeted by a facade of the Gare du Nord station in Paris, where the original Orient Express departed from, before being ushered onto two original passenger carriages from the 1920s, one a Fourgon baggage car and the other a Pullman passenger car. 

The facade of the 2000-sqm exhibition space at Gardens by the Bay. Photo: Orient Express
The facade of the 2000-sqm exhibition space at Gardens by the Bay. Photo: Orient Express

While walking through the narrow carriages, we were overwhelmed with the number of items displayed: old-timey lamps, champagne bottles, cigarette butts, matches, ashtrays, crumpled newspapers and books were spread out on the tables. Apparel such as hats and jackets worn by famous past passengers, such as French singer Josephine Baker and writer Agatha Christie, were left on the seats. Train whistles could be heard in the background to enhance the sensory experience.

The dining car had antique silverware laid out for visitors to indulge in food prepared by Michelin-starred French chef Yannick Alleno. High tea, brunch, lunch and dinner packages are available starting at S$78 per person.

Once alighted from the carriages, we were brought to the open exhibition space with more than 300 pieces of artifacts, including a showcase of five suitcases by Louis Vuitton, which was considered the strongest carrier during the 1900s. Some items such as posters, original toy locomotives and staff uniforms were also displayed in giant-sized trunks.

Fan of either the 1974 movie adaptation of Murder on the Orient Express or its inferior 2017 remake? Look out for details about a forthcoming escape room where you can roleplay as detective Hercule Poirot teased to be opening soon.

“Once Upon A Time on The Orient Express” will be in town till June. Tickets starting at S$25 per person are on sale now.

Playing cards are laid out on a table with tea service cups in a vintage Pullman carriage. Photo: Orient Express
Playing cards are laid out on a table with tea service cups in a vintage Pullman carriage. Photo: Orient Express
A dining table in the dining car. Photo: Orient Express
A dining table in the dining car. Photo: Orient Express
Some of the items laid out on the tables in the Pullman carriage. Photo: Coconuts
Some of the items laid out on the tables in the Pullman carriage. Photo: Coconuts
Interior of the Fourgon car showcasing exhibits of clothing and silverware. Photo: Orient Express
Interior of the Fourgon car showcasing exhibits of clothing and silverware. Photo: Orient Express
The Pullman carriage built in 1920. Photo: Orient Express
The Pullman carriage built in 1920. Photo: Orient Express
The giant trunk displaying items. Photo: Coconuts
The giant trunk displaying items. Photo: Coconuts

Other stories you should check out:

All aboard! The Orient Express to steam into Singapore in December

Travel back in time at the Singapore Flyer’s new ‘capsule’ ride

Marina Bay Sands to host Singapore’s first concerts since pandemic lockdown next week

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