I certainly hadn’t until yesterday. Come to that, I doubt many outside his native Belgium have either. But like me you will all be familiar with Georges’ lasting legacy, the most famous train the world has ever known – the Orient Express.
Georges was born in Liège into a wealthy banking family in 1845 and died in 1905. In the 1860’s he travelled extensively in the USA, marvelling at the luxury Pullman carriages, sleeping-cars and restaurant-cars used for long distance railway travel across the American continent.
When he returned to Europe, he determined to do something similar to improve the lot of the wealthy European train traveller. In 1874 he founded the Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits.
Georges had a fleet of luxury carriages built. His company soon became a huge success.
Luxury trains like The Orient-Express (Paris-Istanbul), Nord-Express (Paris-St Petersburg) and Sud-Express (Paris-Lisbon), all utilized Georges’ luxury carriages. He also built carriages for the Trans-Siberian Railway in Russia. In addition, over the years many luxury hotels including the Pera Palace in Istanbul, the Terminus Hotels in Bordeaux and Marseilles, the Hotel de la Plage in Ostend and the Grand Hotel in Beijing were built by his company for his travel weary passengers.
The publication of Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie, a frequent traveller on the train and guest at the Pera Palace Hotel was probably the best free advertising Georges could ever have hoped for, had he lived to see it.
So, when you mention his name in conversation and someone replies Georges who, you will be able to tell them Georges Nagelmackers – the man who built the Orient Express, that’s who.