Monday, December 10, 2018

DAY 43: Train Cars of the Rich and Famous

Edward VII's "smoking" saloon train car
In November, 1892, Baron Maurice de Hirsch invited the Prince of Wales to shoot partridge at St. Johann, his vast Hungarian estate. Jennie Churchill and Count Charles Kinsky were also invited (Lord Randolph Churchill had been gold-prospecting in South Africa for the past year), and the whole Royal party traveled across Europe by private train car.

Baron de Hirsch--as he was known in England and France--was born Moritz von Hirsch in Germany. He was an influential and fabulously wealthy financier who moved from home to home throughout Europe, including England, where he kept a landmark London townhouse and a racing stud at Newmarket. His only son, who died tragically young, was one of Charles Kinsky's close friends. Hirsch, who at this time was in his sixties, was one of Bertie's bankers; the Prince was constantly in significant debt. But Hirsch was also a railway mogul, which is where the story gets interesting.

Istanbul Grand Suite, Orient Express

Maurice de Hirsch financed the construction and operation of what became known as the Orient Express. Prior to his recruitment by the Ottoman Emperor, there had been no land route connecting Istanbul with Europe. From the 1870s on, Hirsch oversaw the establishment of rail lines through the notoriously difficult Balkans, eventually inaugurating the Istanbul to Vienna route in 1888. By the early 1890s, the Orient Express ran from Paris through Vienna and on to the Ottoman Empire. 

This was the route the Royal Party took in the autumn of 1892, changing lines in Budapest for the northern railway through the Hungarian Uplands to St. Johann.

A simple train car would never do for Bertie, however--not even one attached to the Orient Express. Von Hirsch supplied a series of private cars for the Royal excursion, including a saloon for the gentlemen where they could smoke cigars and drink brandy after dinner; a private car for the ladies; a special Royal dining car; and luxurious sleeping compartments.

Edward VII's dining car

There is a history to such things. Wealthy people today own private jets; wealthy people in the past owned private train cars, which were coupled to existing engines on existing routes. Or if their wealth and needs did not quite reach to private transport, the Victorian glitterati were accommodated by the railways themselves. When Jennie and Randolph traveled by train across Canada in 1894, for example, the Canadian Railway offered them a private car--and then, to Jennie's horror, presented them with a bill in Vancouver. She had mistakenly assumed the car was free. 

All the major rail companies had special train cars, particularly Royal ones, that could be leased and coupled for use on specific journeys. Queen Victoria owned her private cars; but Bertie did not, until he became King Edward VII. Then, with typical Bertie enthusiasm, he completely redesigned his private fleet--which are housed now at train museums around England.

Queen Victoria's traveling saloon, 1897

For more images from THAT CHURCHILL WOMAN, visit the  Pinterest board behind the novel. 

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