Europe Subway Map

The French have now taken first place in the world rail sweepstakes with their supertrains.

The streamlined pride of the French railroad system, Tres Grande Vitesse (very high speed), operates between Paris and Lyon. It hits speeds of 175 mph with a ride for passengers so smooth that a glass of water sitting on an armrest is not disturbed.

The system is scheduled to be extended on to Marseille, linking Paris with the next two largest cities in France. One problem: it takes three minutes to brake going at 160 mph. This really is not a problem, however, in that the system runs on its own rail corridor with no rail crossings.

Look for resemblances between the food service on the Tres Grande Vitesse and that provided on the commercial airline.

Probably the fanciest, certainly the most glamorous, train in history, the Orient Express, has been revived. The original Orient Express ran from Paris to Istanbul and was a favorite of royalty and the haut monde.

At a cost of $20 million the old cars have been carefully refurbished by the Sea Container Corporation. A train runs between London and the east coast of England. The passengers cross the English Channel and are picked up by a second train, which travels overnight to Venice.

Meals, service, and entertainment are in the atmosphere that served as a setting for Agatha Christie’s thrillers, a memorable train ride.

There are really three Orient Expresses, the Nostalgic Orient Express that runs occasionally between Paris and Istanbul as did the original Orient Express; the Venice Simplon Orient Express that runs between Boulogne and Venice twice a week and from Paris to Venice three times a week; the English end of the Venice Simplon Orient Express that runs from London to Folkestone. Passengers cross the English Channel by ferry and then board the Venice Simplon Orient Express proper.

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