Simplon Orient Express (1950) / Jack Birns

In 1950 the American photographer Jack Birns traveled the Simplon Orient Express from London to Istanbul for LIFE magazine.

A September 1950 issue of LIFE, in which some of the photos in this gallery first appeared, described the Orient Express of the middle part of the last century thus:

To mystery lovers there is no more romantic train in the world than the Orient Express, which runs between Paris and Eastern Europe. The white-haired lady spy of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes rode the Orient Express, and the crime of Agatha Christie’s Murder in the Calais Coach took place on it. Legend has built the train into a vehicle for skullduggery. But there is, in fact, good basis for its reputation. Only last February, on the Orient Express near Salzburg, Austria, Eugene Karpe, the U.S. naval attaché friend of [prominent American businessman later jailed for espionage in Hungary] Robert Vogeler, fell or was pushed to his death under mysterious circumstances.

The Istanbul train is called the Simplon-Orient because it uses the Simplon Tunnel to pass through the Alps. Americans cannot go all the way as they cannot get visas for Communist Bulgaria, and luxury accommodations are now more limited than in the 1930s. But . . . the trip is still a fascinating ride through a secretive world of diplomats and refugees. It also provides a look at fringes of the Iron Curtain which can be had no other way. (...)
Jack Birns, Brig Station, 1950                                                                   Train station along the route of the Simplon-Orient Express, 1950
Jack Birns, 1950                                                                       Roy Rowan with typewriter in the train, 1950
Train station along the route of the Simplon-Orient Express, 1950
Aboard the Simplon-Orient Express, 1950
Aboard the Simplon-Orient Express, 1950

Aboard the Simplon-Orient Express, 1950
Jack Birns, Aboard the Simplon-Orient Express, 1950
Jack Birns, Aboard the Simplon-Orient Express, 1950                                               In Milan, [a man] hands a diplomatic packet through window, 1950

Jack Birns, 1950                                                                                Jack Birns, 1950                        

Jack Birns, Aboard the Simplon-Orient Express, 1950 
Scene from the Simplon-Orient Express, 1950
Train station along the route of the Simplon-Orient Express, 1950
                              Jack Birns, 1950                                                                       Jack Birns, 1950

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