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How train fans solved the mystery of the real Orient Express

(CNN) — French railroad enthusiast Arthur Meteal said when a passenger car parked in the corner of the frame caught the eye. I was watching a video on YouTube. ..

The car is in a unique night blue shade associated with the Orient Express, the famous long-distance cross-European passenger train that is synonymous with the charm of travel in the 20th century. It was drawn.

Mettetal wasn't just a railroad fan, he had a PhD in the history of the Orient Express. His research sought to determine how many original Orient Express trains still exist, where they are, who owns them, and in what state they are.

He had some vintage vehicles on display at the museum, like some on the Belmond Orient Express line. .. But he thought that many of the cars were scattered all over the world and were forgotten.

Mettetal spent most of 2015 hunting these abandoned carriages, scrolling archives, talking to railroad fans on bulletin boards, and searching online videos. rice field. He often found clues that looked promising, like the blue carriage in a YouTube video.

Mettetal hit the video pause and scrutinized the frame. The video was uploaded anonymously and there wasn't much accompanying information. However, it was possible to see the name of the station in the screenshot: Małaszewicze.

Through Google, Mettetal discovered that there are several places in Poland named Małaszewiche. He looked at each spot on Google Maps, switched to a 3D view and zoomed in, looking for a characteristic blue carriage with a white roof.

And Bingo found what he was looking for. A 13-car train, which looked suspicious like the Orient Express, stopped at Małaszewiche Station on the Polish border. Belarus.

Speaking todayCNNTravel , Mettetal says this was a "magical" moment.

"13 cars at a time." He shouts. "It's like discovering a treasure."

Tracking a train

Arthur Mettetal first spotted the vintage Orient Express train carriages while conducting online research.

Arthur Meteal first discovered the Vintage Orient, rushing train vehicles while conducting an online survey.

Xavier Antoinet

It was "incredible" to find a train on Google, but Mettetal tried to live up to his expectations. Whether it may be inside and has been moved since the satellite image was taken.

So he went to Małaszewic and checked them directly.

Mettetal says he will never forget the moment he arrived at the border with his photographer's friend Poland.

"After hours of driving where I thought I could find a train, I arrived at an active border area at night," says Mettetal.

Not only was it dark, but the landscape was covered with snow. However, the two men were still able to make a blue carriage. Printed on their side is the "Nostalgia Istanbul Orient Express", the name of a private railroad venture in the 1970s that used the original Orient Express car to transport travelers from Paris to Istanbul. Mettetal and his friends were overjoyed.

"It's an indescribable feeling. We were looking at the subject of our research, the train we saw through Google's 3D view," Mettetal said. Recollects.

Since they were in the border area, Mettetal and his photographer were told to leave the police immediately. The two returned at dawn the next day with an interpreter and Guillaume de Saint-Lager, vice president of the Orient Express branch of Accor, who was also interested in inspecting trains.

Mettetal says going inside the train carriages was very exciting.

Mettetal says getting into a train vehicle was very exciting.

Xavier Antoinet

As the sun rose, the group circled the carriage. Mettetal estimated that they had been sitting there dormantly for at least 10 years, dating back to the 1920s and 30s.

Mettetal says looking into the carriage was another "great moment for historians."

"All the decorations were intact and it was as if time had stopped," he said, adding that "there was little damage, only time wasted." rice field.

Of the 13 cars, 9 were luxurious sleepers.

"Then we spent two days recording the entire interior and exterior of the car and continuing to investigate the history of the car and why it was parked," says Mettetal.

Refurbishment and restoration

The train interiors are now being renovated by French architect Maxime d'Angeac.

The interior of the train is now French architecture House Maxim Danjek.

Xavier Antoinet

Over the next two years, the Orient Express team at Accor tracked the owner of the Małaszewic carriage. They also found four additional vehicles parked in other countries, including Germany and Switzerland. Accor has negotiated a purchase agreement for a total of 17 cars, including 12 sleepers, a restaurant, 3 lounges and a van. The carriage was then transported across Europe to France by a police convoy.

Fast forward to this day, Accor's Orient Express Group has a grand plan for the rediscovered vehicle. The goal is for the car to operate on the route from Paris to Istanbul from 2024. This is a rethought version of the Nostalgia Istanbul Orient Express.

The carriage is currently being refurbished by Parisian architect Maxime d'Angeac. He tells CNN Travel that "once in a lifetime" projects are "undeniable."

The carriages are set to transport passengers again come 2024.

The vehicle is set to transport passengers again in 2024.

Xavier Antoinet

{Inside the rediscovered carriage is an Art Deco market panel by British decorators Morrison and Nelson, and glass by French craftsman René Lalique. Includes panel. When Danjek first saw the existing interior, he said he felt "real emotions."

D'Angeac acknowledges that the original Orient Express was known at the time as the pinnacle of luxury, comfort and design. He wants the refurbished carriage to live up to its reputation.

"Ako's ambition is to restore and reconstruct the same kind of legendary myth to create an extraordinary train," he says.

Refurbishing a carriage 100 years ago is not easy, d'Angeac adds. The interior is smaller than modern travelers would expect. Historical assets need to be preserved, but modern comfort and security also need to be incorporated.

New technologies and methods are used as needed, but d'Angeac wants travelers to go unnoticed by the touch of the 21st century.

“Our intervention must be timeless,” says d'Angeac. I got my PhD for

Mettetal, but I'm still fascinated by the Orient Express, especially the carriages I tracked on YouTube. He is also currently the director of the heritage and culture of the Orient Express in Accor.

"These cars have a rich history, from 1920s manufacturing to rediscovery," says Mettetal. "It will be very interesting to follow their entire journey in countries and cities across all these years."

Top Photo Credits: Xavier Antoinet