Competitors – Train, Ship, Bus
For passenger trains click: www.trains-worldexpresses.com
For passenger shipping click: www.ships-worldwide.com
The motorway from Sao Paolo to Santos, Brazil 2010 (WS)
Around 1800 the walk, the ride, the stagecoach and the sailing ship were the means of transport. In 1825 George Stephenson opened the first railway Stockton – Darlington in England. Towards 1900 the train with steam locomotive has conquered the continents and the steamship dominated the Oceans. Literature and movies have revived the romance of the old Ocean liners – not only the “Titanic” – and of the Grand Expresses, preferably the Orient-Express, matters of the past, for “nothing begins with the literature, but everything ends with it”, as the renowned French author Paul Morand has expressed it in ‘Le Voyage/ Notes et Maximes’.
Replacement of horse and stagecoach by the motorcar has changed life in the 20th century. The history of the motor goes back to Jean J. Lenoir, developed further by Nikolaus A. Otto, Gottlieb Daimler and Rudolf Diesel. In 1883 Daimler prepared it for the motorcar and in 1885 Karl F. Benz built the first one in Germany. While Emperor Wilhelm II is said to have proclaimed ‘no future’ for the motorcar, Henry Ford, then Ferdinand Porsche with the VW ‘Beetle’ and Sir Alec Issigonis with the ‘Mini’ changed it into a means of transport for the working class. In 2010 the total number of motorcars was estimated 850 million and with China and other nations becoming ‘auto-based’ societies, it must multiply. Road traffic in Europe had a traffic share higher than air and rail together (according to Railway Gazette International). So road traffic is the winner, using fossil fuel. Then the battery-driven electric motorcar became developed for future. In pre-war Germany already, battery-driven local postal vans had been a standard, then abandoned (good for the oil industry). In the 21st century Tesla, presented in the USA by billionaire Elon Musk, went also to China and Europe. And not to forget: Steering a motorcar is a wonderful hobby, but even riding a superbike is surpassed by piloting – the author experienced both, cautiously…
Before the motorcar has changed life, railway with the steam monster had done it (and grandfather Johann Soelch has changed from agriculture to locomotive driver in the Habsburg empire). In the USA the network of famous expresses covered the continent. In 1849 senator Benton had proposed the first transcontinental railroad and in 1862 president Lincoln “signed the Pacific Railroad Act, which lavished unprecedented financial inducements in the shape of land grants, loans and bonds on the Union Pacific Railroad and the Central Pacific Railroad, of which Stanford was the co-founder” (The Wall Street Journal, May11, 2019). Thanks to Chinese migrant workers, the last spike was driven in 1869 and Leland Stanford became one of the richest Americans. Other ‘Railroad Titans’ were ‘Commodore’ Vanderbilt, James Hill, Edward H. Harriman, and the famous sleeping-car pioneer was George Mortimer Pullman, who founded the American Pullman Co. in 1864. Later the “20th Century Limited” New York – Chicago of the New York Central and, in the diesel age, the Santa Fe “Super Chief” Chicago – Los Angeles had become the most famous trains. Remarkable was also the “Panama Limited” Chicago – New Orleans. With emergence of the jetliner, the excellent expresses have become loss-making and in 1971 they had to be saved by Amtrak, subsidized reportedly with only 0.05% of GDP. Also in Canada and in Australia those perfect trains, subsidized (according to Railway Gazette International 2015), had extended their life as a tourist attraction.
California Zephyr Chicago – San Francisco, Gore Canyon 1987 (WS)
In Europe the “Grands Express Europeens” of the Wagons-Lits company had interconnected the subcontinent before WWII, for the privileged. That company CIWL was built up by engineer Georges Nagelmackers, son of a Belgian banker, supported by King Leopold II. He started the “Orient-Express” in 1883 – crossing hostile borders and reaching Istanbul in August 1888 via Chemins de fer Orientaux by Maurice de Hirsch, the ambassador of Belgium, who has got the license already in 1869. In 1894 the “Ostende-Wien-Express” started, in 1895 connecting at Constantza with a Romanian steamer to Istanbul. After 1907 CIWL was saved by Nagelmackers’ relationship to Sir Davidson Dalziel, who acquired the British Pullman Car Company with help of J.P. Morgan bankers. In 1887 CIWL started the “Sud-Express” Paris – Madrid – Lisbon (initially from Calais, change of train at Irun), with steamship connections to South America. In 1896 CIWL introduced the “Nord-Express” Oostende-/ Paris – St. Petersburg (change of train at Wirballen). In 1898 trains Moscow – Tomsk started, CIWL entered, in 1899 the “Siberien-Express” reached Irkutsk and in 1906 or 07 the “Transsiberien-Express” Irkutsk – Vladivostok was added. For the “Transsiberien-Express” Moscow - Vladivostok, in 1908 a contract with CIWL was concluded and in 1914 it connected Moscow with Vladivostok and also with Changchun, where in 1908 a train to Busan had started for the shipping connection with Japan. After WWI, in the USSR remained only the Soviets’ trains. In Europe, CIWL’s “Simplon-Orient-Express” and “Arlberg-Orient-Express” started to circumvent defeated Germany. In 1940 the “Taurus-Express” from Istanbul HP reached Baghdad. After WWII the subsidized de-luxe expresses were opened to the working-class and the East added the “Balt-Orient-Express” in 1948. Targeting low fares, many long-distance trains have decayed horribly. Modern exceptions were the Spanish Talgo trains e.g. Paris – Madrid. Another initiative was the creation of first-class TEE trains in 1957, confined to daylight services. An ameliorated long-distance train should have become the “Akropolis”, shortening traveling time Munich – Athens, starting in 1968. But when the Greek state turned away from financing new cars, the train lost priority and late-running began. The Yugoslavian wars finally led to the end of trains from Germany to Greece and to Turkey in 1993. Romania’s ruler Gheorghiu-Dej welcomed and successor Ceausescu subsidized the ‘Wagon-Lits’ Paris – Bucharest, running with interruptions until 1987, and the “Orient-Express” connected Bucharest until 2001. It died as a night train Strasbourg – Vienna in 2009, unnoticed. In 1977 ended the sleeping-car Paris – Istanbul, but it had not run in the Orient-Express, but in the modest Direct-Orient via Milan. The legend of the Orient-Express was revived in 1976 with the “Nostalgie-Istanbul-Orient-Express” by Alby Glatt, who later gave it away on advice of his bankers. In 1982 appeared the second de-luxe, the “Venice Simplon-Orient-Express” by shipowner James Sherwood. After insolvency proceedings, it was taken over by the hotel chain Belmond, which in 2018 was bought by LVMH. It took over the “Venice Simplon-Orient-Express” and also the special “Eastern & Oriental Express” Singapore - Bangkok. The connection from England to Oostende ended in 2013 when the last service by TransEuropa Ferries disappeared. The network of regular international expresses and through services has given way to intercity trains, mostly domestic. German DB gave away also uneconomic car-carrying passenger trains. The Spanish peninsula (with different gauge) during decades had no direct train connection with Central Europe – a chance for the early charter airlines. An exclusive special “Al Andalus” of Spanish RENFE was maintained still in the new century as a tourist attraction.
Long-distance trains, state-owned, survived the turn of the century in Russia and Asia. “In 2015 Vladimir I. Yakunin, a long-time associate of Mr. Putin’s and the director of the national railway, was ousted after failing to win support for costly state subsidies for the railways”, reported the New York Times in 2017 (Oct24). During decades, people could travel from Moscow to Paris, to the CIS countries, to North Korea or to Beijing via the Trans-Siberian without change of train, though Russia has the Tzar’s different gauge. It reached Jining in China, but Mao disliked it and the change of gauge was relocated to the Mongolian border. Later at least from the Czech Rep. a competent insider reported that the Moscow – Nice was handled like an agency’s train at Russian expense. However, when Russia has announced a modern Talgo train Moscow – Berlin, Schweizer Eisenbahn-Revue 2/2015 reported resistance by German authorities. Nevertheless it started in 2016. The liberated Baltic countries were connected by passenger trains not with Central Europe, but with Russia. In its utmost north, rail and a non-touristic passenger train reached the gas fields of the Yamal peninsula. Between Siberia and China, the Amur bridge was expected to be finished in 2018.
In China and on the Indian sub-continent, domestic long-distance trains had a longer life, too. In the Middle East the late-running international expresses vanished already before the local wars started. Despite the conflicts, Financial Times surprised in 2017 with a statement that “officials were reiterating their commitment to a $200 billion rail network that would criss-cross the Arabian desert.” A luxury heritage in South Africa is the “Blue Train”, but the continent was never covered by a complete rail network. In 1978 the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) of the UN has considered “a common carrier service much cheaper than building a new road and rail network.” Also Latin America had no complete rail network, and passenger traffic was widely closed down. But with new politics, Ecuador reopened the line from Quito to Guayaquil on the Pacific. In Bolivia, the “Expreso del Sur” restarted in 2017 from Oruro to Villazon at the border of Argentina and the “Expreso Oriental” connected Santa Cruz with Puerto Suarez close to Brazil.
A new railway age has been envisioned in Europe and in Japan already before WWII. It started in 1964 with high-speed intercity trains in Japan. Since 1994 London is connected with Paris by the ‘Eurostar’ via the Channel Tunnel. High-speed is successful in Europe, Russia, South Korea, Taiwan and mainly in China, initially with technology from Japan and Europe. China built the largest high-speed train network, necessary for avoiding road traffic jams, and negative propaganda appeared only in Hong Kong. But in 2018 the high-speed train for Beijing started at its new West Kowloon station, covering the 1,200 miles in just 9 hours. High-speed is concentrating on national domestic services, but finally the French TGV entered Germany and its ICE3 could enter France. In 2015 a MoU was signed between India and Japan for cooperation in building the proposed Mumbai - Ahmedabad high-speed line. High-speed was built up also in Greece, in Turkey, in Morocco (with TGV technology), high-speed was praised in Uzbekistan for Tashkent - Samarkhand - Bukhara and the Talgo appeared in Kazakhstan and in Saudi Arabia. China targeted to export railway technology to Turkey, Serbia, Nigeria, Indonesia and to South East Asian countries for a Vietnam - Thailand - Singapore link, disputed. Pakistan - Iran and Angola - Tanzania were more unrealistic dreams. A European answer against the Chinese CRRC was a friendly cooperation between Siemens and Alstom. Electrified trains are the most ecologically friendly means of transport even when the energy is coming from coal-fired power stations (so stated by Newsweek already years ago). Some German media’s prediction that the ICE high-speed trains would be put out of service immediately after introduction, proved wrong and was not helpful for the motorcar industry. Selling railway properties for commercial profit could be a danger. Decades ago, some media have praised a proposal of reducing Munich central station from 36 tracks to 4 subterranean tracks. A combined road and rail bridge had been built between Denmark and Sweden, but immediately Norway refused to subsidize passenger trains to Denmark. When amelioration of rail traffic from Germany to Denmark was planned, it became combated with the argument that a bridge would endanger birds and building a tunnel could kill whales. And so the Danish diesel IC3 had some longer life. The Gotthard tunnel for rail traffic to Italy was completed in 2016, the Mont Cenis tunnel was supported by the government and the EU has concluded to finance the “Brenner-Basistunnel”, construction prepared since 2008. But TGV high-speed trains from Paris and EuroCity trains from Germany to Milano Centrale had been interrupted by Italy (and lawsuits were whispered by high-ranking insiders). Then daily newspapers praised the tunnels for freight. Finally in Dec 2017 (after insolvency of Alitalia) the ETR610 could start passenger service Milan - Frankfurt. After the ICE4, Siemens prepared a high-speed ICE5, suitable for all the different networks in Europe. International high-speed trains for connecting Paris, Berlin and Rome could be a symbol of a unified Europe…
In the USA, president Barack Obama targeted to push forward the development of some high-speed lines, being urgent for selected intercity corridors, such as the existing Boston – New York – Washington line with its Alstom ‘Acela’ trains. For running there from 2021, Alstom built in N.Y. the tilting ‘Acela Liberty’ series, in future capable of 186mph. The high-speed line San Francisco – Los Angeles was planned by the California High Speed Rail Authority, participated by German DB Engineering, in 2019 scaled back. For Latin America, aviation analyst Davies listed (towards 2011) high-speed projects Buenos Aires - Cordoba, Sao Paolo - Rio de Janeiro and Mexico City - Guadalajara, but then they were delayed or cancelled. Insolvency of airlines, such as Varig or Mexicana, may be a reason. The fastest and less noisy means of terrestrial transport is the magnetic levitation or maglev railway, developed in Germany and demonstrated with the Shanghai Pudong airport link, running regularly and silently at 430km/h or 267mph. But a complete Chinese network was not built due to high cost. A similar Munich “Transrapid” airport link was prevented, combated by some popular press with the lie that it makes “a hell’s noise” - good for road traffic. Japan prepared the first medium-distance maglev railway, announced for 2027, using advanced super-conductive technology. In 2015 a test train achieved 603km/h or 374mph – a world record. But planned to be 85% subterranean, it must be very expensive and in 2017 Eisenbahn-Revue reported that Mitsubishi left this Chuo Shinkansen project. In the USA the government had financed studies into a supersonic subterranean maglev railway already in 1971. Also later studies by Elon Musk for capsules shot supersonically through subterranean tubes were purely hypothetical. Trains in landscape remained fascinating for admiring our Earth. After Lufthansa historian and retired pilot Rudolf Braunburg had made the travel from Lisbon to Hong Kong by train (described in his book ‘Die grosse Eisenbahn-Reise’), he confessed being aware of the fact that “the ENTIRE Earth is our home.”
KTX high-speed train, Seoul 2011 (WS)
The race for crossing the North Atlantic culminated after J.P. Morgan had entered the White Star Line in 1902, whereupon the British government subsidized Cunard for winning the ‘Blue Riband’. In the 19th century the P&O has been fundamental, for it connected England with its most important commercial partner India. And from 1872 “La Malle des Indes”, from 1890 the de-luxe “Peninsular-Express”, shortened traveling time between Calais and Brindisi. After interruption during WWI, it continued running Calais – Marseilles as “Bombay-Express”, then “Overland-Express”, until 1939. The Suez Canal was opened in 1869, but for the Indian Mail the train Cairo – Suez was mysteriously preferred until 1888. Half a century later, the airliner changed history. Passenger air traffic had caught up with North Atlantic sea traffic in 1958, with annual growth rates around 20%. Sea travel was expensive and during the 1960s and 70s almost all the big Ocean liners were withdrawn. Another matter are passenger-carrying car-ferries, transporting also buses, trucks and trailers. They are confined to their typical routes and around the Americas they are remarkably rare. When on remote St. Helena Island an airport was built for opening in 2018, world’s most solitary ferry “St. Helena” from Cape Town was removed.
The prestigious Ocean liners have been replaced by still larger cruise ships, mainly in ownership of the largest groups: Carnival, built up by the Arison family of Miami, with all its subsidiaries ranking number 1 in traffic, Royal Caribbean occupying rank 2, and Norwegian on rank 3, back in American hands, while its temporary majority owner Genting Hong Kong formed Dream Cruises. They were followed by MSC Cruises of Italy and by Disney Cruises. Royal Caribbean introduced in 2009 the largest passenger ships with the Oasis class of c.225,000 gross tons, followed in 2018 by the 228,000gt “Symphony of the Seas”. At that time, ships with more than 200,000gt were on order by MSC with the World class and by Dream Cruises with the Global class of 204,000gt, rather daring. The fascinating ships were built initially in Europe. Good gastronomical service is granted and low-berth cabins with an own toilet have become standard, in contrast to early ocean liners or ‘trains de luxe’. With the welcomed working-force from low-wage countries and with affordable tariffs, cruise shipping achieved a commercial success. Outsider ideas, such as the “Freedom Ship”, laid out at 2.7 million gross tons with an aircraft deck for billionaires, and steadily renewed announcements of a new “Titanic” are not to be commented here.
“Queen Mary 2”, Panama 2006 (WS)
In some cases the founders of airline companies were shipping enterprises (see www.ships-worldwide.com). The roots e.g. of Lufthansa predecessors go back to Hapag and Norddeutscher Lloyd, the most famous German shipping firms. And TUIfly (see the chapter Air Traffic/ Charter Pioneers) had its origin with the amalgamated Hapag-Lloyd. In Belgium, the successor of BIAS was an enterprise of the Compagnie Maritime Belge. Royal Air Maroc has started in 1957 when the kingdom took over its predecessors’ majority from steamship enterprise “French Line”. Much more famous is the Cunard Line, which has entered the jet age. Cunard Eagle had got in 1961 some Atlantic air traffic rights, later integrated with BOAC. The partnership of 1962, symbolized by the B.O.A.C. Cunard label on the B.707, lasted until 1966. Also Cunard’s participation in Overseas National Airways (ONA) had been a short-term interlude. North Atlantic crossings by Cunard, then a part of the Carnival Corporation, were almost the only regular ocean liner services, and combined QE2 and Concorde travels had been offered. Carnival acquired in 1988 the airline Bahamas Express (ex-Pacific Interstate) and used the label Majestic Air and from 1989 Carnival Air Lines, in 1997 however given away. In 2001 Carnival sold its 25% shareholding in Airtours. When Royal Caribbean acquired in 2006 the cruise shipping activities of Pullmantur, the deal included Air Pullmantur, renamed Pullmantur Air. Its B.747 appeared in 2015 even in Conviasa livery of isolated Venezuela. More successful is cruise shipping. And the ship provides the comfort which no other means of travel can offer.
“Norwegian Spirit” of Norwegian, “Navigator of the Seas” of Royal Caribbean and (on the right) “Carnival Triumph”, St.Thomas 2007 (WS)
For the express trains’ history see our web site trains-worldexpresses.com and the books by Werner Soelch: ‘Orient-Express’, ‘Orient-Express im Bild’, ‘Jules Verne’s Express – Die legendaere Indian-Mail-Route’, ‘Kap-Kairo’, ‘Expresszuege im Vorderen Orient’ and the publications by Hans Soelch, e.g. the CD ‘Trans Europ Express’, see www.elektrolok.de/Shop, www.xyania.de. For the history of passenger shipping see our web site ships-worldwide.com, researched in cooperation with Heribert Schroepfer. More photos, also of historic motorcars and buses, are in our collection.