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American Orient Express

United States - Deluxe Rail Journeys On Americas Premier Train

By Carl Morrison,


The American Orient Express gets its roots from the original concept of a deluxe business train that linked Chicago with Washington D.C.  The vision was to offer the train to business executives as an alternative to cramped airline seats and long lines at ticket windows.  This train was the American European Express (AEE), and even though its rail cars were masterfully restored at great expense, the marketing plan never took off.  As a result, the operation closed after less than a year.

It didn’t take long for the owners to rethink their marketing strategy, within five months (March 1991) the AEE was operating again as a passenger train offering vacationers a deluxe journey from Chicago to New York via West Virginia’s New River Gorge, with optional overnight stays at the Green Brier.  This was a step in the right direction, but even as ridership increased, the train was taken out of service that same October.

After a failed attempt to convert the train into a transport service for country music enthusiasts traveling between Texas and Branson, Missouri, the renamed American Orient Express was leased and marketed by TCS Expeditions of Seattle.  This time the concept of “cruising by rail” really took-off and the train was promoted as a unique alternative to ship cruising. Itineraries were planned and marketed throughout America to a captive audience from some of the finest universities, museums and special interest organizations in the country.

The current stage in the evolution of American Orient Express began in late 1997 with the train’s purchase by Henry Hillman Jr., past CEO of the company.  The idea came to him while aboard a Seabourn ship, on a cruise to Normandy in 1994. He wanted others to see the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone and other great places in the United States – in this same style.  This led to the acquisition of the train and its operation.  Peter Boese, president, joined the company in 1998.  Under his direction, the marketing strategy was expanded through a network of travel agency consortia.  Direct mail marketing and public relations efforts were also expanded.  Mr. Boese is thrilled with the train. “It’s a great opportunity to experience America’s rail past, all the while enjoying the first-class comfort enjoyed by today’s traveler.”

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American Orient Express website

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