American Orient Express
United States - Deluxe Rail Journeys On Americas Premier Train
By Carl Morrison, Carl@TrainWeb.com
HISTORY OF THE AMERICAN ORIENT EXPRESS
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.”