Today an image full of mystique, magic, longing, and wanderlust is associated with the famous name "Orient Express", because over the course of many years, a legend formed from the train of diplomats, adventurers, agents, profiteers, “femmes fatales” as well as crowned and uncrowned heads of state. It played a main role in countless books, spy histories, and films. It had its beginning with the grandiose idea of Georges Nagelmackers to introduce deluxe sleeping car trains on the European continent. He founded his "Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits" (CIWL) on December 4, 1876 in Brussels and the company is still in existence today. With the growing rail network in the direction of the Balkans Nagelmackers developed plans for a train assembled entirely from CIWL cars from the Channel harbors to the Balkan States and the end destination of Constantinople (the present day Istanbul) that at the time could still not be reached by rail. The legend finally began on June 5, 1883 in Paris with the first "Express d'Orient". Just a dining car, two sleeping cars, and two baggage cars made up the first "Orient Express" that started to write transportation history on that memorable afternoon in the Gare de l´Est station. Yet, the trip to the Balkans was still quite exhausting because passengers had to do part of the route by boat or postal coach. The Orient Express did not reach its end destination of Constantinople until August 12, 1888 via Budapest, Belgrade, and Sofia, and this deluxe train quickly developed into a total success.
With the start of World War I, the deluxe train had to be halted. After the end of the war, a so-called "Train deluxe militaire" for the victorious powers initially ran starting in February of 1919 with CIWL cars between Western and Eastern Europe, but bypassing Germany. It was not until 1920 that normal passengers could also use it and the route ran again via Strasbourg, Karlsruhe, Stuttgart, and Munich. Finally, with the start of the 1921 summer schedule, the train was running again with its traditional name and its route was lengthened from Vienna via Bratislava and Budapest to Bucharest. The motive power on the Baden part of the Orient Express' route was the Baden class "IV h" Pacific express locomotives that had been delivered in three production runs by Maffei from 1918 to 1920 for a total of 20 units. Originally planned for heavy express train service primarily on the Rhine Valley line Basle – Mannheim these elegant, modern 4-6-2 units also pulled the Orient Express. With their four-cylinder compound running gear with tandem slide valves and the almost unique large grate of 5 square meters / 7,750 square inches in conjunction with their good counterbalance weight they advanced to the position of first-rate, fast long-distance runners. Between January of 1923 and November 29, 1924, the Orient Express could no longer run through Germany due to the occupation of the Ruhr area and had to detour to the Arlberg route. After that the IV h with its attractive outline was seen pulling this deluxe train again, from 1925 on as the DRG class 18.3 with road numbers 18 301-303, 18 311-319, and 18 321-328.