Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits CIWL – A grand name from the heyday of railroading. This firm founded in the second half of the 19th century by the Belgian entrepreneur Georges Nagelmackers quickly became the epitome of luxurious travel. Shortly before World War I, numerous CIWL deluxe trains steamed on regular schedules throughout Europe. They had melodious names such as Orient Express, Calais Mediterranean Express, or South Express. They were mostly sleeping car trains offering luxurious sleeping compartments featuring all kinds of comfort.
In the Golden Twenties, the market for first class travel recovered very quickly and starting in 1925 the CIWL introduced the first deluxe trains for daily service, which caused a stir from the beginning as parlor car expresses. The CIWL bought new, extremely luxurious open seating cars or parlor cars for these train routes, some cars equipped with galleys. One each car with and without a galley formed a "Couplage". There were also trains with a "Triplage" (two cars, 2nd class without a galley, and one car, 1st class with a galley). Meals were served at your seat, and exclusive porcelain china and silver place settings contributed to the special ambiance. However, there were no special dining cars. The new parlor cars sparkled with more than just excellent inner values. Their outer appearance also radiated an impressive elegance.
Its route of Amsterdam – Brussels – Strasbourg – Basle – Zürich/Lucerne was no less attractive. Usually, the newest and most powerful steam locomotives of that time were used as motive power, such as the legendary class 241 A of the French East Railroad (EST).
The itinerary of the EDELWEISS PARLOR CAR EXPRESS to Basle was 31 kilometers / 19 miles longer than the Rheingold train and it had to overcome the northern foothills of the Vosges between Namur and Luxembourg as well as between Metz and Strasbourg. The EDELWEISS with a running time of 10 hours and 8 minutes was almost as fast (Rheingold 9 hours 46 minutes). At that time, not many steam-powered trains achieved an average speed of 80 kilometers per hour / 50 miles per hour.
In the Thirties, the EDELWEISS PARLOR CAR EXPRESS was one of the most successful CIWL trains. The outbreak of World War II then abruptly ended the era of the sparkling deluxe trains – including the EDELWEISS.
After the war, the train was introduced again and in the first years, it even ran parlor cars again. In 1957, the EDELWEISS then experienced a resurrection as a deluxe train. It was taken into the new European TEE network, and it was run with the brand new, Dutch-Swiss 1st class powered rail cars as the class RAm, which was the prototype of various sought-after Märklin models. But, that is another story.