Orient Express Rides Again


In 1950, award-winning Time-Life photographer Jack Birns was derailed from an assignment in Rome by another intriguing photo opportunity. His alternate route--which would take him thousands of miles across Europe--would start on the English coast. He would then cross channels, continents and tense borders and conclude the journey in Istanbul, Turkey.

The focus of the assignment was Birns’ means of travel--a train known as the Orient Express.

“The train had a jet-set reputation,” Birns said, “but its personality and complexion changed once it crossed into Communist lands.” By the time the train reached the Iron Curtain, the rich party-goers were gone and in their place were impoverished third-class riders, using the train as simple transportation.


The journey of Birns, who was teamed with a reporter, was unique in that no other journalist had ever dared to record the train’s passage through communist-bloc countries. “We were told by the American Embassy in Paris you’d be shot in Yugoslavia if caught taking pictures,” he said.

But record it he did, capturing the train’s mystique, its varied passengers and the stops along the way.

Starting Friday and continuing through March 3, the Orient Express will ride again as an exhibit of more than 100 black-and-white images titled “Intrigue on the Orient Express” will be displayed at the Carnegie Art Museum.

Visitors will be able to hear Birns describe his experience from 7 to 9 p.m. Jan. 24, when he will personally conduct a tour of the exhibition.

The Carnegie Art Museum is at 424 S. C St., Oxnard. For more information, call 984-4649.