About sixty years ago you could leave your London hotel and board a train de luxe to Shanghai or Constantinople. Most likely you would ride the Orient Express, launched by M. Georges Nagelmackers. This gentleman, amid great debts, difficulties and conflicting interests with other railway companies, offered the world press its first fantastically long distance ride on October 4, 1883--an outing of supreme elegance with attendants in buckled shoes and velvet breeches and with private salons in the manner of louis XIV, plus electric chandeliers and polished mahogany coaches. Nagelmackers was intent on revolutionizing Continental traveling. The restaurant cars were stocked with the provisions of the country (Russian caviar compared with Roumanian ""was but boot leather""). Martin Page wisely allows reporters (including Mark Twain), unsung diarists and other travelers of the period to provide the bulk of his copy. The first American Pullman cars had been dubbed Black Holes of Calcutta and deserved the epithet--it wasn't unusual to wake up with your neighbor's feet on your face. Nagelmackers, disillusioned by Pullman cars on a trip to America, was inspired to copy the American routing system switching railway cars rather than passengers. Where are the trains of yesteryear? They may be coming back, since rail travel is essentially more exciting, comfortable, safe and luxurious than air travel--and often a joyful journey, says Page. He may not be as posh a trainwriter as Lucius Beebe (who is?), but his anecdotes will make you nostalgic for a life you never lived.