After departing Sirkeci the night before, James Bond, Darko Kerim and Tatiana Romanova arrive at the last station in Turkey before entering Greece. Fleming writes that the train stops with a “sigh of hydraulic brakes” at Uzunköprü station. This was one of his few factual errors as he wrote in a letter that “I have also been severely reprimanded for having provided, in my last book, the Orient Express with hydraulic brakes instead of vacuum ones.”
As James Bond looks out at the station, this is what he sees.
It was a typical Balkan wayside station – a facade of dour buildings in over-pointed stone, a dusty expanse of platform, not raised, but level with the ground so that there was a long step down from the train, some chickens pecking about and a few drab officials standing idly, unshaven, not even trying to look important.
You can see how accurate Fleming’s description was in the picture above. At this station, two M.G.B. men are tossed off the train, the first one, unnamed after having his ticket swiped by Kerim, and the second, a Kurt Goldfarb is taken off after attempting to bribe the conductor after his ticket and passport could not be located. They are taken across the platform into the station through the door marked “Polis.”
James Bond and Tatiana Romanova agree to meet for the 9:00pm departure of the Orient Express, They would’ve met at Sirkeci station. Ian Fleming had been there, and clearly was not impressed.
The Orient Express was the only live train in the ugly, cheaply architectured burrow that is Istanbul’s main station. The trains on the other lines were engineless and unattended – waiting for tomorrow. Only Track No. 3 and its platform throbbed with the tragic poetry of departure.
Sirkeci station was in fact, a point of pride for all of Turkey. It had been designed by August Jachmund, a German trained Prussian architect who was heavily influenced by Ottoman architecture. He wanted to create a fusion of East and West, with Constantinople (Istanbul) being the gateway to the Orient. It was were the West ended and the East began. Sirkeci station also was the last stop on the route of the Orient Express.
Here are some further shots of the station, as it would’ve appeared to James Bond.
High above the guichet, near the ceiling of the station, the minute hand of the big illuminated clock jumped forward an inch and said ‘Nine’.
(A guichet is the pickup window.)
Fleming’s reference to the “cheaply architectured burrow” may have only referred to the platform, as the main terminal is impressive, inside and out.
The station still stands and there is a restaurant and a museum inside the old terminal.
For a fantastic look at the route of the Orient Express through Turkey in 1950, check this feature on the work by LIFE photographer Jack Birns. (including the previous two photos above)