A ride from Baghdad to Basra

The Washington Post of 1 April 2009 has a feature by Anthony Shadid who rode the tran from Baghdad to Basra.

A Journey Into the Iraq of Recollection

Two clock towers stand like sentinels on each side of a turquoise dome built half a century ago. Musty ticket counters advertise lines that no longer run: to Mosul, to Husaybah, and across the border, to Syria and Turkey. Flickering chandeliers illuminate distinctions — Couchette Class, Tourist Class — that no longer matter.

There are some photos of the train interiors.

The Financial Times also had a version of the same article, Iraqis back on track to a normal life. At 6.25pm, the horn blows and home-bound workers and students throw their jackets, shoulder bags and tightly rolled carpets on the rack overhead. They settle into frayed green leather seats – their murmur like that of an audience before a play.

Iraqi Republic Railways rolls back into Taji

An 11 February press release from Multi-National Force Iraq has a few details of the train.

The locomotive is DHL160 (I think!), one of 12 Type DH12000 diesel-hydraulic Bo-Bo locos supplied by Tülomsas of Turkey in late 2004 and early 2005.
The first locomotive on Camp Taji since 2004 comes through Train Gate on Feb. 10 to begin the Proof of Principle Rail Mission of moving 40 containers from Camp Taji to Umm Qasr (Photo Sgt Mike Brantley/DVIDS)

Iraqi Railroad rolls back into Taji

CAMP TAJI, Iraq – Iraqi national distribution capability took a big step forward Tuesday as the Iraqi Railroad successfully picked up cargo from Iraqi Transportation Network trucks at Camp Taji and moved it to the Port of Umm Qasr.

The rail spur at Taji opened for cargo movement for the first time since 2004. A 20-car IRR train owned and operated by the Government of Iraq picked up 40 empty containers for movement to the port of Umm Qasr. The operation was an important step in an effort to linking Iraqi trucking, Iraqi rail, and Iraqi port operations.

One Iraqi with a critical role in the day’s event stated the operation was a sign of Iraq’s rebuilding effort. “It’s our country and we want to serve our country. Whatever it takes to do, we’ll do it. So we came here to serve our country; rebuild it,” Mohammed, the train’s conductor said through an interpreter.

The IRR is a key piece of transportation infrastructure for Iraq according to Maj. Scott D. Meyer, Strategic Mobility – IRR Program Officer, Multi-National Force-Iraq. Meyer said that Iraq has a geographic advantage to turn it into a hub for moving cargo from the port at Umm Qasr to Turkey, Syria and Jordan. The rail lines themselves are in good repair and Iraq has experienced operators for running the trains, Meyer added.

Meyer said that the IRR and Iraqi Transportation Network, a consortium of all Iraqi owned trucking companies, are working together to move cargo efficiently. Where the ITN is responsible for short-haul of cargo and the IRR is responsible for long-haul.

“Trucks are more efficient with short-haul and trains are more efficient with the long haul,” Meyer said. As part of the Tuesday’s rail operation, ITN trucks delivered the 40 containers eventually uploaded on IRR rail cars.

In addition to demonstrating transportation infrastructure progress, these initial small rail movements will eventually prove the IRR is ready for regular transportation of cargo added Meyer. He stated as the IRR moves more and more cargo for both the Iraqis and Coalition forces it offers the option to move Iraqi transporters and Coalition forces off Iraq’s roads.

Upon arrival in Umm Qasr, the IRR will load cargo and move it back through Iraq.

Sustainers and transportation experts from the 10th Sustainment Brigade provided partnership and planning for the Tuesday’s operation. Maj. Peter P. Vien, Brigade Engineer, 10th Sust. Bde. said that coordination involved all echelons of command starting at MNF-I, through the 3rd Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), the 10th Sust. Bde.’s higher command.

“I think it was very successful, because this will be the first time we had the Iraqis come into Taji and pick-up stuff and move it out, Vien said.

Source: Multi-National Force Iraq, release 20090211-05

Container train from Camp Taji to Umm Qasr

A 14 February 2009 release about rail services to Camp Taji, by Sgt. Mike Brantley of the 10th Sustainment Brigade Public Affairs Office.

Loading containers at Camp Taji (Photo: Sgt Mike Brantley/DVIDS)

Railroad Operations Come Back to Camp Taji

CAMP TAJI, Iraq – The rusted steel railroad tracks lay in wait. Two concrete barriers that had stood in front of a black metal gate for more than five years sat off to the right as security forces opened the gate leading to Main Supply Route Tampa and to the first train to enter Camp Taji since 2004.

A rail master summoned the oncoming train, both arms raised. The train began slowly moving across Tampa and forward through the gate and onto post.

Once the engine, pulling 20 empty railroad cars, entered the post, the gates were secured and the barriers replaced, thus beginning railroad operations here again.

Maj. Scott Meyer, Strategic Mobility – Iraqi Railroad, or IRR, Program Manager with the Multi-National Force – Iraq, said this was the first time in five years that empty containers were loaded for coalition forces on the Iraqi Public Railroad.

“This will continue the circle of commodities flowing into Iraq,” the Naugatuck, Conn., native said, referring to the train’s two-day trek to the port city of Umm Qasr on the Persian Gulf. “The proof of principle shows it’s a safe, efficient and cheaper manner and takes Soldiers off of the road.”

The train engine pulled the cars forward, each holding two containers. Once the cars were loaded, the engine unhooked, pulled forward, switched tracks and came around to what was the rear of the railroad cars to hook up to take the cars off post to the Taji Station for further movement south and onward to Kuwait.

The train conductor, Mohammed, said that he is proud to serve his country and to help rebuild it. He said that he has worked in the railroad business since 1994.

The 10th Sustainment Brigade has the lead to synchronize all rail efforts at Taji, said Maj. Peter Vien, 10th Sustainment Brigade engineer, and Orlando, Fla., native. “In addition, we also worked with the IRR in the last several months to repair the damaged rail spur so that it can accommodate limited train operations.” He said it was a successful mission since “we achieved the mission end state – to be able to load 40 empty containers on the train and ship them out of Camp Taji in four hours.”

Meyer added that a follow-on mission will continue this operation and bring cargo from Umm Qasr to Taji as an efficient means of transport, and will give the Iraqis more pride and shows they can move the cargo and validates the transportation corridor between Umm Qasr and Taji. “The IRR is the heart and soul of inland distribution with Iraq being a land bridge.”

Vien said that this will directly impact on coalition forces’ abilities to retrograde equipment and material in the future. It also indicates the possibility of expansion of rail operations to other parts of Iraq, he said. “This will revitalize the IRR and will have direct impact on the Iraqi economy.”

Source: DVIDS

Iraq takes over Reyad station from US

Map showing location of Reyad

The US military has handed over control of the railway station in Reyad to the local authorities, after using it as Patrol Base Howell.

The map shows the approximate location of Reyad, on the line from Haqlaniyah via Biji to Kirkuk. A groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of the line was held in Baiji on 8 February 1983, and a ceremonial inauguration in the presence of the then Minister of Communication Mohammed Hamza Al Zubaidi was held on November 7 1987

U.S. Forces Transfer Riyadh Train Station Back to Iraqis

By Spc. Karla P. Elliott
11th Public Affairs Detachment

FORWARD OPERATING BASE WARRIOR, KIRKUK, Iraq – As part of the new security agreement and due to improved security in the city of Riyadh, coalition forces and local Iraqi government officials held a ceremony to transfer the Riyadh Train Station, formerly known by coalition forces as Patrol Base Howell, back to the Kirkuk Department of Transportation Jan. 3.

“The train station transfer went smoothly and the sounds of trains will signal a return to normalcy,” said Shakir Mahmood, director of transportation for Kirkuk province.

The transfer is a major step toward restoring the rail service in Kirkuk province. The remaining task is to complete the final span of the Bayji Railroad Bridge that links the Kirkuk rail line with the Samarra to Bayji line.

“Once the train station is functioning, it will help energize the economy as well as decrease the number of commercial vehicles travelling on the roads,” said Mohamad Ahmad Hussein, the mayor of Riyadh.

Coalition forces also noted the significance of the event.

“I’m honored to be here this morning among you to mark the transfer of the Riyadh Train Station from coalition forces to the people of Iraq,” said Lt. Col. Kenneth R. Casey, commander of 1st Battalion, 67th Armor Regiment, attached to the 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division. “Today represents one of the many transitions happening across Iraq, with the improved security situation provided by the Iraqi police, Iraqi army, Sons of Iraq and U.S. forces.”

The transfer played an important part in CF efforts to start giving their areas of responsibility back to the Iraqis.

“Patrol Base Howell is a great example of what U.S. forces are trying to do, which is to give the infrastructure back to the Iraqis to use for their intended purposes,” Casey said.

PB Howell has sheltered coalition forces for more than a year, and many Soldiers have called this place a home.

“It’s hard for us to leave because this has been our home for a while,” said Capt. Thomas Strum, commander of D Co., 1st Battalion, 67th Armor Regt. “It’s been great to live so close to the people that we serve here in the town of Riyadh, but it’s an important step forward.”

“We’ll move on and continue to do what we do,” said 1st Sgt. Michael Oliver, 1st Sgt., Co. D, 1-67th Armor Regt. “Although we’re not here, we’re still going to help them build a better country.”

“The movement of American forces within Iraq shows the people that there is validity to the security agreement,” said Sturm. “This is definitely a symbol of Iraqi sovereignty,” he concluded.

Source: DVIDS press release 2009-01-06

In Baghdad, a Trip to Nowhere

In the 29 December 2008 story In Baghdad, a Trip to Nowhere Washington Post Staff Photographer Andrea Bruce takes a ride on the Baghdad commuter train.

At 5:30 a.m., everything is dark at the Baghdad Central Station. There are no passengers about, and most of the gates are still locked. The morning train, the only working train, leaves the station with a deep, heavy rhythm that vibrates through the six passenger cars. Only the engine has electricity. There are no lights.

A Baghdad commute is a collection of some quite artistic photos Bruce took of the trip – it’s not everywhere people skin sheep alongside comuuter lines.

Tülomsas delivers five locos to Iraqi Republic Railways

Tulomsas DH7000B locomotive for Iraqi Republic Railways

Turkish locomotive and rolling stock manufacturer Tülomsas has built another five new locomotives for Iraqi Republic Railways. They were handed over to IRR in a ceremony at Ankara railway station in Turkey on 24 December 2008.

Turkish Minister of Transportation Binali Yildrim, General Director of Turkish state railway TCDD Süleyman Karaman and Iraq’s Minister of Transportation Amer Abdul Jabar Ismail were at the event.

The four-axle FP DH7000B diesel-hydraulic shunting locos are rated at 700 hp, weigh 67 tonnes and are flame-proof for use in refineries.

Tülomsas has now supplied to IRR with a total of 31 locos: previous orders covered 12 x DH12000 1200 hp diesel-hydraulic Bo-Bo locomotives, and 14 x DH10000 of 1050 hp.

See The export attack from Tülomsas, a press release dated 2008-12-24.

Newsweek looks at reviving Iraq’s railways

Newsweek has a 19 December 2008 report A Railway’s Painful Rebirth by Jessica Ramirez.

There is another video of the Baghdad commuter service – including cab views, Chinese and Turkish built locos, sheep, and motorists with a cavalier attitude to level crossing safety.

… Iraq’s railways, which came to a halt during the war, have reopened two lines in the last two months. There is now a Friday train to Samarra and a commuter train, Baghdad’s first, which makes two round trips a day between the Central Baghdad Station and the District of Dora. Railway workers consider these the first signs of progress for an industry trying to recover from the looting, murders and bombings that ravaged it after the U.S-led invasion. In a larger sense, they also reflect the long-term impact of conflict and the struggle to get a country back on track.