Egyptian Railways website

Mark Goldfinch, author of the excellent book Steel in the Sand, has an unofficial website on Egyptian Railways.

The Egyptian Railways Diwan is described as “a website and blog area intended to fill the need for a space on the internet dedicated to people to share their knowledge, expertise, news, photos and stories about Egyptian Railways”, and looks well worth keeping an eye on.

If you have any kind of interest in the history of Egypt’s railways – or in the country itself during the railway era – I’d strong recommend acquiring a copy of Steel in the Sand; see this reviewed published by Railway Gazette International.

New book on Jaffa to Jerusalem railway

I’ve been sent a plug for a forthcoming book On Chariots with Horses of Fire and Iron. The Excursionists and the Narrow Gauge Railroad from Jaffa to Jerusalem.

I’ve not yet seen a copy myself, but it has to be in the running for “book title of the year”!

On Chariots with Horses of Fire and Iron
The Excursionists and the Narrow Gauge Railroad from Jaffa to Jerusalem

by Anthony S Travis
Book cover

This book deals with the arrival of modernity in the Holy Land in the form of the 86 km Jaffa-Jerusalem Railway. Befitting the completion of such a substantial undertaking, the inauguration, in September 1892, was a grand affair, attended by representatives of the Ottoman Empire, consuls, religious leaders, and foreign delegations. The tracks approached Jerusalem from the southwest through the Judean Mountains, taking advantage of the deep, winding river bed of the Soreq Valley. This afforded the least steep route, though even then the grades were a challenge for the locomotives. Since the tracks were of narrow meter-gauge they could easily follow the natural contours of the land on the ascent to Jerusalem, the highest point, at about 700 meters above sea level.

The railroad was the largest civil engineering project ever undertaken in the modern Holy Land. It was built to exploit the tremendous growth of pilgrim traffic and tourism during the second half of the nineteenth century. Though several proposals had been put forward since the 1850s, it was only in the 1880s that two young Jewish entrepreneurs, Joseph Navon of Jerusalem and Joseph Amzalak of Jaffa, backed by the Protestant banker Johannes Frutiger, were enabled to take the first steps leading to the acquisition of a license from the Ottoman government for laying down the iron rails. Unable to raise sufficient capital in Europe, Navon sold the license to a group of Catholic businessmen in Paris, who established the Société du Chemin de Fer Ottoman de Jaffa à Jérusalem et Prolongements. When the first locomotive was tested on a short length of track at Jaffa half the population turned up to witness the event, such was the novelty of the sight and sounds of the horse of fire and iron. Despite difficulties due to the low cost of construction and poor traffic during the early years, the railroad opened up Jerusalem to modern tourism, brought greater numbers of pilgrims, and contributed to the growth of the city. It also delivered fresh water in times of drought.

This is the most thoroughly researched publication ever to appear on the first railroad in the Holy Land. Moreover, it relies extensively on the one resource that best captures the spirit of the Jaffa-Jerusalem Railway: magnificent photographs, mainly taken between 1891 and 1914. These early photographs, gathered from archives in Israel, the United States, England and Germany, are supplemented with those taken by British forces from December 1917 on, from Israel, Australia and England, and a number of color images dating from the mid-1980s.

Details of locomotives and rolling stock, maps, tables of statistics, track plans, extensive notes, a bibliography, and index are included. The intended audiences, apart from general readers and railway enthusiasts, are historical geographers, historians of the Holy Land in modern times, and transport and tourism historians.

Source: Magnes Press

Jordan seeks funds for rail link

Investment wanted for better links to neighbours:

Jordan plans railway, oil link with Iraq

AMMAN – Jordan is seeking six billion dollars from international donors to build a railway link with its neighbours and plans to import Iraqi crude oil by rail, the transport ministry said on Sunday.

The railway would link Jordan’s Red Sea port of Aqaba in the south with the Syrian border, through Amman and then the industrial city of Zarqa, the ministry said in a report carried by the official Petra news agency. Covering more than 1,000 km (600 miles), the railway would also link the Saudi and Iraqi borders with Jordan’s northern city of Irbid as well as the northeastern towns of Mafraq and Azraq.

The report recommended that Iraqi crude oil be carried via rail, scrapping plans to build a 260-million-dollar pipeline between the two countries.

“Lack of funds is the only problem facing the project, which should be completed by 2013, and any delay would increase the costs,” Petra quoted the report as saying.

Amman and Baghdad agreed last year to study the possibility of building an oil pipeline from Iraq’s Haditha pumping station to Aqaba.

At the end of 2004, Jordan said it would conduct a feasibility study into building a pipeline between Haditha and Jordan’s sole refinery in the industrial city of Zarqa, northeast of Amman.

The kingdom was entirely dependent on Iraq for its oil before the 2003 toppling of Saddam Hussein, importing 5.5 million tonnes a year by road, half of it free of charge and the rest at preferential rates.

In June, Iraq agreed to renew a 2006 deal to provide Jordan, which imports 95 percent of its energy needs, with between 10 and 30 percent of its daily oil requirements of around 100,000 barrels at a preferential price.

I can’t find the “report carried by the official Petra news agency”, at least not in English, but Petra also reports:

Government seeks funding for the implementation of railway project

Amman, July 26: The cost of establishing a railway project linking major cities and production centers in the Kingdom with neighboring countries hampers the establishment of this project expected to cost JD4.3 billion, according to specialized a study announced by the Transport Ministry.

The government hopes to get the necessary funds to complete the project by 2013.

The study noted that JD2.8 billion will be allocated for infrastructure, while JD1.4 billion will be allocated for purchasing rail fleet.

It highlighted the need to start the process of establishing the project as soon as possible as any delay will increase the investment cost and will not be feasible in economic terms.

Minister of Transport Ala’a Batayneh announced that the government started to expropriate lands located on the railways track which extends to 1080 kilometers at a total cost of JD350 million.

Earlier, the cabinet, which examined results of the study, decided to form a ministerial steering committee led by the transport minister to follow up on the implementation of the project.

Batayneh said in a specialized workshop that was held to familiarize concerned official and private bodies on the project, that His Majesty King Abdullah directed the government to secure the necessary funding for the project which will enhance Jordan’s role in transport and transit operations.

Jordan was among 13 Arab countries that approved during meetings of ESCWA in Beirut a railway linkage agreement which gave those countries a period of 10-15 years to implement their internal railway.

Railways in Bahrain

A news story from last Friday (13 June 2008) was that a Bahrain-based investor has bought UK-based freight operator Freightliner.

Which indirectly raises the question of whether there are any railways in Bahrain? As far as I know there aren’t, but rather bizarrely thay have an ex-British Rail Mark I coach in use as a restaurant!

[An ex-British Railways mark One coach in Bahrain]

According to the Southern Electric Group, buffet car 69338 from 4Big unit 2206/7054 is the station restaurant for the Gulf Corporation in Bahrain.

[An ex-British Railways mark One coach in Bahrain]
Photos by David Kelso, March 2003

Kuwait to build rail network?

This week a Kuwaiti official has described plans for a 165 km, four-line metro to be built within six years. Perhaps now Dubai has one almost finished, everyone wants one?

Not only that, but there will be a 505.5 km rail system, eventually linking Saudi Arabia with Iraq, presumably somewhere near Basra. And it might even have links on to Iran, as well.

There have been rumours in the past of proposals for a railway to get supplies from the docks to US bases in Kuwait, taking lots of lorries off the emirate’s roads.

Iran – Iraq link

Railways Africa reports that a 15km line between Khorramshahr and Shalamcheh is nearing completion

Monday, 07 January 2008
According to an Iraqi transportation ministry announcement, the Baghdad government “’strongly supports” the implementation of a proposed rail project linking Iran and Iraq.

The Al-Alam TV network quoted Iraq Railways Javad Al-Khorrasan saying: “During the first phase of the project, a railway will cross from Basra and head to Iran via Shalamcheh.”

In terms of a second plan, a line is envisaged from Baghdad via the north west of Iraq to Monzariyah and thence into Iran.