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.

Maqil light railway pictures

Maqil light railway

Rainer Fuchs, who has a comprehensive website on Iraqi railway stamps, has found some wonderful vintage stereoscopic photographs of the Magil – Basra railway and the Magil light railway.

They are labelled with the name of Sunbeam Tours, who appear to have been at 37 Bedford Street, Strand, London WC2.

Maqil/Magil is near Basra, and seems to have a had a complicated mix of 2′, 2’6″ and metre gauge railways from World War I onwards.

Maqil - Basra railway

Maqil - Basra railway

Saddam Hussein’s luxury train to return to service

This story seems to be all over the web today. Here is the Associated Press version, which many of the reports are taken from:

Saddam’s luxury train to return to service

Iraqi railway officials say Saddam Hussein’s personal luxury train will return to service next month.

Officials say the 23-carriage train will ferry passengers from Baghdad to the southern city of Basra.

Saddam’s luxury train to return to service from Associated Press

The train is described as French-built, with 23 carriages (more than one rake?) and three locomotives.

The locomotives have previously been reported as Thyssen-Henschel/EMD JT22CW locos DEM 2559, 2560 and 2561.

DEM 2561 is the loco on the right in this 2004 photo by Rick Degman.

Back in April 2003 The Times of Oman reported

Saddam’s phantom train is now a sorry sight

Saddam Hussein’s private train, which he never bothered to use, now sits vandalised and looted in a dark railyard in Baghdad’s deserted central station…Saddam preferred to travel by plane for security reasons…Three engines allocated for presidential use and another unit purely to supply electricity, glistening with new green paint, were built in 1984 by the German company Thyssen, as attested by a plaque fixed to their sides…The living quarters – five French-made carriages – comprised a lounge, a dining room, sleeping quarters and a seating area…

Baghdad – Basra in The Times

Today’s Times has an article It’s all aboard for hope as the Basra express leaves on time

It consists of nothing more than a locomotive, three rickety old carriages and a goods van, and, on this particular morning, only 20 passengers. But what matters is that a rudimentary service to Basra, abandoned as Iraq was engulfed by violence, is finally up and running again.

“Railroads are essential for reconstruction. Our focus is on infrastructure building before we do any more passenger lines,” Mr Omun said, arguing that trains are much safer and far cheaper than moving goods along checkpoint-littered, bandit-infested, bomb-pocked roads using Iraq’s deeply corrupt trucking industry

Picking out the anorak stuff

The 310-mile (500km)journey takes them 12 hours because the line is in such terrible condition. And with tickets costing only $4 (£2), or $8 for a couchette…

…grimy 23-year-old French-made coaches…

Saddam Hussein’s personal carriages stand alongside [Baghdad Central] Platform 8, long since stripped of their gold and silver fittings.

[Mick Omun, an American official who is co-ordinating US and Iraqi efforts to rebuild the network] reckons that only 20 per cent of the IRR’s rolling stock and fewer than 60 of its 225 locomotives — mostly Chinese or Russian — are still functional. “The rest are junk,” he said

.. the service resumed on December 16…

The full article can be read on the Times website

It would probably be being pessimistic to link to a Telegraph article on a similar journey in June 2003 (when it only cost 60p!), or a visitor’s photos.

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.