Railways in the United Arab Emirates

The UAE is another country which might be thought to have had no railways before the metro and monorail were built in Dubai. However there were some lines.

[Photo of train in Dubai. Thomas Kautzor]


Thomas Kautzor went in search of railways in Dubai’s parks on 25-27 November 2004, and kindly supplied these photos (© Thomas Kautzor, 2004.)

Mushrif Park

Mushrif Park is the largest of the four parks and consists mainly of scrubland. There is a plinthed standard gauge train on a short section of track alongside a concrete platform, with a plaque saying OLD MUSHRIF PARK TRAIN (1975).

A four-wheel Baguley-Drewry diesel locomotive is accompanied by two wooden-bodied four-wheel coaches, all painted in blue. The coaches are built on the frames of goods wagons, are braked and have builder’s plates reading BUTTERLEY Co. Ltd. 1968, Builders Codnor Park, Nottingham.

[Photo of train in Dubai. Thomas Kautzor]

[Photo of train in Dubai. Thomas Kautzor]


Eljas Pölhö and the Halcrow website provide some details of the railway.

By the late 1960s Dubai’s growing trade meant a new and modern port was needed, as large ships could only approach to a mile from the shore. Work was underway in 1967, with Sir William Halcrow & Partners as consulting engineers and Costain Civil Engineering Ltd as contractor.

The breakwaters for the port were composed of rock brought by road from Bayadat Quarry, some 20 miles inland, and then transferred to a standard gauge railway at a large construction yard adjacent to the future port’s site. When the breakwaters were completed in 1971 the track was lifted and all rolling stock stored in an adjacent plant yard.

Halcrow has some archive film of the railway in action in 1970 on its website. See the Port Rashid, Dubai video, from about 09:11 onwards.

The port opened in 1972, named after Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai.

Further extensions of the breakwaters were commenced in late 1975, but this time road vehicles were used for all transportation of materials.


[Photo of train in Dubai. Thomas Kautzor]

[Photo of train in Dubai. Thomas Kautzor]

[Photo of train in Dubai. Thomas Kautzor]

Costain International had five locomotives, Baguley-Drewry 3655-3657 of 1968 (numbered L1 to L3, new to Costain International) and RH 418595 of 1957 and 418599 of 1958 (L4 and L5, previously used in three other locations). They had also 18 flat wagons, built by Butterley Co Ltd, Codnor Park Works.

[Photo of train in Dubai. Thomas Kautzor]

[Photo of train in Dubai. Thomas Kautzor]

[Photo of train in Dubai. Thomas Kautzor]

[Photo of train in Dubai. Thomas Kautzor]

The preserved locomotive is the former L1. Before being plinthed it was used from December 1975 to 1981 in Musrif National Park, an irrigated oasis 12 km east along the main road from the international airport. The park was opened by the ruler of Dubai in December 1975, together with the half-mile long railway which was built by Costain International Ltd who presented one locomotive and two flat wagons converted to passenger coaches.

The line was to be extended to form a loop, but this never happened and it was abandoned by 1981.

L4 and L5 were scrapped in Dubai about September 1975.

L2 and L3 were stored in Costain’s plant yard in 1981. In 1983 they were dumped amongst other disused plant at Bayadat Quarry, in the desert about 30 km out of Dubai on the Al Ain road, shortly before the Jebel Ali-Hatta crossroads. They were disposed of along with other machinery sometime between March 1987 and 1991.

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Safa Park

At Safa Park Thomas Kautzor found a 60 cm (see below) gauge railway loop with a station/shelter at one end and a tunnel at the other. Inside the tunnel was a derailed train consisting of one steam-outline diesel locomotive (2’B no.115) and two bogie open coaches (15 seats each).

[Photo of train in Dubai. Thomas Kautzor]

[Photo of train in Dubai. Thomas Kautzor]

[Photo of train in Dubai. Thomas Kautzor]

[Photo of train in Dubai. Thomas Kautzor]

Given the condition of the track, this railway seemed not to have operated for quite some time.

Another report says a 381 mm (15 in) gauge miniature railway was in operation in 1981 in a park in the western suburbs of Dubai – could this be the same thing?

Road trains

As well as ‘proper’ trains, there are rubber-tyred road trains in the parks at

  1. Al Mamzar Beach Park, Hamroya
  2. Creekside Park, near Dubai Courts
  3. Mushrif Park, Al Rashidiya
  4. Safa Park, Jumeira

Abu Dhabi

Khalifa Park

“A miniature railway offers regular train tours” in Khalifa Park in Abu Dhabi. I visited Abu Dhabi in 2011, but didn’t get the chance to investigate further.


The information on this page is mostly assembled from postings to the World Diesel Loco mailing list by Richard Bowen, Thomas Kautzor, Daniel Osborne and Eljas Pölhö. Their quoted sources are

  • Industrial Railway Record 72 (1977), p74-76: The Railways of Dubai by W.F. Simms (includes two photos)
  • Continental Railway Journal 48 (1981), p356
  • Continental Railway Journal 53 (1983), p114
  • Continental Railway Journal 48 (1991), p493

Dubai’s first ‘metro’ – article on railways in Dubai

PMV website screenshot

Test running on the Dubai Metro has started in the past few days, inspiring a publication called PMV to look at the previous railways of Dubai.

The article, dated May 13 2008, is called Dubai’s first ‘metro’ and is based on my Railways in the United Arab Emirates page.

Most of the details were supplied to me by Eljas Pölhö and Thomas Kautzor (who also took the pictures), and so they deserve a credit.