Friday, May 3, 2013

Keeping the Trains Running in Palestine Was Not So Easy

Train being turned in the Jerusalem train station (circa 1900)
The first train to Jerusalem was inaugurated in 1892 during the Ottoman rule of Palestine.  The steep climb from Jaffa through the mountains to Jerusalem was slow and dangerous.  The sharp curves meant frequent derailments. 

These pictures come from the Library of Congress' American Colony collection.

The rail system in the Holy Land was also a hodgepodge of different rail widths.  The original rail to Jerusalem was 1 meter wide. Some rail lines from Cairo were standard gauge (1.435 meter); others were part of the Hejaz railroad (1.050 meter).  And during Britain's campaign in Palestine against the Turks they introduced temporary narrow gauge (600 mm) rail lines from Jaffa and between Jerusalem and Ramallah.

Narrow gauge line in Jaffa, built on
a wider road bed. Jews were expelled
from Jaffa by the Turks in World War I
and rails were removed for use in the
Turkish war effort. This picture, therefore,
 is almost certainly taken soon after the war.
Australian army engineers in two
light locomotives near Jerusalem (1918)

As the British pushed the Turks out of Palestine they rebuilt the rail lines destroyed by the Turks. In the case of the "temporary" Jerusalem-Ramallah line, they used narrow gauge rails.  By 1920 they had rebuilt the Jaffa-Jerusalem line with standard gauge.

The re-dedication of the line was celebrated by the British High Commissioner Sir Herbert Samuel who apparently drove the locomotive between Jaffa and Lod.

British High Commissioner Sir
Herbert Samuel driving in the last
spike in Jaffa (1920)

Military, temporary light train between
Jerusalem and Ramallah, near the
Tomb of the Judges and view here  (1918)
Samuel at the controls of the train
opening the Jaffa-Jerusalem route
(October 5, 1920)
Samuel responding to the crowds lining the train route

The Library of Congress captions this picture "A crowd of
men and women" and dates it as between 1925 and 1946. It
is almost certainly Samuel's dedication, probably at Lod,
in 1920. (All pictures are from the Library of Congress)

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Click on pictures to enlarge. Click on captions to view the original pictures. 

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