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TRAIN SPOTTING.

Train Museums
Israel Railways Train Museum is in the Haifa East Station. The collection of dusty relics is nothing to get excited about. On the other hand, the Cairo Railway Museum is a must for serious train spotters. On display are the royal trains of the Khedives and their  magnificent carriages. The museum was opened in 1933 on the occasion of the Cairo Railway Conference.

Train Stations
In Israel, the "train" thing to see is the Turkish and British stations and bridges. Typical Turkish railway stations can be seen in Jerusalem, Beersheba, and Kfar Yehoshua. Interesting bridges are the bridges over the Yarmuk River (blown up by the Haganah) and the bridge and station at Ezuz. Don't expect  European central stations. For remnants of the British Mandate, see the Rosh Hanikra Tunnel (walk through it to the sea grottos) and the Lydda station.


TRAIN NOSTALGIA

Famous Engine Saved from the Scrap Yard

The two locomotives that arrived in Israel in 1954 were considered by the local train buffs to be a technological miracle. They had diesel engines, did not smoke and could haul a much bigger load than the old steam engines that the British had left in Israel.
Locomotives 101 and 103, the two first Hebrew engines, ran the rails of Israel Railways, the government railway company, for 46 years. In 1998, they were retired from service. 103 was refurbished and placed in the Train Museum in Haifa. 101 was left to rot in Israel Railways' workshops near the Kishon River in Haifa.

After deliberating for seven years what to do with the massive metal hulk standing in the workshop, the management of Israel Railways decided to sell 101 to the scrap yard. The metal merchants were ready to pay US$ 4,500 for the iron.
When the news reached the Israel Train Club, a group of train history enthusiasts, they steamed into action. 101 is not just scrap iron, it is an important part of Israel's transport history, says Hen Meling, one of the leaders of the struggle to save the train.

Engine 101 (right) at the Kishon workshop
Photo by Chen Melling. For more on Israel Rail-lore go to Chen Melling's site - Railway News Israel (http://www.railnewsil.com)

The pressure, and the negative publicity Israel Railways has been getting for the past year, following quite a number of deadly train collisions, helped. A few hours before the train was to be hacked to pieces, Israel Railways' new CEO, Ofer Lintchevsky, halted the process. On October 12, Israel Railways spokesperson, Benny Nahor, announced that "the engine will not be dismantled because Israel Railways feels that the preservation of Israel's transport history is of the utmost importance."
Hopefully, the Railway Club will make sure that Israel Railways keeps its word.


The Emek Train - from Haifa to Damascus
 

The Valley Train, Rakevet Ha'emek, was inaugurated in 1905 as a supply route for equipment to build the Hijaz Railway, which would connect Istanbul, Damascus, and Medina. Once it was built, the railway served as the only connection between the Jezreel and Jordan Valleys and the Coastal Plain. This was the route taken by the settlers of Deganiya and Nahalal, the first kibbutz and moshav, and the workers at the new electric plant built by Pinhas Rothenberg at Naharayim.

Read details and memoirs about the Emek Train in the October 2005 Issue of ERETZ Magazine. Click here to subscribe.

 

 


Steam Train on the Haifa-Damascus line

A Short History of the Railroads
On September 26, 1892, the first railway in the Land of Israel was inaugurated. It was the French-built Jaffa-Jerusalem line, one of the first  railroad lines to be built in the Middle East.
It was followed by the Haifa-Damascus Railroad, laid in 1905, as the supply route for the Hijaz Railway - from Damascus to Medina.
In the next decade, until the beginning of World War I, the railway system in the Land of Israel expanded, with lines to Nablus, Kalkiliya, and Beersheba.
With the outbreak of WWI, the Turks advanced towards the Suez Canal, supplying their troops by rail, along a track laid from Beersheba to Kadesh Barnea in the Sinai.
The British, in the meantime, advanced along the coast, towards Gaza, laying down another set of railroad tracks as they went.
Once the British forces reached Gaza, the Turks dismantled the Beersheba-Sinai train and built a track connecting Beersheba and Gaza, along the front lines.
During the British Mandate, rail transport developed rapidly, mushrooming during WWII, when Palestine became a major marshalling area for British Forces. Lydda, adjacent to the airport (today Ben-Gurion International Airport) became a major railroad hub. At the end of the war, the Rosh Hanikra Tunnel was dug connecting Egypt and Palestine with Lebanon and Turkey. Orient Express travelers could now take the train from London and Paris to Cairo.
With the creation of the State of Israel, the vast Middle East railroad network disintegrated. All that remained was Israel Railroads - a small uninspiring company that managed to get a train from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in three hours.
In the last decade, Israel Railroads has modernized and it seems that rail traffic, especially commuter traffic along the coast, is rebounding.

 
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