Idea #558 – Getting on the Osman train of Hejaz in Jordan
The railroad of Hedjaz is a line of train which connected Damascus in Syria to Medina, by crossing through the Hedjaz, a region in the northwest of Saudi Arabia. Built on order of sultan Abdul Hamid II, the initial project is then thought as a religious railroad, intended to facilitate the pilgrimage in Mecca, but also to strengthen the influence of the Ottomans on the whole region and to favor the trade between Damascus and Medina. Building work begins in 1900 and are mainly financed by the Ottoman State, with the assistance of Germany, and managed by the German engineer August Meissner, says “August Pacha”.
This railway presents two remarkable peculiarities: it supported no debt when it was put into service, and the way was under the sea level, on several kilometers. The line reached Medina on September 1st, 1908, anniversary of the entry in the throne of the sultan. Unfortunately, to respect necessarily this date, it was necessary to make as quickly as possible and sections of ways are directly put on elevations in the beds of some oueds. The project announced to extend the line to Mecca has never been realized. The line does not go further south that Medina, in 1 300 km in the South of Damascus.
From the beginning, the railroad was the object of attacks by the nearby Arabic tribes. Even if these attacks never succeed, the Turks managed to control the ground on no more than one or two kilometers on both sides of the way. Some sections were put on metallic crossbars to counter the local habits which consisted in using wooden crossbars to feed the fires of camps ! The line was repeatedly damaged during the fights of the World War I, in particular because of the attacks of the Arabic bands managed by Lawrence of Arabia. After the explosion of the Ottoman Empire, the railroad of Hedjaz was never handed in exploitation to the South of the border between Jordan and Saudi Arabia. An attempt of reopening of the line was made in the middle of 1960s, but it was abandoned because of the Six-Day War. Two parts of the line of Hedjaz work always nowadays, in Syria and in Jordan, and constitute moreover the main part of the Jordanian railroads. A line connects Damascus in Amman, and the other one the phosphate mines in the gulf of Aqaba. In 2004, the historic terminus of the station of Hedjaz in Damascus was closed, and the line finishes now at the station Qadam, in the suburb of Damascus.
Where is it ?
Hejaz train station, Wadi Rum, Jordan