The International Steam Pages


Israel Industrial Railways, February 21st - 25th, 2015
Narrow gauge Part 1

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The main base for researching and locating preserved industrial locomotives was the series of 13 articles on the industrial railways of Palestine and Israel by the late Paul Cotterell, as published in the Industrial Railway Record (IRR) between May 1991 and September 2013, as well as articles in HaRakevet.

In 1926, the Palestine Electric Corporation (PEC)(IRR No. 152, 03/1998, pp. 455-468), founded by Ukrainian-born Pinhas Rutenberg in 1923, obtained a concession from the British authorities to build an electric power station at Naharayim (Two Rivers), the confluence of the Jordan and Yarmuk rivers. The two rivers then formed the border between Palestine and Transjordan and today between Israel and Jordan. Across the border, land for the project was granted by Emir Abdullah. Building work commenced in 1927 and lasted four years. An eight-metre high dam was built on the Yarmuk and a six-metre high dam on the Jordan, linked by a 1800 metre long canal, while another 400 metre long channel supplied water to the turbine house. Just as work was completed, an unprecedented flooding of the Yarmuk River caused extensive damage to the structures, and repair work took another year. Finally, on June 9, 1932, the power station was inaugurated in the presence of Emir Abdullah and the British High Commissioner to Palestine. Its initial capacity of 12 MW was supplemented by an additional 6 MW turbine in 1933.

The power station operated until May 14, 1948, when upon the proclamation of the State of Israel, it was captured by Arab forces, put out of use and left to decay. Its ruins can today still be found on HaShalom (Peace) Island.

During construction, a 600mm gauge railway built which connected with the Hedjaz Railway branch from Haifa to Dera’a (which run over a short section of Trans-Jordanian territory at this point). Known motive used on the construction railway included at least ten war surplus ex-WDLR Hunslet 4-6-0Ts, together with some second-hand German built steam locos (OK 50 HP 0-4-0WT 12155/1930 obtained from OK Cairo in 1931 and two unidentified Borsig 0-4-0WT). Two German 0-8-0T ‘Brigadeloks’ were also obtained from Egypt (LH 1517/1917 and an unidentified Henschel, ex Komombo sugar mill), but were returned without having seen any use. At least one petrol/paraffin loco (with 42/43 hp Dorman 4J0 engine No. 6320) was obtained from F.C. Hibberd in 1928, possibly a ‘protected’ Motor Rail tractor. At least some of the Hunslet steam locos were later used at other construction sites in Israel.

During a visit to the area in 1981, Walter Rothschild was able to spot a derelict steam loco at the ruined power station site at Naharayim from the Israeli side of the Jordan River. Then, in 10/1994, after a formal peace treaty had been signed between Israel and Jordan, Omri Shalmon from the nearby Kibbutz Gesher obtained the permission to retrieve the loco, which turned out to be a Hunslet 4-6-0T, later identified as PEC No. H7, ex WDLR No. 353 (HE 1265/1917). A bulldozer was used to clear a path through the minefield, after which the remains (engine unit complete with wheels, motion and cylinders, side tanks, cab and sand dome) were put on a lorry and taken to the kibbutz garage for storage. At around the same time a museum had been established nearby at the site of the Gesher Police Fort, which was seized from the British forces by the Haganah in 04/1948 and held during the ensuing battle. This is the location of two road bridges (one Ottoman and the other British) and the Hedjaz Railway bridge across the Jordan River, the lowest point on the Earth reached by a public railway. The steam loco was taken to Kibbutz Ein Shemer near Hadera and rebuilt by Ran Hedvati. A new boiler containing a Ford 4 cylinder petrol engine was fabricated to replace the missing boiler. In 05/2004 the now-functional loco returned to “Old Gesher” (http://www.gesher.org.il/, open Sun-Thu 10.00-16.00, Fri/hol. eves 09.00-14.00) where it can operate along with five tipper wagons on a 200 metre length of 600mm gauge track laid in the middle of the border road. These days it does not operate very often, but can be seen in the small open-sided shed at the museum site, which also includes the blown-up Hedjaz Railway bridge with four wagons. The body of a standard gauge four-wheel covered wagon (plate The Birmingham Rly. Carriage & Wagon Co. Ltd., Smethwick, England 1934) is used as an office at the gate.

Since the 1994 peace treaty, HaShalom (Peace) Island with the Rutenberg Power Station ruins at Naharayim has been administered by the Israeli although it remains Jordanian territory. It could be formerly accessed through an Israeli border police checkpoint but has been closed for some time now. On the Israeli side there is a café and on top of a hill an observation point, with two Israeli Railways four-wheel self-discharge ballast wagons below it. Across the Yarmuk River on the island itself a length of 600mm gauge track has been laid on top of the concrete dam and sluice gates, with a tipper wagon and some four-wheel frames. In 10/1994, from the observation point, Paul Cotterell photographed the remains of a Motor Rail ‘protected’ tractor (possibly the loco supplied by Hibberd in 1928) among the ruins of the power plant. It was still reported at the same location in 01/1997, but we were not able to see anything resembling it as the area where it could have been was very overgrown (partly due the frequent rains in the weeks preceding our visit).

The Israel (formerly Palestine) Salt Company (IRR No. 124, May 1991, pp. 244-249)at Atlit (20 km south of Haifa) used a 600mm gauge into the salt pans until sometime during the 1960s. Three of the company’s Ruston diesels are known to have survived:

RH No. 175415/1936 (18/21 hp Lister 2-cylinder engine No. CS 15377), which had been built to 2 feet gauge, is thought to have been the railway’s first locomotive, prior to its arrival the the skips were moved by hand or animal. After the railway closed it was dumped at the transfer IR transfer siding. It has since been restored by Ran Hedvati at Kibbutz Ein Shemer and has been put on display in front of the company’s (now Salt of the Earth Ltd.) office building together with two tipper wagons;

RH LBT No. 432656/1959 and 432660/1959 (Ruston 2YDA engine No. 432172) were acquired by Oved Michaeli at Kibbutz Ein Harod (Meuhad) in the Jezreel Valley in 1971 along with four tipper wagons which were rebuilt into passenger cars. No. 432656 was then used for some years on the kibbutz’ 400 metre children railway, until that operation was abandoned. It then went to Kibbutz Pardes Hanna-Karkur where it was dumped until recently sold via Kibbutz Ein Shemer to a private owner.

No. 432660 on the other hand remained dumped outside the kibbutz’ garage until it was acquired by Ran Hedvati at Kibbutz Ein Shemer (NE of Hadera), who rebuilt it to (supposedly) look like a steam locomotive and equipped it with a Ford 4 cylinder petrol engine for use on “Rakevet Ha’Alonim” (The Oaks Railway, http://courtyard.co.il/wp/english_pages/), the kibbutz’ 1.5 km children's railway. The line runs around the edge of the kibbutz, at both ends there are short sidings with small turntables for turning the loco, while the train is shunted with a winch or by the children. There are four open-sided 8-seat coaches, while the frames of two tipper wagons are on display at the station. (There are more pictures at the bottom of this page, Deutz 57082 is also here, see Part 2.)

“An Italian Orenstein & Koppel Locomotive in Israel” (IRR No. 165, 05/2001, pp. 517-518, updated in IRR 173, p. 349) reported the arrival in 1999 of an OK MD1 diesel at Kibbutz Ein Harod (Meuhad), acquired by the late Oved Michaeli from Kibbutz Sdot Yam, where it had operated for about 15 years on the children’s railway. It was originally brought to Israel in the 1960s by an Italian company doing excavation work at the Caesarea archeological site. At the time of our visit the loco remained dumped/stored at the kibbutz, together with the kibbutz’ four passenger coaches (two open, two enclosed) built on Atlit Salt Co. frames, the dismantled track, a small corrugated iron loco shed, a replica water tower and some 1050mm gauge track panels from the Hedjaz Railway, all part of the large agricultural collection once assembled by Michaeli. At the time the builder’s No. on the works plate was reported as 804, which didn’t make much sense, however close inspection of the plate revealed that it was clearly MD1 No. 8044/1938, a loco delivered to Sesto (Italy) as part of a large order of MD1, LD2 and RL1c according to the Merte list (which however shows this as an LD2). “Fabbrica STOSGIOV”, also stamped on the plate, stands for Sesto San Giovanni, a Milano suburb where OK had a works and depot.

At nearby Kibbutz Heftziba (HeFtsibah) near Beit Alfa (west of Beit She’an in the Jezreel Valley), we visited an old quarry which produced marble, limestone and aggregates from 1942 to 1952. In 2009 it was restored as a park with a short section of 600mm gauge track and a tipper wagon rebuilt by Ran Hedvati using an OK frame from the Atlit salt works and a skip from Migda Tzedek (ref. “The Restored Devauville Wagon at Heftzi-Ba Quarry by Amith Ben-Shalom, HarRakevet No. 86, 09/2009, pp. 15-16).


These are fuirther pictures of the railway at Kibbutz Ein Shemer:


Sources:

Paul Cotterell, “The Railways of Palestine and Israel”, Tourret Publishing, U.K., 1984;

Paul Cotterell, “Make Straight The Way – A Historical Album of Railways in the Land of Israel”, Israel Railways, Tel Aviv, 2009;

Various issues of the Industrial Railway Record (as mentioned in the text), http://www.irsociety.co.uk/Archives/back_issues.htm

Various issues of HaRakevet magazine, http://www.harakevet.com/.


Click here for Part 2.


Rob Dickinson

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