The Hejaz Railway

Hejaz Railway
Figure 1.--The Hejaz Railway was a slender ribbon of modern technology penetrating the Arabian Peninsula which was little chabnged from the the times of Mohammed. While it was modern, it was vulnerable to attecks by lightly armed mobile bands. This was one of the bridges near Dera'a in Syrua. Notice the open flast cars which seems to have Turkish soldiers. Arab attackers could, however, allpow this train to pss and await for a softer target.

The Hejaz Railway was a 1050mm gauge railway originally built by the Ottoman Empire to maintain their hold on the Hejaz. Arabia was not a wealthy province of the Empire. Thus the freight carried on the Railway was not of much commercial importance. It was important to maintain Ottoman garrisons on the Arabian Peninsula. Its other principal importance was to transport pilgrims undertaking the Haj from the city of Damascus to Medina in Arabia. Before the railway this was an ardous journey. Pilgrims from throughout the Ottoman Empire could easily reach Damascus, but getting further south to Medina and Mecca was an ordeal. The railway was an enormos civil engineering project. The Ottomans built it by appealing for donations from Moslems seeking to make the their pilgrimage to Mecca. The main line was built by a multiracial labour force supervised by a German engineer. It was 820 miles (1,320 kilometres) long and transversed some very rough terraine. The Ottomans constructed the mainline (1901-08). It was one of the principal Ottoman rail lines, although usage other than military and pilgrims was limited. The Railway not only transversed diffifukt terraine, but cut across a land barely touched by time. The Arabs inhabiting the area lived iun a society that was littke chbged for a millenium. Thge Railway was one of the few features of modern technology to reach the Arabian Peninsula. And it was not popular. The bedouins benefitted from controlling the norther Haj routes and the Railway deprived them from the income from the pilgrims. As a result, even before World War I and the appearance of Lawrence, there were occasional Bedouin attacks on the Railway.


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Created: 8:17 AM 8/7/2012
Last updated: 8:17 AM 8/7/2012