Monday, August 7, 2017

Israel's Picture a Day - The Holy Land Revealed - The Ottoman Imperial Archives' Rare Pictures of the Trains of the Holy Land. Vital to the Armies of World War I

The official opening of the railroad to Be'er Sheva, October 1915.

Israel's History - a Picture a Day (Beta)

The Ottoman Imperial Archives' Rare Pictures of the Trains of the Holy Land. Vital to the Armies of World War I


Posted: 06 Aug 2017

I have been researching in the Ottoman Imperial Archives for photographs for my next book, World War I in the Holy Land, specifically on the vital logistical role played by the extensive railroad network built by the Turks throughout the region. Without giving away too much now, I focused on the Be'er Sheva station, the hub for moving Turkish supplies and men for the combat along the Suez Canal, in the Sinai, and southern Palestine between 1915 and 1917.

More than 100 Jews worked for the railroad system, and on January 15, 1917, 16 Jews were killed in a British air raid on the rail yard. Other Jewish workers died of disease and flash floods.

All photographs are from my collection of Ottoman Imperial Archives photographs, unless otherwise noted. Click on the photos to enlarge them.


Aerial photograph of the Turkish base in Be'er Sheva, 1917. Note the railroad yard and warehouses in the foreground. (Australian Light Horse Studies Centre)


Ottoman train and troops in the Be'er Sheva railroad station

The building of the railroads throughout Palestine began in 1890. The Jerusalem station was inaugurated on September 26, 1892. The Ottoman Archives contains the following pictures of the stations in Jerusalem, Haifa, Battir, Lod, and Ramla. The quality and resolution of many of the photographs are remarkable.


Preparations for the Jerusalem station inauguration, 1892. Note the Yemin Moshe windmill in the background.


Dignitaries at the dedication of the Jerusalem train station, 1892


A view of the station from the front of the building. 1890s


Another vantage point of the Jerusalem station, 1900. (Library of Congress)


An illustration of the opening of the Jerusalem train station, 1892.


Railroad construction on the way to Jerusalem, 1891

As the British and ANZAC forces moved north after capturing Be'er Sheva and Jerusalem, they switched the narrow gauge Ottoman rail system to a wider gauge in order to carry heavier loads. The next picture from the Australian New South Wales State Library shows the rail conversion at the Jerusalem railway station.


Laying the wider-gauge rails in the Jerusalem station, circa 1918. (NSW State Library)

Other Stations


The station in Haifa, 1900.


The Ramla train station between Jaffa and Jerusalem, 1894. Another caption of this picture is dated 1904.


Construction of a railroad bridge near Battir on the approaches to Jerusalem, 1891


Railroad station in Lydda (Lod), 1891


The station at Tzemach on the southern shore of the Sea of Galilee and on a key approach to Damascus.

As the British and ANZAC forces pushed the German and Turks northward out of Palestine, they were met with fierce resistance here at the train station on September 25, 1918.

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