Jaffa–Jerusalem railway

The Jaffa–Jerusalem railway, sometimes shortened to J & J or called the Tel Aviv–Jerusalem railway, is a historical railroad between the cities Jaffa and Jerusalem, originally completed in 1892 in Ottoman Palestine, and partly still used in Israel today. Despite an earlier very short amount of track in what is now Iran, it was the first railroad in the Middle East.Cite book|title=The Railways of Palestine and Israel|author=Cotterell, Paul|publisher=Tourret Publishing|location=Abingdon, UK|isbn=0-905878-04-3|year=1986|pages=front cover/introduction]


Plans and construction

Moshe Montefiore showed interest in constructing a railway between the Israeli Coastal Plain and Jerusalem on his second visit to the area in 1839.Cite book|title=The Railways of Palestine and Israel|author=Cotterell, Paul|publisher=Tourret Publishing|location=Abingdon, UK|isbn=0-905878-04-3|year=1986|chapter=Chapter 1|pages=pp. 1-2] In 1857, he contracted the British prime minister, Henry Temple, and discussed the construction of a railway.Cite encyclopedia|author=Vilnai, Ze'ev|title=Jerusalem - Jaffa–Jerusalem railway|encyclopedia=Ariel Encyclopedia|volume=Volume 4|pages=pp. 3334-3339|publisher=Am Oved|location=Israel he icon] He proposed transferring the British railways built on Crimea during the Crimean War to Ottoman Palestine for the new railway. A deal was signed with the Ottomans in favor of this plan.

In 1856, General Francis Rawdon Chesney travelled to Palestine to make a survey of the land for a railway. He took with him Sir John McNeil, a railway expert. McNeil proposed a short line from Jaffa to Lydda only, and a road from there to Jerusalem. After examining two possible routes, he deemed a rail line to Jerusalem too expensive, estimating construction costs at 4,000-4,500 pounds per kilometer. Despite McNeil's advice, General Chesney did not give up on the project and contacted Sir Arthur Slade, a general in the Ottoman army. Slade supported Chesney's plan for a railway in what is today Iraq, but completely opposed the Jaffa–Jerusalem line, which he believed was against Turkey's interests. Chesney's vision never materialized.

In 1857, Montefiore journeyed to the Land of Israel for the fifth time, and brough along an expert railway engineer from Britain. It is likely that this engineer proposed the construction of the railway along the Refa'im Stream, to reduce construction costs and to allow the railway to be close to a source of water.fact|date=April 2008 In 1865, the German engineer Charles Ferdinand Zimfel published a booklet where he detailed his own survey of the area, including a French-language map of the planned route, which was very similar to the route used today. The Swiss engineer Conrad Schick, a Jerusalem resident, later published a similar booklet, where he also detailed his own proposal for a railway, which called for a line through Ramallah and Beit Horon.

Because of perceived British interest in the project, other Western powers, such as France (especially Ferdinand de Lesseps) and Austro-Hungary, showed interest as well. The Ottoman Empire assumed that the railway would serve mostly Christian travellers and missionaries, and not the Turkish population, and therefore archived Montefiore's plan. Despite this, in 1872 a news bulletin appeared in the local press about the proposed railway, praising the Turkish Sultan on his efforts to realize it. The bulletin did not specify the route or the completion date for the project.

Yosef Navon, a Jewish entrepreneur from Jerusalem, started investigating the possibility of constructing such a railway in 1885. He was promised by engineers that the investment would be minor and the profits high. He moved to Constantinople for 3 years in order to advance the program and receive a permit from the Ottoman Empire. On October 28, 1888, Navon succeeded in securing a concession from the Ottoman authorities to build the line, which he was allowed to operate for 71 years. The paper also included permission to extend the line to Gaza and Nablus.Cite book|title=The Railways of Palestine and Israel|author=Cotterell, Paul|publisher=Tourret Publishing|location=Abingdon, UK|isbn=0-905878-04-3|year=1986|chapter=Chapter 2] During 1889 he tried to raise the funds needed for the railway's construction, but was repeatedly denied, and because of his many debts, he was forced to sell the permit to a French construction company.

On December 29, 1889, a subsidiary company was founded under the name "Ottoman Railway Company for the Jaffa–Jerusalem Line". Yosef Navon was included on the company's board of directors, which mostly consisted of French investors. The company managed to collect 14 million Francs, mostly from Christian religious followers. The construction of the line was handed over to another company, the "Parisian Company for Public Works and Construction". Construction started on March 30, 1890 near Mikveh Israel. The construction met financial problems, and Navon secured more funds from investors in Germany, Belgium and Switzerland. However, by 1892 the line's shares dropped below their nominal value due to the uncertainty of the line's future, and Navon was forced to leave the country. He tried to raise more funds, including from Theodor Herzl, although the latter was not interested and wrote that it was a "wretched little line from Jaffa to Jerusalem [which] was of course quite inadequate for our needs." Navon went to Paris and became a simple employee of the French company, where he died in 1934.

Most of the workers were brought in from Egypt, some of whom died of malaria. The materials for the railroad, as well as the rolling stock, were bought from the Panama Canal Company owned by Ferdinand de Lesseps, which failed to build a railway in the Panaman isthmus.Cite web|url=http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9D07E1DB1E39F934A3575BC0A965948260&sec=travel&spon=&pagewanted=print "SLOW TRAIN TO JERUSALEM|title=Slow Train to Jerusalem|accessdate=2008-04-12|author=Friedman, Jane|1983-08-07|publisher=New York Times] Despite the problems, the railroad's construction went uninterrupted until its completion two and a half years later, at a total cost of 10 million francs (400,000 pounds).

Pre-State of Israel operations

The Jaffa–Jerusalem line was opened on September 26, 1892. The length of the journey was approximately 4 hours, about equal to the same trip on a carriage, and contrary to the original plan, which envisioned a 2-hour trip. Even so, Yosef Navon was granted several high-profile awards for his efforts, and the opening event received extensive media coverage worldwide. The line prompted Eliezer Ben Yehuda to write a poem about it, and to coin the word "Rakevet" (train) for the Hebrew language.

Two years later, the trip time was extended to 6 hours, which only allowed one train per direction per day. A Jerusalem-Jaffa train left in the morning, and returned to Jerusalem in the afternoon. In 'A Practical Guide to Jerusalem and its Environs', written around that timeframe, an E. A. Reynolds-Ball wrote:

In 1913, the time was shortened again to 4 hours, allowed two trains per day per direction. Even so, the line attracted a large following, because the alternatives did not offer the same comfort.

During World War I, the Ottoman Empire revoked the French company's concession to operate the line, and some of its infrastructure was relocated to be used on the new railroads in Palestine being built by the Germans for military purposes. This rendered the line completely inoperable, although the parts also used for the new lines were converted to 1,050 mm. Notably, the Jaffa–Lydda section was completely taken apart as the Ottomans feared British naval bombardment, which could destroy precious track and rolling stock.

In 1918, the victorious British forces rebuilt the line, with the existing 1,050 mm gauge, and in 1920, the line was completely taken apart and constructed anew, using the wider standard gauge.IAWM|http://web.archive.org/web/20021017224425/www.pasim.org/index_jerusalem|Pasim.org - Jerusalem Line(s) Back on Track] Its operations were handed over to Palestine Railways, although the original French operators were compensated. The German coastal railway now extended from Beirut to Cairo, and was connected to the Jaffa–Jerusalem line in Lod.

Two light Decauville 600 mm railways were also built for the line by the British during World War I:
*A section in Jaffa, from the Jaffa station south to the old city, and north to the front line (at the time) at the Yarkon River. The line was used for nearly a decade after WWI, mainly for transporting light goods from and to the Jaffa Port.
*A section in Jerusalem, starting at the Jerusalem station area and winding around the mountains close to the Old City, continuing to al-Bireh in the north. This railway was initiated by General Allenby after a Turkish counter-attack on the recently-occupied Jerusalem by the British. Construction began in May 1918 and completed in September of the same year, by which time it was useless because the front had moved northwards. This short line passed in today's Knesset and Biblical Zoo area.

During the post-World War II Jewish struggle for independence, the line was bombed numerous times by militants, both Jewish and Arab.


During the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, the service was stopped. After the war's end, many sections of the line ended up under the Jordanian Arab Legion's control. Following the 1949 Armistice Agreements, the entire route was returned to Israel, and officially restarted operations on August 7, 1949, when the first Israeli train, loaded with a symbolic shipment of flour, cement and Torah books, arrived at Jerusalem. Israel Railways began regular passenger service on March 2, 1950 from Tel Aviv North Railway Station, via the eastern railway and Rosh HaAyin, to Jerusalem. Shortly thereafter, regular service using the railway line leading from southern Tel Aviv too was restored (unlike today, at that time the northern and southern railway lines leading to Tel Aviv were not connected through the city).

Even though in the late 1950s Israel Railways began using diesel locomotives, and repaired the line, it did not convert it to a dual-track configuration and travel time was still high. The Jaffa Railway Station was abandoned, and the final destination on the coast was changed to Tel Aviv's Beit Hadar Station (the original Tel Aviv South station), which in turn was changed to the newer Tel Aviv South station, marking the complete dismantlement of the line inside Tel Aviv's urban area. The reasons cited were the fact that the line was causing traffic jams in the city, and the high land value of the area for real estate development. Then-transportation minister Shimon Peres was a prime supporter of the cancellation of the line inside the city and worked to create a new station (Tel Aviv South) in an unused plot of land given to Israel Railways by the government in compensation for the areas inside Tel Aviv it gave up.

In the 1960's (before the Six-Day War), the railroad suffered numerous terrorist attacks, especially due to its proximity to the Green Line and the Arab village Bittir. On October 27, 1966, one person was injured from a bomb that was placed along the route. [Cite web|url=http://www.mfa.gov.il/mfaheb/mfaarchive/2002/terror_kibush|title=The Terror and the Occupation|publisher=Ministry of Foreign Affairs|accessdate=2008-01-05|date=2002-03-24|language=Hebrew]

After the war, a new and more direct highway was constructed between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, which significantly lowered the attractiveness of the railway. The railroad itself also deteriorated due to a lack of proper maintenance. These facts, coupled with the new Tel Aviv South station's inconvenient location in the outkirts of the city meant that the number of passengers decreased significantly over time, and in 1995 Israel Railways reduced the service to just one train per direction per day - the way it was in the 19th century. On July 12, 1998, the CEO of Israel Railways, Amos Uzani, decided on the complete closure of the line. The last train to ever leave the Jerusalem Railway Station made the journey on August 14, 1998. The effect of the line's termination on traffic to and from Jerusalem was deemed negligible.


Shortly after the closure, Uzani petitioned the Minister of Infrastructure, Ariel Sharon, to allocate funds for a major repair/reconstruction of the line. Sharon did not acquiesce and instead funded the long-anticipated project of double-tracking and upgrading the line between Tel Aviv and Beersheba, and creating a spur to a new central railway station near the Beersheba Central Bus Station.

Meanwhile, several alternative alignments were analyzed for the restoration of a railway connection between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem:IAWM|http://web.archive.org/web/20020323070409/pasim.org/Jerusalem_line.jpg|Alternatives for Tel Aviv - Jerusalem Rail Line (map)]
*Plans S and S1 - repair of the old route, with a few small tunnels and curve straightening.
*Plans G and G1 - a massive repair of the old route, straightening all the curves by digging numerous long tunnels along the route.
*Plans B, B1, B2, M and M1 - construction of a new line from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem via Modi'in-Maccabim-Re'ut and Road 443.
*Plans A and A1 - construction of a new line between the cities nearby Highway 1, with a branch to Modi'in.

Plans to built a line through Road 443 were discarded immediately, due to its route inside the Judea and Samaria. The Municipality of Jerusalem supported Plan G1, while Israel Railways supported Plan S as a quick deployment plan, followed by A1. On June 13, 2001, Transportation Minister Ephraim Sneh and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon choose to proceed with Israel Railways' plan.Cite web|url=http://www.mot.gov.il/Public/Dover/Dover305.doc|title=Minister Sneh Decided - A Fast Railway in Tel Aviv-Ben Gurion Airport-Modi'in-Jerusalem Line - Best Alternative|accessdate=2008-01-05|date=2001-06-12|language=Hebrew|format=DOC|publisher=Ministry of Transportation] One of the reasons was environmentalists' opposition to G1, due to the route passing in the middle of a nature reserve.

In 2003, the cost of Plan S was estimated at 420 million NIS and work was already underway on its implementation. The original plan was to repair the route, from the Na'an Railway Junction to the Jerusalem Railway Station, and add two new stations - in Manahat/Malha and the Biblical Zoo.

Although the plan was generally considered a failure from the start, because it was known that passenger use wouldn't be high, work commenced as it was seen as a temporary solution in any case. During construction, the nearby nature reserve was damaged and due to vocal opposition from Israel's environmental protection organizations, Israel Railways demanded the inclusion of environmental mitigation work in its tenders for the route. The French company TSO was selected to continue the renovation.

Following strife between Israel Railways and the Municipality of Jerusalem, which opposed to reopening the Jerusalem Railway Station, the last station was cancelled and Malha became the final destination of the line. This further undermined the line's usefulness, because the original final station was close to the Old City and Jerusalem's center, while Malha is located on the city's southern fringes. Also because of miscoordination between the different planning departments, complementary bus lines were not planned for Malha, severely affecting the transportation to and from the station for passengers wishing to travel to central Jerusalem. The railway depot planned for the Malha station was also cancelled, forcing trains to return to Lod Railway Station every day, reducing service on the line.

On September 13, 2003, the Tel Aviv–Beit Shemesh section and Beit Shemesh Railway Station were re-opened. The service was perceived as poor due to constant train delays and high price. On April 9, 2005, the second section was initiated with the opening of the Malha station. The ceremony received nationwide media attention, and Ariel Sharon and Benjamin Netanyahu rode a train along the route.

Current use

Immediately after the full re-opening, several deficiencies were discovered:
*The ride took approximately 90 minutes, about twice as long as a car drive along Highway 1, and 30 minutes higher than the expected one hour.
*The project cost approximately 500 million NIS, tens of millions above the original estimate.
*The difficult geometry of the line forces trains to slow down to a crawl, and their wheels are damaged by the constant turns.

It was also discovered that the overwhelming majority of passenger on the line make their way to and from Beit Shemesh (commuters from Beit Shemesh to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem). As such, in the end of 2006 the line was split into two - Tel Aviv - Beit Shemesh, and Beit Shemesh - Jerusalem, rendering the line useless for those wishing to go to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv or Haifa. The number of passengers has constantly been dwindling, but is thought to have stabilized after Israel Railways coordinated the two lines, so that passengers from Tel Aviv/Haifa to Jerusalem would wait only 4 minutes in the Beit Shemesh station. The line has been restored to a continuous service from Nahariya in the 2008 timetable.

Even so, the line remains scarcely used by passenger living outside Beit Shemesh, except certain holidays, when a large number of people make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. During public holidays the trains can even be crowded with families visiting the Biblical Zoo in Jerusalem, which has a railway station conveniently located nearby.

Use of former railway structures

Both of the original terminuses - the Jaffa Railway Station and the Jerusalem Railway Station - are being renovated in the 2000s to become arts and entertainment centers.


Original stations

Originally, the line had 8 stations:
*Jaffa Station (Yafo) was the western terminus of the line, located just north of Jaffa's German Colony, and south of Menashiya. Railway access to the station was dismantled in World War I, but a light railway from it to the old city was built by the British after their conquest of Palestine. Today, the Batei HaOsef museum stands in the station's place, although the surviving station buildings are being renovated for an entertainment center.
*Ludd Station (Lod) was originally placed close to the city's urban mass to serve its populace. When the British re-built the Jaffa–Lod section in World War I to standard gauge, the new station was placed to the west of the old, with fewer curves on the approach and after the station.
*Ramla Station
*Sajad Station
*Dayr Aban Station, renamed to Artuf by the British and later Hartuv by the Israelis. When Beit Shemesh was founded close to the station, it changed its name to Beit Shemesh Railway Station, which is still used today.
*Dayr al-Shaykh Station, renamed later to Bar Giora.
*Bittir Station (Batir) was the station serving the Arab village Bittir. After the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, the entire Jaffa–Jerusalem line was left under Israeli control, with the border at Bittir being very close to the railway. The station buildings themselves were thus under Jordanian control and thus the station did not operate after the war. Despite being set for preservation, the structures at the site were destroyed with the renovation of the line in the 2000s.
*Jerusalem Station, also called the Khan Station for the caravanserai (also called a khan) nearby, was the eastern terminus of the station, and the highest one, at an elevation of over 700 m above sea level. The station was operational until 1998, when the line closed, and it was decided not to restore it for the renovated Tel Aviv–Jerusalem line. The station building has been renovated and converted into a theater.

Later pre-1998 stations

As the population grew and route changed several times, more stations were added, removed or renamed:
*Wadi Surar Station, also known as Junction Station,Cite book|title=The Railways of Palestine and Israel|author=Cotterell, Paul|publisher=Tourret Publishing|location=Abingdon, UK|isbn=0-905878-04-3|year=1986|chapter=Chapter 3|pages=pp. 14-31] built by the Ottomans in World War I for military purposes. Later renamed to Nahal Sorek.
*Tel Aviv South/Beit Hadar Station, a station located in what was at the time the commercial center of Tel Aviv. It was dismantled along with the railway line inside Tel Aviv and replaced by the new Tel Aviv South station in the early 1970s.
*Tel Aviv South, a station situated on a tract of land given to Israel Railways by the Israeli government in compensation for the land it previously occupied inside Tel Aviv. The station was located outside of the city's main urban area, and was not attractive to most of its residents. Whatever little function it still possessed was obsoleted by the mid-1990s when a major new railway line was built through the new center of the Tel Aviv area via the Ayalon Highway, which effectivly bypassed the station (though it was still connected to it via a short spur). The station is no longer an active passenger station.
*Kfar Habad Station, built in 1952 for the residents of Kfar Habad.
*Tel Aviv North Station, which served as the northern terminus of the line when the line used the Eastern coastal railway of Israel. Now Bnei Brak Railway Station.

Current stations

Upon the re-opening of the line, several new stations were added which did not exist before:
*Biblical Zoo Railway Station
*Jerusalem Malha Railway Station

In addition, the Tel Aviv stations, Tel Aviv Central, HaShalom and HaHagana are used by the line in the 2008 timetable.

Future plans

While no plans have been approved to continue the line past Malha station to its original final destination inside Jerusalem, plans are currently being carried out to further decrease travel time between Tel Aviv and Beit Shemesh by straightening out curves and grade-separating railway-road intersections using bridges and tunnels. One of the most important grade separations being carried out is between the railway and Highway 3, near moshav Yesodot and the former Nahal Sorek station, which involves building a new railway bridge and straitening a sharp curve immidiately following the intersection. This project will cut down travel time to Beit Shemesh by up to 10 minutes.Cite journal|title=Realignment of Jerusalem Line|issue=80|journal=HaRakevet|pages=4|issn=0964-8763|year=2008|month=March]

ee also



External references

* [http://www.hatachana.co.il/ The project for the renovation of the Jaffa Railway Station] he icon

External links

* [http://www.israrail.org.il/english/index.html Israel Railways Official Website]
* [http://www.railnewsil.com/english/ Israel Railway News (unofficial)]
* [http://www.jaffastation.com/ Jaffa Railway station]

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