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The Hejaz Railroad

by James Nicholson
Publisher: Stacy International 2005
193 pages, Hardcover, 26 cm X 31 cm

Contains over 90 color photos
and over 100 b/w photos
plus 11 maps and plans
 
 
Reviewed by Dan Gibson, Webmaster,
Nabataea.net/Hejaz Railway, Nov. 2005

 
At the first glance Nicholson's new book on the Hejaz Railway looks like a glossy coffee-table picture-book, but upon closer inspection, it proves to be full of fascinating information, and valuable old photos that have never before been published. Nicholson has done in-depth research, gathering his information from hundreds of sources making this book a new authoritative source for the history of Hejaz Railway.
 
Nicholson's writing style is easy to read, and he has obviously done his research. Not only does he provide interesting background color, (see box below for example) he has discovered many fascinating photos from the early days of the railway's operation. When tackling the events of the First World War, Nicholson has done a splendid job of presenting an accurate picture of the war, including the involvement of many different British officers. Thankfully, Nicholson doesn't allow the Lawrence of Arabia story to sidetrack him from pursuing the wider picture of the war for the Hejaz Railway.
 
This book addresses a wide variety of topics, but the two main themes are: 1) the initial building of the railway, and 2) the struggle for the railway during World War One. I have included a detailed outline of the book for those wishing to learn exactly which topics Nicholson includes. The contents are as follows:
  1. Introduction
    1. A 'Wildly Improbably' and 'Fantastic' Scheme
    2. The Political Background, The Decline of the Ottoman Empire
    3. Abdulhamid II's Response to European Expansion
    4. Early Railway Development in the Ottoman Empire
    5. The Hejaz Railway, The Birth of an Idea
    6. Proposals for the Railway
    7. Preparations for the Railway
  2. Building of the Railway I (Main Line)
    1. Early Decisions and Difficulties
    2. Western Involvement
    3. Heinrich Meissner - The Laying of Solid Foundations
    4. The Line Advances
    5. Early Services
    6. Manpower and Materials
    7. Rails and Rolling Stock
    8. Construction
    9. Stations
    10. Working Conditions
    11. Technical Difficulties
    12. Ma'an - Gateway to Arabia
    13. Railway Services
    14. Tabuk Inauguration Ceremony 1906
    15. Tabuk-Al Ula
    16. Medain Saleh and Al Ula
    17. Opposition to the Railway
    18. Al Ula - Madinah
  3. Building of the Railway (Branch Lines)
    1. Haifa - Deraa Branch 1905
    2. Deraa-Bosra Branch, 1912
    3. Haifa-Acre Branch 1913
    4. Extension: Damascus Qadem to Damascus Kanawat, 1911
    5. Afule-Nablus Branch 1912 - 1915
    6. First World War Branches/Extensions
    7. Projected Branches and Extensions (Makkah, Jeddah, Salt, Aqaba)
  4. Paying for the Railway
    1. The Campaign for Donations
    2. Ottoman Donations
    3. Foreign Donations
    4. Medals, Other Sources of Revenue
    5. The Absence of Corruption
    6. Overall Income and Expenditure
  5. Running the Railway
    1. Sherif Hussein and the Young Turks
    2. Security Measures
    3. Passenger Services
    4. Pilgrims
    5. Troop Movements
    6. Freight
    7. Rolling Stock
    8. Maintenance
    9. Administration and Personnel
    10. Economic Development
    11. The Hejaz Railway on the Eve of the First World War
  6. Outbreak of the First World War
    1. The Ottoman Empire Enters the War
    2. Sherif Hussein and the British
    3. The Stotzingen Mission
    4. The Arab Revolt, First attacks on the Railway
    5. The Arrival of the British
    6. T.E. Lawrence
  7. The War along the Railway I (The Hejaz)
    1. The Significance of Wejh
    2. Bimbashi H. Garland: First Train Derailed - Towaira, Feb 1917
    3. Lt. Col. S. Newcombe: Raids to the North of Medain Saleh, Spring 1917
    4. T.E. Lawrence: First Raid on the Railway - Abu Na'am March 1917
    5. T.E. Lawrence: Mining of a Train at Km 1121, April 1917
    6. Royal Flying Corps: The 'Arabian Detachment' No. 14 Squadron
    7. Coordinated Offensive on the Railway: Lt. Col. S. Newcomb and Lt. Col. P. Joyce, July - Aug 1917
    8. Bimbashi H. Garland: Raids on the railway, Istabl Antar - Hedia, Aug 1917
    9. Results of the Railway Campaign in the Hejaz
  8. The War along the Railway II (Aqaba and Northwards)
    1. The March for Aqaba
    2. T.E. Lawrence: Diversionary Attacks on the Railway, June 1917
    3. The Capture of Aqaba, July 1917
    4. Air Attacks, 1917
    5. Arab Attacks, Autumn 1917
    6. T.E. Lawrence: The Troop Train, Mudawwara, Sept 1917
    7. T.E. Lawrence: Raid on Supply Train - Bir Shedia, Oct 1917
    8. Effects of the Raid
    9. T.E. Lawrence: The Raid on the Tel Shehab Bridge, Nov 1917
    10. T.E. Lawrence: Attack on Train at Km. 172 Nov 1917
  9. The War along the Railway III (The Road to Damascus)
    1. Allied Offensive - Palestine, Winter 1917
    2. Raid on Tel Shahm, Jan 1918
    3. Arab Raids, 1918
    4. Spring Offensive, 1918, The Breaking of the Railway
    5. Cutting the Railway, Ma'an to Qatrana, May 1918
    6. Advance on Damascus, Sept - Oct 1918
    7. The Final Offensive, Sept 1918
    8. The Surrender of Madinah, Jan 1919
  10. The Railway after the First World War
    1. The End of Hostilities - Damage Assessment
    2. Post-War Arrangements
    3. The Inter-war Years
    4. The Railway in the Modern Era: Attempts at Reconstruction
    5. The Railway Today
  11. Appendix 1. Restoration of Madinah Station
  12. Appendix 2. Hejaz Railway Stations and kms
    1. Damascus - Madinah Line
    2. Haifa - Deraa Branch
    3. Deraa - Bosra Branch
    4. Afule - Nablus Branch
  13. Chapter Notes (References for each chapter)
  14. Bibliography
  15. Index

 

 

 
Most sections include substantial material and accompanying photographs. The photographs and illustrations fall into three classes. There are over one hundred old black and white photos. (None of them appear on this website, and I suspect most of them are the first time in print). There are more than 90 color photographs taken in the last couple of years, all of them crisp, clear, and beautifully presented. There are also many illustrations, including 11 maps and plans. The map on page 13 fills a complete page and is worthy of note as it includes elevations. As I have never seen this map before I have reproduced a small thumbnail of it so that readers can compare it with maps they may have.
 
All in all this, is a wonderful book, well written, beautifully illustrated, and handsomely bound. Simply put, it is a 'must have' for anyone serious about the history of the Hejaz Railway. It is available from Amazon.com and other online booksellers.
 

Left:
Map from page 13.
"In the spring of 1900 the British Consul at Damascus, W. Richards, wrote to his ambassador in Constantinople, Sir Nicolas O'Connor, with excuses for having failed to report on a proposed scheme to build a railway line from Damascus to Makkah. While admitting that rumours concerning such a plan had indeed been circulating in Damascus, he justified his neglect in passing on the information by pointing out that the venture 'seemed to me and others so wildly improbably, not to say fantastic, that I refrained from reporting on it to your Excellency."
 

Introduction, The Hejaz Railway, James Nicholson

Other Rail Lines and Miscellaneous Pages

 Dera to Haifa Line
Haifa
Balad al-Shaykh
Tel Esh Shamam
Afula
Bisan
Jisr al-Majami
Yarmouk Valley
Samakh
El Hamma
Zeizoun
Tel Esh Shehab
Muzerib
Dera'a

 Ma'an to Ras al Naqb Line
Ma'an to Ras al Naqb Line
Ma'an
Abu Lissan
Ras al Naqab

 Jerusalem to Jaffa Line
Jerusalem
Malcha Station under construction 
New line under construction
Jaffa

 Yemen
Yemen

Miscellaneous
Miscellaneous
The Amman to Damascus Trip
Wadi Rum

Dera-Bosra Line
Dera'a
Garaz 
Garez Junction
El Taibeh Station
El Taibeh Bridge
Gasim Junction
Bosra Station
Bosra Citadel
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 Damascus Midan
 Daraya
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 Khan Denum
 Zerakie
 Ghabaghib
 Sanamein
 Kuneiye
 Kuteibe
 Sheikh Miskin
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 Tafas
 Mezerib
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Damascus Baramke
Dumar
Hame
Jedeide
Ain Fije
Deir Kanum
Wadi Barada
Wadi Barada Tunnel
Et Tekkie Hatt
Zebdani
Serghaya
Rayak
Haush Hala / Moallaka
Said Neil/ Jedita / Mrejatt
Deir elBeidar/Ain Sofar
Bhamdun/Manchra/ Aleih
Areiyah / Jamhur
Baabda / Hadeth / Beirut
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