Courtesy Reuters

Berlin to Baghdad Up-to-Date

LITTLE fanfare attended the completion of the Baghdad Railway last summer, overshadowed as the event was by the Blitzkrieg and its aftermath. Yet when, on the night of July 17, 1940, the first through passenger train for Istanbul steamed out of Baghdad, the conclusion was at last written to one of the most dramatic of the stories of diplomatic and financial rivalry that have marked the last half century of European power politics. The Berlin-to-Baghdad Railway had now become a reality -- though not, as originally intended, under the aegis of Germany. Constructed primarily for peaceful commerce, the line nevertheless is of high military importance, and its completion at this moment is significant.


Through passengers from Europe to points on the Baghdad Railway must transfer at Istanbul by ferry across the Bosphorus to Haydar Pasha, while at Baghdad they must change again -- from the standard-gauge (4′ 8½″) line to the Baghdad-Basra metre-gauge (3′ 3⅜″) line. The Taurus Express, the Asiatic extension of the Simplon-Orient Express, makes the 1,636-mile journey from Haydar Pasha to Baghdad in three days. Basra, 353 miles beyond Baghdad, is reached in 14 hours by night express. From the Bosphorus to the Persian Gulf is thus 1,989 miles, or as far as from Boston to Denver.

The Turkish State Railways operate the through trains from Haydar Pasha to Eskishehir, Ankara, Boghazköprü (near Kayseri), Ulukishla, through the Taurus Mountains to Adana, through the Amanus range to Meydanekbez on the Syrian border, a distance of 907 miles. In Syria, a French company runs the 103-mile section from Meydanekbez to Aleppo and back to the Turkish frontier at Chorbanbey (Çorbanbey), where one of the only two private railway companies in Turkey operates it as far as Nissibin on the Turco-Syrian frontier, a distance of 237 miles. At Nissibin, the French line again takes over for 48 miles to Tel-Kotchek on the Syrio-'Iraqi border. From that point the 'Iraqi Railways operate the 341 miles to Baghdad and the metre-gauge line down the Euphrates valley from Baghdad to Basra.

The actual construction

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