The Ottoman Empire, their railways and the Great War

An army is only as strong as the strength of their supply lines. The Ottoman Empire had built thousands of miles of good quality railway lines from the mid 1800’s, making a vast difference to trade and the development of previously remote areas. This railway system became a strategic web of supply behind the Turkish forces and therefore features in the operations of World War One.

In particular, from the taking of Beersheba in October 1917 to the fall of Damascus in late 1918, the ‘rolling up’ of the Ottoman Army by the British virtually followed the railway lines northward in Palestine and Jordan. It was in this highly successful Egyptian Expeditionary Force, led by General Sir Edmund Allenby, that the Australian Light Horse was to play a pivotal role. It was also along the railway in Jordan, known as the ‘Hejaz’ line, that a British officer called Lawrence made a name for himself with the creative use of explosives.

Consequently railway lines, stations, locomotives and rolling stock feature regularly in the historic narrative of the British Force in the years of 1917 and 1918.

The Hejaz Railway Station in Damascus in 2008. The 2-6-0T Loco from the Ottoman period featured in the title can be seen to the right.

In 2008 I travelled to Israel, Syria & Jordan to film a self-funded documentary on the work of the Australian Light Horse from Beersheba in October 1917 to Damascus in October 1918. Called ‘Beyond Beersheba’ it is in total 93 minutes long. I have also travelled often to the same region to film archaeology study tours, so I have quite a library of images from various railways sites that I have developed over the years. I plan to upload a number of galleries and stories to cover this fascinating corner of rail history.

This impressive structure is within the suburban region of Amman and still carries superphosphate trains today.