The Railways of Palestine and Israel
by Paul Cotterell
Tourret Publishing ISBN-13 978-0-905878-04-1; ISBN-10 0-905878-04-3;
A4 Hardback; 150 pages
THE RAILWAYS OF PALESTINE AND ISRAEL
Tourret Publishing, 1984
Its been thirty years since Paul Cottrells remarkable
book The Railways of Palestine and Israel was published.
Since the books publication the Israel Railways (IR) have
continued an aggressive program of modernization and expansion.
So, those wishing to learn about the IR in the late 20th and
21st centuries should begin by reviewing the long excellent internet
article published by Wikipedia.
But for those interested in Middle East history and the role
of the railways in Palestine and Israel during the late 19th
and 20th centuries, Cottrells book is required reading.
Cotterells research is extensive. After discussing Early
Disappointments in Chapter 1, he turns his attention to
the first railway which opened on September 26, 1892 connecting
Jaffa and Jerusalem. The chapter covers the period 1892 to 1914
and features an excellent map, fascinating photos, a detailed
text, and a short summary of the Hedjaz Railway. Cotterell deliberately
minimizes his treatment of the Hedjaz, because R. Tourret was
shortly to produce his definitive history of that line.
Chapter 3 is particularly interesting because it covers World
War I. No less than 5 gauges were laid down in what was then
Palestine and are illustrated in one of the two excellent maps.
Again, the photos are intriguing especially one showing friends,
relatives, and onlookers watching a trainload of Jewish recruits
for the British Army pulling out of Jaffa. Cotterell covers British
General Allenbys successful campaign against the Turks
in great detail, emphasizing the important role played by the
railways in the British victory.
Chapters 4 and 5 cover the period from 1920 to the formation
of the State of Israel in 1948. The 51 pages are bursting with
no less than four maps, photographs, equipment and locomotive
drawings and detailed text. In dramatic contrast to the modern
IR, founded in 1948, the text makes it clear that the predecessor
Palestine Railways (PR) had fallen on hard times. One observer
in 1938 commented: The Palestine Railways were reminiscent
of nothing so much as Fontaine Foxs old comic, the Toonerville
Trolley. Today they remain in almost the same disreputable condition
as they were when Palestine was nothing but a decrepit Turkish
Chapter 6 focuses on the IR. Cotterell obviously is a railfan
as well as a historian. After examining PR and IR steam power
in great detail, he leads the reader through the transition from
steam to diesel commenting on the disappointments as well as
the accomplishments. Much of the chapter covers modern IR operations
(as of the early 1980s) and its political and economic context.
As in the prior chapters, there are two detailed maps, excellent
photos (including a brand new diesel hauling some ancient passenger
coaches at Haifa Mizrah), and scale drawings of virtually all
of the motive power and rolling stock. It closes with a detailed
look at future scenarios for the IR.
Chapter 7 is a short treatise on some strange and wondrous
At times the amount of detail covered by Cotterell makes for
tedious reading, but those who enjoy Middle East history as well
as the railfan community will read and re-read this book.
Dr. Lewis M. Schneider
Dr. Schneider had a long career in transportation education
and consulting before retiring in 1990. His interests include
railroad photography, collecting toy trains, bel canto opera,
and the history and current politics in the Middle East.
This and other books are available through this URL: http://www.tourretpublishing.com/
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