‘The steam train is coming!

Visit the site of the historic Tel Aviv-Jaffa railroad station and see how a junkyard full of history has been turned into a delightful tourist attraction.

August 18, 2011 23:21
The restored train station in Jaffa

The restored train station in Jaffa. (photo credit: SHMUEL BAR-AM)


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Sir Moses Montefiore visited the Holy Land seven times, often accompanied by his wife. His took his first trip here in 1827; his last visit was 48 years later, at the age of 91.

At some point – perhaps as he got older and found it increasingly difficult to make the trek up the Jerusalem hills by carriage – he became the first to propose a railroad that would run from the coast to the Holy City. Others took him up on the idea later on, but it was Jerusalem entrepreneur Yosef Navon who finally got the project moving. However, although he managed to get a franchise from the ruling Turks to build the railroad, Navon ran out of funds before he could finish the project. In the end, he transferred the franchise to a French company – Société du Chemin de Fer Ottoman de Jaffa à Jérusalem et Prolongements – which completed the tracks in 1892. On the day the first train reached Jerusalem, newspaper headlines loudly proclaimed: “The steam engine is coming!” The first trains were agonizingly slow. Indeed, newspapers commented on the train’s pace by joking about passengers who needed a pit stop: They claimed that passengers jumped off and climbed back on the train without missing a beat. You could even leap off, pick flowers in the Sorek Valley through which the train ran, and easily return to your car. During World War I, the British, who conquered Palestine in 1917 took over operation of the railroad; in World War II, they commandeered it for the British army. The historic railway from Jaffa to the Holy City of Jerusalem and back stopped running after Israel gained its independence. The line to Jerusalem reopened in 1950, but only from Tel Aviv, and the old Jaffa station was abandoned.


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