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Saturday, December 18, 2010

Ras el Ein Train Station

The history of the railroad in Palestine has been chronicled in several books, such as Paul Cotterell's The Railways of Palestine and Israel and a chapter in Gad Gilbar's Ottoman Palestine, 1800-1914. Proposals for railroad development date back to the 1830s, but the first line was only completed in 1892 - the French-built Jaffa-Jerusalem line.

The Ottomans, who controlled Palestine until the middle of World War I, do not seem to have made a priority of the Palestine Railway, but during the war some lines were extended for strategic purposes. The man behind these railways was a German, Heinrich August Meissner (1862-1940). Among the many kilometers of track for which he is responsible, I am mostly convinced that he built the first railroad line by Ras el Ain, a narrow-gauge line, roughly around 1915. Shortly thereafter, the British captured this territory, and the Egyptian Expeditionary Force began switching the track to Standard Gauge. They seem to have reached Ras el Ain at some point in 1918. The British renamed the system the Palestine Railways, which remained its name until 1948, when Israel was founded and renamed it the Israel Railways.
Map from Gad Gilbar's Book

The Ras el Ain station originally existed on a line between Lod and Tulkarem, with stops at Kfar Yunnis and Qalqiliyah on either side. The modern Rosh Ha'ayin station, which is north of the original one, is located on the Hod Hasharon-Rishon Letzion line.

Migdal Zedek Quarry, 1936

1921 Map. Red Lines may indicate RR lines

1925 Map by Abraham Brauer. Ras el Ain shown with Station

1929 Map of Majdal Yaba. Station clearly shown

Map of Ottoman Railroads
It is unclear if there was originally a train station at Ras el Ein. It seems that there has been a station at Ras el Ein since the track was originally laid, in 1915. At first I thought that it was likely that originally there was no stop at that location, and that the British only later added a stop when they built the pumping station in the 1930s. However, the 1929 map of Majdal Yaba certainly shows a stop, as does the 1925 map. The 1921 map, whose red lines I think denote the railroad, does not underline Antipatris, but since there is no key it is hard to take this as concrete proof that there was no stop. There is a spur that runs west from the Ras el Ain station toward Petach Tikva, so I then thought that the Ras el Ain station was originally built to allow trains to run off the main line to Petach Tikva. But in letters regarding the construction of the Petach Tikva line in 1920 the Ras el Ein station was said to already exist. Presumably, the station was built in 1915 for the Ottoman  war effort, as Ottoman troops were stationed in the fortress at Antipatris. The station influenced the location of the army base, built first in 1937. We also know that the quarries used the Ras el Ein station to transport their stone. As such, the train station is a crucial part of the history of Rosh Ha'ayin.

Today a new station has been built to the north of Rosh Ha'ayin. The old station still stands and looks fairly modern, but it is no longer in use. It is beginning to show some wear, such as broken windows and graffiti. When we visited, an alarm was going off. 
Ras el Ein Station. (David Ra'if, from Hagana Archive)

Ras el Ein Station. (David Ra'if, from Hagana Archive)
Modern Day Rosh Ha'ayin South Station, No Longer in Use


  1. I found an Arabic book titled Wilayat Bayrout dated 1916 which mentioned Tolkarem Railway station, this therefore supports your assumption that this track was built on or maybe even before 1915

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