The International Steam Pages
Israel Industrial Railways, February 21st - 25th, 2015
The article on “Underground Locomotives” (IRR No. 158, 08/1999, pp. 211-213) covered the history of three Deutz locos delivered to Israel. Between 1955 and 1962, together with four standard gauge locos (three to IR, one to industry), Deutz in fact delivered nine 600mm gauge underground diesels of two different types to Israel’s Shilumin (reparations) Corp in Hakiyrya, Tel Aviv:
Some of the locos initially saw use at National Water Carrier building sites, while others went directly to the Timna Copper Mines in the Negev Desert, 25 km north of Eilat. These mines had already been worked in King Solomon’s days, but modern mining operations using a 600mm gauge underground railway began in 1958. Due to the fluctuating price of copper, the mine operated until 1976 and again for a short period from 1980 to 1984. Four of the locos are known to have survived:
The Timna mines were reopened by ARAVA Mines Ltd. in 2005. At the main gate a tip wagon has been put on display. Two more wagons are on display at the Eilat History Museum
At approx. 400 meters below sea level the Dead Sea, in the northern extension of the Great Rift Valley, is the lowest point on earth and was also the location of the lowest railway to have operated on earth. This interior lake is fed by the Jordan River and by occasional flash floods and has no outflow, resulting in important salt deposits through evaporation. In 1931 the Palestine Potash Company (IRR No. 173, 06/2003, pp. 327-334) opened a potash refinery at the Kallia on the north shore and in 1937 a larger factory at Sodom (now Sdom) at the southern end, where the salt deposits were even more important. 600mm gauge industrial railways were used at both sites, linking the salt pans, the works and jetties on the lake. At Kallia the main line was 3 km long, while at Sdom the system was 7 km. There was no road to Sodom and the phosphate was taken by barge over the lake to Kallia, from where it was taken to Jerusalem railway station by road for onward transport. During Israel’s War of Independence in 1948, Kallia was seized by Arab forces (it is today part of the West Bank) and the works abandoned, no remains of the rail system are known to have survived. Sodom however found itself in Israel and after a road from Be’er Sheva was opened in 1953, production resumed. The railway was not needed for transportation of either salt or phosphate anymore, but the line to the jetty was in use again until 1956 to transport workers from a camp located next to the jetty, after which it was abandoned. Five km north of the factory, since 1952 the Dead Sea Works Ltd. (DSW) and now part of ICL Fertilizers (http://www.iclfertilizers.com/Fertilizers/DSW/Pages/BUHomepage.aspx), the remains of the wooden jetty once served by the railway can still be seen from the road. Today the phosphate is transported by conveyor belt to the railhead at Tzefa (east of Dimona) for onward transport by IR to the port of Ashdod.
PPC/DSW have used a variety of diesel locos, including:
Rolling stock included about 270 vehicles, including 170 or so side-tip wagons, 45 wooden open-sided wagons, 36 flat two-axle and 8 bogie flat wagons (some fitted with seats to transport workers), and a few service vehicles such as tank wagons for carrying water and fuel. A converted Ford automobile was used as an inspection vehicle at Sodom.
After closure of the railway, the locos at Sdom where buried behind the factory, away from the road. Later, the frames and wheels of an unidentified Brookville were dug up, painted and plinthed inside the factory. Recently these were fitted with an engine and cab and repainted (see http://www.dswblog.co.il/?p=1387 for a photo from 2013). The factory can only be visited through prior arrangement by groups of at least 30 with their own bus. Plans for a visitor’s center with a 1 km long narrow gauge railway to the jetty were announced in 2009 (HaRakevet No. 84, 03/2009). Although on site no progress could be seen, DSW recently purchased derelict Deutz No. 56132 from Kibbutz Pardes Hanna Karkur and had her rebuilt to look like one of their Brookville at Kibbutz Ein Shemer by Ran Hedvati, so this project might still be in the making.
Narrow gauge light railways were used quite extensively in the orchards of kibbutzim and other farming communities in Palestine; locomotives were not used as most of these were either by hand or with animals. In 1937 however the ‘Yakhin’ Agricultural Contracting Co-operative Association Ltd. of Tel Aviv ordered a 600mm gauge four-wheel petrol/paraffin loco for its orange orchard at Gan Hadar about 2 km west of the PR station at Niana (now Na’an, 10 km south of Lydda/Lod) from Tel Aviv firm HaMenia, a mechanical factory specialized in industrial pumps. The orchard’s railway linked the orchard with the station, a distance of about 4 km, from where the boxed oranges were shipped away by train. Two or three flatcars loaded with crates of oranges could be handled by a mule, but for up to six cars a locomotive was needed. It was designed by the technical office of M. Amitai in collaboration with HaMenia and until two replicas of it were built recently (see below) it was the only locomotive ever designed or built in Palestine or Israel. It was equipped with a Slavia (a predecessor to Skoda) engine and a Chevrolet gearbox, both of which are thought to have been scavenged from the British army base at Sarafand (Trifin). Suprisingly, shortly after the existence and history of this very unique loco was unearthed by Paul Cotterell (“Some Miscellaneous Railways and Locomotives” in IRR No. 214, 09/2013, pp. 14-21) and others, it was also discovered that it had survived to this day (Paul Cotterell, “The Hamenia Locomotive – Amazing Discoveries!!! Mysteries Solved!!!” in HaRakevet No. 76, 03/2007, pp. 16-19), as part of a children’s playground at Kibbutz Na’an together with three four-wheel car frames. While it has been partly rebuilt with a front axle, a fake boiler and a cab to make it look like a steam loco, these additions have in fact protected the original Slavia engine and Chevrolet gearbox.
The nearby Minkov Citrus Growing Museum (
So called “Decauville Sculptures” by Israeli artist Yigal Tumarkin (described in detail by Amith Ben-Shalom in “Decauville Sculptures at the Sharon Region”, HaRakevet No. 88, 03/2010) can be found at various locations in Israel as well as abroad (Berlin, Spain). Most incorporate narrow gauge four-wheel flat wagons thought to have been obtained from the Israel Electric Company or parts thereof. Some have been identified as made by Robert Hudson, others by Krupp. The highest concentration (15-20) can be found on display in a park in the village of Burgata, 15 km east of Netanya, where Tumarkin had his workshop. Also at the park is a sculpture by the same artist incorporating the bogie from a U.S.-built World War II wagons. The one pictured here, which uses a single Krupp axle and wheel, is at Netanya’s Yad LaBanim (Sons Memorial) site and is based on Kappa’s famous Spanish Civil War picture.