The International Steam Pages

Steam in Syria 2001

Christoph Oboth reports:

There are not too many enthusiasts visiting Syria in spring. Why? It is as steamy as ever! DONīT trust these rumors about the Friday-Train to Serghaya: It was also running on 23rd March, so it is NOT only running in July! On this particular situation, it was hauled by Hartmann 2-8-0 91 and was packed with hundreds of locals going to have a picnic up in the hills. The engine was decorated with blue, white and pink ribbons spanned along the boiler down to the buffer. O.K., terrible for "purists", but in fact not really disturbing. Scheduled departure was 9.00, in fact they left Hejaz-station not before 10.00. Some kilometres out of Damascus-city, the train had major problems to pass a totally overgrown part of the line. It took 10 minutes and several trials to leave this position.

On 24.3. there was no steam, so we visited Al Kaddam workshops. Huge activities! Hartmann 2-8-0 No.90 was just being finished and SLM 2-6-0 No. 754 was started to be cleaned. Even work on three 4-wheeled French passenger coaches were in progress. All the rolling stock was freshly painted in original livery - the dreadful orange painted train was not to be seen. One of the most terrific news: They restored the old wooden DeDion-Railcar, presumably to running order!!!

According to the staff, the following locos are in running order:
2-6-0 Jung No.66
2-8-0 Hartmann 90 + 91
2-8-0 Borisg 160 (was to be seen at Al Kaddam, needed obviously repairs urgently)
2-8-2 Hartmann 260 + 262
2-6-0 SLM 754 + 755
0-6-2 SLM 805

2-6-0 SLM 751 is displayed at Hejaz-station in front of the restaurant train. This particular restaurant train spoils photography, due to lot of white plastic chairs out on the platform, covered with a overhanging plastic roof.... 2-6-0 Jung 62 is plinthed next to the main entrance, but it is never in sunlight and misused as "advertising pillar". The interior of the ticket hall is decorated with huge paintings of the late and the current Assad.

25.3.: Morning visit at Al Kaddam locoshed offered 755 and 91 in steam! Two trains filled up with schoolchildren were to be transported up to Serghaya, following each other in 20-minutes distance. Perfect weather (beside a heavy storm in the gorge near Ajn Fijeh), so ideal conditions for chasing. We had an arrangement with taxi driver Mr. Abu Nuur (55 $ / day). This could only be recommended, he knows lots of good positions and is willing to spend all the day out on the line without grumble. You can contact him at Al Rabie Hotel in Damascus. Actually, this Hotel is perfect for low-budget enthusiasts: A Double was charged with less than 20 DEM. Sure, the rooms are rotten and the washing- and toilet facilities are "arabic", but: they provide an inside garden. It's fantastic for relaxing - possibly the only quiet place all over Damascus!

If you are planning to visit Syria overland from Turkey: There are direct trains from Istanbul, crossing the border on Friday morning. Buses are only from Antakya. Beware: ALL BUS TRAFFIC BETWEEN GAZIANTEP AND SYRIA IS CANCELLED!!! The trip Antakya - Damaskus (in Turkish language: Sam, spell: Sham) is 7.30 Hours inclusive border controls. The busses are leaving at 9.00 a.m. and 12.00 a.m., departure Damascus only 10.00 p.m. Trains to Aleppo are leaving Damscus at 7.00 a.m. The trip takes 8-10 hours.

You are NO LONGER forced to exchange money directly at the border. Thanks God, the rates there were always ridiculous!

Rob Dickinson