The Israeli Club For Model Trains
Rishon LeTsiyon, Israel
The club was founded in 1989 on the initiative of the late Yaakov Haran. Initially it was located in the underground shelter of the disused South Tel Aviv railway station. However, when the first Gulf War broke out in 1991, the shelter was taken over by the commander of the “Patriot” missile battery nearby and the layout had to be dismantled and removed within one day. For a number of years it was stored in a shipping container until Moshe Rozen, a member of Kibbutz Netzer Sereni and a member of the club was able to obtain the use of a small shelter in the kibbutz. A beautiful layout was constructed there with HO gauge DC and Marklin tracks combined in one layout , an N gauge layout and an O gauge track around the walls. in 2008, the kibbutz gave us the use of a a larger shelter. The original layouts were dismantled and a new layout suited to the larger room is being constructed by the members. We meet weekly and have about 30 permanent members, with quite a few visitors in addition.
A short history of railways in Israel and surrounding countries (photo's below)
The first railway to be built in what was then the southern part of the Ottoman Empire was the line from Jaffa to Jerusalem, opened in 1892. It was the initiative of a Jewish Jerusalem businessman, Joseph Navon. It had a profound influence on the development of the city and of pilgrimages to the Holy Land. The winding route along a narrow valley without any tunnels and the narrow gauge (1 meter) were chosen to keep down costs. ( The legacy of which is still suffered from today.)
The next line, also a narrow gauge (1.05 meter), joined the port of Haifa to the hinterland of what is now Jordan, Syria and Saudi Arabia. It was to be a branch of the Hedjaz Railway from Damascus to Medina. The "Jezreel Valley Railway" was completed in 1905 and ran through the Jezreel valley and past the southern tip of Lake Kinneret (the Sea of Galilee) before climbing up the valley of the Yarmuk river to a junction at Deraa in Syria with the main Hedjaz line.
The Turks started a plan to branch off this line (at Afuleh) to continue through Jenin to Jerusalem, but the line was never completed. When WW I broke out, the Turks began building lines (1.05 meter gauge) from this branch to Beer Sheba (eventually reaching Kusseima in Sinai) and to Gaza to further their military activities.
Later (starting in 1916) the British built a standard gauge line from Egypt across the Sinai peninsula towards Gaza which enabled them to bring troops and supplies to the front and eventually to defeat the Turks. After the war, during the British mandate, this line was incorporated in the Palestine Railways network, from Kantara in Egypt to Haifa and Nahariya and further into today's Lebanon, together with the Jaffa-Jerusalem line which was converted to standard gauge and the Yezreel valley line which remained narrow gauge.
When the British mandate terminated in 1948 with the creation of the State of Israel, Israel Railways was formed. The connections to Lebanon and Egypt were disrupted. The Yezreel valley line was closed, but trains from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem and Haifa continued to operate. Lines were later built to Beer Sheba and Dimona and a freight line to Har Tzin in the Negev, but investment was limited and the trains infrequent.
In the 1990’s this changed and serious development of the lines, building new stations and acquiring modern rolling stock has resulted in a 10 fold increase in the number of passengers. Today well over 200 trains run every day, carrying some 30 million passengers a year.
The old line to Jerusalem was “upgraded” but because of the many curves, the speed is limited and the journey time long. A high speed line on a different route was started, but budgetary and other delays have put the completion date off by several years. It is now scheduled for complet2017.
The last steam engine (LMS type 8F, No. 70414) was scrapped in 1958. when IR switched over to diesels. One small steam loco is still preserved in the Railway Museum in Haifa