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The story behind the Israel Railway Museum in Haifa

Magnificent locomotives and carriages

This week I went to the Israel Railways Museum, which is located at the Haifa Mizrah train station on Hativat Golani Street 1. The museum presents the history of the railway in the Land of Israel since the inauguration of the first line in 1892 between Jaffa and Jerusalem to the present day. The museum complex sits above the railroad tracks, the main lines where trains travel to Nahariya, Karmiel Beit Shan and of course to the south and is housed in old stone buildings that have existed since the Ottoman period.

The museum presents the history of rail transport in Israel and neighboring countries. The location of the museum is of historical importance because the building used to be used as a locomotive garage for the Hijaz Railway that operated there from 1905.

The building in which smaller exhibits were previously used as one of the warehouses at the train station during the Ottoman rule. The museum also has mobile equipment such as wagons, locomotives and there are train signs, train tickets from different periods, old timetables, train models, a collection of train stamps and a library that includes literature on the subject of the train.

A steam locomotive of the Hijaz railway, the last one left in Israel, built by the Kraus company in Germany (1902) (Photo: Sabrina De Rita)

The luxurious lounge car

Among the historical carriages there is the magnificent lounge carriage in which Haile Selassie, the Emperor of Ethiopia, who was expelled from Ethiopia by the Italians in 1936, arrived by ship in Haifa and in Haifa the British held a big ceremony for him from where he boarded the carriage and traveled all the way to Jerusalem.

This carriage was built in England in 1922 for the officers of the Mandatory Railway. Churchill, King Abdullah, the Queen of Belgium and more have also traveled in some of the carriages on display. Also in the museum is the last Israeli steam locomotive, the armored combat wagon and dozens of other locomotives and wagons. You can also enter some of the carriages.

The idea for the establishment of the museum was introduced back in the days of the Mandate in 1945, by the chief engineer of the Israel Railways (Palestine Railways).

Carriages displayed in the railway museum (photo: Sabrina de Rita)

History on the edge of the fork

The beginning of the railway in the Land of Israel dates back to the Ottoman period when in 1892 the first railway line between Jaffa and Jerusalem was inaugurated. In 1906, the Ottoman government paved a branch of the Hijaz railway with branches to Acre and Samaria. In 1915 the Hijaz train arrived in Be'er Sheva.

During this period the railways were transferred from Ottoman to British rule. Later, a British military railway was built from Kentara to Haifa. During the Second World War, when the British Mandate ruled the country, they increased the volume of transportation with the help of the British Army.

Director of the Israel Railway Museum Chen Meling, who grew up in Haifa, states:

The railway museum is a national railway museum and deals with the entire history of the railway in Israel and there are Haifa angles, because the place where it is located is one of the most historically important places in the railway in Israel, it is the heart of the development of modern Haifa. Haifa existed long before the railway, but modern Haifa developed from here. The first modern port dock was built here.

During the Ottoman period, thanks to the construction and existence of the Hijaz railway, workers from all over the Middle East arrived in Haifa at the beginning of the 20th century, and in fact the port and the railway created many jobs. As a result, the population in the city soared. "During the mandate period, out of all the railway employees, the Jews were less than ten percent."

Some of those Jewish workers were clerks and engineers. But with the establishment of the state, the railway had a problem because there was not enough manpower, because most of the workers were not Jewish and some left, and it was necessary to recruit new workers who were not necessarily skilled in the field, among them new immigrants who came from Europe after the war.

The 50 years

After the establishment of the state, it was necessary to build new lines and stations for a country that is now growing and developing, and part of the money that helped finance this construction in the 50s came from Germany as part of the reparations agreement. This allowed the Israel Railways within a decade, instead of the state, to create a train and infrastructure at an international level.

PR, Meslat Razel Philistina

Chen points out that what distinguishes the train from other means of transportation is that it is a means of transportation without steering. Unlike cars, ships and planes, the train has the rails that carry and direct it and like most of the rails in the world they are made of iron.

In addition to being the director of the museum, he published a historical book about the railways during the Mandate period called: "PR, Meslat Barzel Plashitna [AI], 1948-1920". The names of the chapters in the book are interesting, for example: "The Orange Season 1930-1939", "Nothing Left Forever 1946-1948". The book brings the national story of the railway and how it contributed to the establishment of the State of Israel during the Mandatory rule.

Chen Meling's book (Photo: Sabrina de Rita)

This is how he writes: "Only on October 1, 1920, the army transferred the management of the railroads to the mandate government, which for this purpose established the new government ministry of railways, Palestine Railways ("PR Meslam Barzel Palishtina (AI)). Most of the railroads passed to the mandate government in Israel Israel was paved for military needs during the First World War" (page XNUMX).

Towards the end of the book he writes: "April 1948, the last mandatory train arrived at the Rehovot station with instructions to the station manager, David Kosover, to transfer the station to the authority of the Yishuv council" (page 124). He also tells about "Beit Khouri" that impressive mansion "that at the time stood on the edge of the Hadar neighborhood in Haifa, to which the main management of the PR moved in World War II for fear of enemy bombings on the Haifa Mizrah station".

The missile building seen from the bridge that passes over the railway museum (photo: Sabrina de Rita)

A final word - in 2006, during the Second Lebanon War, a rocket fired by Hezbollah hit the garage of the train and during this tragic event, eight train workers were killed, which led to the name change of the Haifa Center train station, to Haifa Center of the Eight, in order to commemorate them. 

Contact Chai here: At watsapBy email

Sabrina de Rita
Sabrina de Rita
Photographer, multidisciplinary artist from Haifa

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14 תגובות

  1. The train museum is very impressive, invested and intriguing. I visited there a month ago and was impressed by the exhibits, the explanations on the signs and the lovely stamp exhibition. The cleanliness, order and organization - worthy of note!

  2. The late Ilan Falkov, spokesman for Israel Railways and researcher of Eretz Israel Railways initiated and founded the museum.
    It's a shame that those who are there today don't know how to give the credit.

  3. It is important to note and to be precise, the museum was established at the initiative and thanks to Ilan Falkov, who was the spokesman for the railway and a researcher of the Eretz Israel railways.

  4. It is important to note the names of those who fell in the train garage in Haifa, after whom the center station of Hashmona is named: Shlomi Mansoura, David Feldman, Asael Demati, Rafi Hazan, Denis Lapidus, Nissim Elharer, Shmuel Ben Shimon, Reuven Levy.
    In their memory

  5. It is unfortunate to hear that there is an intention to move the railway museum near the railway headquarters in Lod.
    Even if it sits on "real estate" that can be developed in the lower city on the sea front, this is another loss
    of a historical institution of Haifa as it lost the railway management that today built offices
    Magnificent in Lod instead of Haifa.

  6. Part of that building was damaged in one of the Jewish underground operations, before the establishment of the state. There was a part that collapsed and was not restored.

  7. Thanks a lot to the responders
    Nice to hear about the hours of operation:

    Museum operating hours: Sunday - Thursday, between 08:00 - 15:30 (last entry at 14:30). Entry to the museum will be possible until one hour before closing time.

    Address: Golani Division 3, Haifa (for those arriving by car) | Hiram St., corner of Malacha St., Haifa (for those arriving by car).

  8. I did visit this train in 1964 Sabrina. This place is amazingly beautiful. Thank you, Sabrina, for the fun coverage, and Shabbat Shalom to you and the readers of Chai Fe on the Nega website.

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