40:9.            THE OPENING OF THE JAFFA AND JERUSALEM RAILWAY.

 

FROM: "SCRIBNER'S MAGAZINE",  Vol. XIII No. 3, March 1893.

 

Thanks to Martyn J. Hodes of San Diego for a photocopy of an article from this magazine - original price 25 cents, price now beyond rubies - where, on pp. 289-300, one Selah Merill has written the following illustrated account. I have retained the Americanised spelling.

 

"If ever an act seemed like sacrilege it is the introduction of a railroad into Palestine, with the sound of whistle and rushing train among the old and quiet hills of Judea. Everybody believes, however, that Providence is guiding the march of civilization, hence there can be nothing unholy in the fact that its advanced guard has reached the walls of ancient Jerusalem. We had already the post-office, the management of which has notably improved during the past ten years; we had also the telegraph; and while one should not expect too much of  Oriental lightning, and must sometimes be satisfied if it makes a full hundred miles in forty-eight hours, still the natives, both high and low, are gradually waking up to the idea that it means promptness and rapidity - that it is a kind of annihilator of space. But it was reserved for the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and ninety-two to introduce here the railway, with all its strange and stirring life. The present is a kind of "Columbus year" for Palestine, and in commemoration of the opening of this road in the Holy Land, an extra flag might be displayed at the great Chicago Exposition.

              During the month of August (1892), tens of thousands of people, for the first time in their lives, have seen a railroad and a train of cars. They have had a revelation, and in the great city as well as in the dirtiest village of the land, wonder is at its height. The excitement can hardly be realised by the inhabitants of other countries, to whom railroads perfected by the highest engineering skill and with lavish expense are objects as familiar and common as a daily newspaper. We forget that, not so very long ago, in our own country we had only bridle-paths and scarcely a yearly post, while  railways and steamboats had not even been dreamed of. Let all the world rejoice if this medieval country is experiencing a sensation which it can hardly comprehend.

     The significance of this event is not that fifty-three miles of railway have been built, or that the capital and the seaport have been united by iron rails; it is that this has been done in Turkey, which has always, by all the prejudice and force of religion, by all the arts of its diplomacy, and by every other means at its command, done all in its power to keep out Western civilization. It is therefore a well-aimed spear-thrust in the side of this old despotic backward-looking government, and may foretoken for it either the dawn of health or the shadows of inevitable death.

           But no one can make use of this railway until he gets into the country, and the process of landing at Jaffa is the same old bugbear that it was before the railroad was built. This process, however, in the large majority of instances, is not at all formidable, but the remaining instances are no doubt rather trying to sensitive nerves. The fact is that Jaffa has no harbor; there is a bit of water protected by a reef of rocks where small boats can be sheltered if they succeed in shooting themselves into it before a storm overtakes them; but steamers and large craft have to stand out to sea for safety. There is evidence that, on the north side of the present town,  there was, in ancient times, a sort of harbor, small but safe, which is now silted up and covered with orange groves. The great public work most pressingly demanded at the present time is the construction of a breakwater of dimensions sufficiently ample for the protection of shipping of all kinds. The railroad during the slack season of the year - say during the entire summer, from May till October - might employ their forces in carting down one of the mountains of Judea, saying: "Be thou cast into the sea", and thus form an effectual barrier against the mad waves of the winter storms. Since any number of laborers can be obtained for twenty to thirty cents a day, furnishing their own food at that, the cost of such an undertaking ought not to be so great as to prevent its being done.

           Delicate women and dignified clergymen who have been tossed from the steamer's ladder into the great bare arms of a stalwart Arab boatman standing in a boat below, while steamer and boat and sea were dancing like captive rubber balls in a gale of wind, think nothing could exceed the discomfort which they experienced; how, then, would they estimate the task of the railroad company, who had to get from ship to shore, in spite of rough seas, all the rails, ties, iron bridges, cars, engines, colossal water-tanks, and everything else that was required of the road ? The task, however, after much serious risk to life, many mishaps, and some discouraging and costly accidents, was accomplished; but the difficulties overcome only emphasize the great need which Jaffa has for a suitable harbor and landing-place.

      The reef just referred to, with its bit of sheltered water, is directly in front of the middle of the town, and the town itself is defended from the sea by a high wall from the top of which the houses begin.  Travellers are hoisted up here, but all the materials for the railroad must be got ashore elsewhere. From a safe point on the north side of the town the company  built a temporary track of rocks and timber, shored up in the strongest possible manner, so that it might not be swept away by the waves, which ran along in the shallow water under the wall of the town until it reached a certain point in the reef of rocks beyond which the water was deep. Hither from the steamers was brought, on strong lighters, the material for the road, and all seemed to be working well; but one night a terrible storm, such as Josephus relates was long ago named by the Jaffa mariners "The Black Norther" ("Wars", iii., 9,3), ruined a large part of the structure; as nothing was to be done but to try again, at great cost of time and money it was rebuilt, and finally served the purpose desired. Certain things, as, for instance, the boilers of the engines, were dumped into the sea, and, like great captive monsters, were easily towed to land. Everything that could be constructed thus was made in sections, and engineering skill contrived to handle these so that at last the materials were all landed without serious injury.

       Jaffa rises from the sea not in rugged outline, but round as a Roman arch, and is  girded with a vast belt of green, made up of gardens, orange-groves, palm-trees, wells and water-courses, and white cottages just visible beneath luxuriant shade; and looked at from either sea or land, it well deserves its ancient Hebrew name of "beautiful". Without patient human industry, however, all this would retrograde so that it would soon be described as "a little barren hill in the midst of a sandy waste".

              The town is Mohammedan. It possesses also a considerable population of Jews, but it is to the large Christian element that its present prosperity is chiefly due. It can boast of excellent hotels, hospitals and schools. It has an unfailing vegetable market in Port Said, where great Indian ships are constantly passing to and fro. Of its enormous orange crop, forty millions to sixty millions are sent every year to Egypt, Europe and London - enough to make thrice glad the children in half of the cities of the American Union. It sends abroad annually from four hundred thousand to six hundred thousand dollars' worth of native soap, making one wish that the people of the country would afford to use a little more and sell a little less; while its exportations of wheat, barley, maize, olive-oil, wine, and other commodities, together with its imports, make its commerce mount up into respectable millions.

     Both north and south of Jaffa the coast is one continuous sand-bank, broken at points into low hills, running parallel to and a short distance back of the water limit. Through this bank the road must go, and a vast quantity of sand had to be removed before a proper roadway was secured. Passing for a mile and a half through these gigantic walls of sand along the line of the road, we suddenly look out on to gardens and cultivated fields, beyond which a broad plain stretches, apparently without limit, toward the blue and far-distant hills. That is the Plain of Sharon, rich as the heart of man could wish, and justly famous in the Sacred Books; and when, even now in springtime, this great plain spreads out its flower-covered acres beneath the loveliest sky, the beholder forgets, for the moment, that he is in a land of ruins and desolations.

           It is interesting to note that the different plans for the construction of a railroad between Jaffa and Jerusalem extend back over nearly forty years, although they did not take definite shape until about the year 1860 to 1863. The wild country between Jerusalem and the Plain of Sharon was not then known as it is at present, and the difficulties in the way of selecting the best route can hardly be appreciated. There was then only a camel path, or rather several of them, between the two places, none of which seemed suitable for the line of the proposed railroad. Some advocated what may be called the middle route, not essentially different from the present carriage road; others thought a more southern route the best; while the majority considered the northern route the only feasible one. This was the line of the old Roman road from Jerusalem to Caesarea; it passed close by Mizpeh, the home of the prophet Samuel; it crossed the great battlefield where Joshua routed the army of the Five Kings (Joshua x); it went down the mountain by the Pass of Beth Horon, where, in A.D. 66, the Twelfth Legion, under Cestius, was cut to pieces by the infuriated Jews; it touched Lydda, where "saints" then "dwelt" (Acts ix.32), a class that has long since disappeared from the country; and it was the road by which Paul went as a prisoner with an escort of four hundred infantry and seventy cavalry - in such state, in fact, that one might justly call it his last triumphal march away from the Holy City (Acts xxvii). It was proposed to cross the plain in an easterly direction from Jaffa, climb the foot-hills till the pass just mentioned as reached, and thence approach Jerusalem from the north. This route had historic interest and sentiment in its favour, and it was more than once carefully surveyed. French engineers were in the country in 1874-75, with special reference to marking out the railway line along this route, and the scheme appeared then so certain that individuals began to think of investments along that line in anticipation of the road being built.

        What is now about to be related is a fragment of hitherto unwritten history, in which Americans should take not merely a curious interest but a bit of honest pride.

       There was a man here named Charles F. Zimpel, a Prussian by birth but a naturalized American citizen, who, in 1860 to 1863, surveyed the different routes carefully, and decided to lay down the line of the proposed road along what has before been mentioned as the southern route. Mr. Zimpel was a man of excellent education and of very versatile talents. In early life he had received a thorough military training. he was regularly graduated as a Doctor of medicine and also of philosophy. He had a special liking for pharmaceutical studies, took a practical interest in railroad engineering, and had withal a passionate love for the Holy Land. He was never married, he travelled extensively, and the year 1852 found him in Palestine examining with enthusiasm its many places of interest. In 1853 he published a book entitled "Neue ÷ertliche topographische Beleuchtung der heiligen Weltstadt Jerusalem". The next seven or eight years he spent in the United States, devoting himself exclusively to the work of surveying and constructing railroads. He came thence to Jerusalem, having accumulated considerable means, and surveyed and mapped out the railroad as has been described. He spent a year in Constantinople trying to obtain a "concession" for building the road, but without success. He returned to Jerusalem and to the practice of medicine, chiefly to the compounding of medicines. About this time it was noticed that he had become somewhat eccentric, and as an "experimenting pharmacist" he discovered some wonderful remedies which he called Sunlight Pills, and Jerusalem Life Extract, in which he himself had great faith. He had also much to say about the "hundred and forty and four thousand" of St. John's Revelation, and his hope of being worthy to be numbered among them. Not long after he went to Italy, and died at San Remo. Dr. Zimpel (simple, as most people thought him at last) was at rest, and his railroad scheme was practically forgotten.

          Thirty years after this Sunlight Pill man had been in a land made one of perpetual sunshine and song by the presence of the Master whom he loved, other men entered into his labors. Within thirty months past, men backed by French capitalists have come to Palestine and, rejecting the northern and middle routes, have actually built a railroad following minutely Dr. Zimpel's plan. The only variations are at two points, one near Jaffa and the other near Ramleh, both on the flat land, where the change was simply a matter of convenience. Dr. Zimpel's survey made the road eighty kilometres in length, while the road as built is eighty-six and one half kilometres. The significance of having chosen the best route may be emphasized in the reader's mind when it is stated that two-thirds of this road is on the plain and one-third in the mountains, which must be climbed in order to reach Jerusalem, two thousand five hundred feet above the level of the sea.

       What has been said is but a brief and imperfect tribute to the memory of this well-nigh forgotten man, and if full honor were to be done to one whom, as in this case, honor is so justly due, stronger and much more fitting words should have been chosen.

 

      Without its entering at all into the projectors' or the builders' plans, the construction of this road has had a kind of international character. A French company with French capital has built the road on Turkish soil. Turkey also gave the concession, has a commissioner to see that its terms are carried out, and has the honor of having the company bear its name, Imperial Ottoman, etc. Besides the money, the ties, the cars, and half the rails came from France. She also furnished surveyors, engineers, laborers and cooks. Belgium furnished half the rails and half the coal. The other half of the coal came from Cardiff, which appears to have been England's share. Poland furnished at least one engineer. Switzerland furnished several engineers, very skilful men, and the engineer-in-chief of the planning and construction of the road was Gerold Eberhard, a Swiss gentleman who has had eight years' practical experience with railroading in Panama. Switzerland has likewise had a worthy representative in Mr. John Fruitiger [sic], a gentleman from Basel, long a prominent banker in Jerusalem and noted for his benevolent spirit - now unfortunately laid aside from active duties by an incurable disease - who in the early stages of the history of this road did more than any other individual, both by his means and by his influence, to secure from the Turks the concession or permission to build - a favor which that government was exceedingly unwilling to grant. Italy furnished engineers and laborers; Austria likewise furnished both. Laborers were furnished by Egypt, the Soudan, and Algiers; little Greece furnished cooks. And if the United States must share with Germany the man who first surveyed and mapped out the road and afterward made Sunlight Pills, America is ahead of the Fatherland, in the fact that the engines thus far purchased by the company for the road were all made by the Baldwin Locomotive Works, in Philadelphia. Poor Palestine must not be omitted from the list, although she belongs to Turkey; she sacrificed some of her beautiful orange-groves and vineyards, and many of her ancient olive-trees; she furnished provisions for men and animals; hers were the beasts of burden for all heavy work; and many of her people, from both plain and mountain, toiled during the storms of winter and the severe heat of summer, cutting down hills and filling valleys, to prepare this new highway of the nations.

     The company experimented with different classes of laborers, and nearly all had one fault, namely, that of laziness. The Arabs on the plain could handle readily its alluvial soil, which was free of stones, but in the rocky hills they were worthless. Several hundred Italians were imported, a kind of picked-up job-lot, and only about one hundred of them proved to be serviceable workmen. The Algerines and Egyptians, especially those that were accustomed to work on the Suez Canal, were more efficient than the natives of Palestine. But when the plain was crossed and the real struggle with nature was begun in the hills of Judea, none of these workmen were equal to the task before them. Men were needed who were accustomed - as their fathers before them had for generations been accustomed - to work in stone, and some of the mountain villages furnished just this class. The stone-masons of Bethlehem and of the neighboring town of Beit Jala, slowly but successfully cut a path for the iron rails through mountains of rock.

       Barracks were provided where the workmen could sleep, but they furnished their own food. Twice a week doctors visited the various camps to render any medical services that might be needed; but on the flat land between Ramleh and the mountains a considerable number of men died.

       When the chief engineer was asked if the laborers ever had a holiday, he smiled and said that they took the law into their own hands; for the next day after pay-day a majority of the men were never seen on the road.

       The wages of these workmen were not such as to tempt laborers in prosperous America, for the Arabs on the plain received thirty to thirty-five cents a day, the Egyptians and others received forty to fifty cents a day, and the men who could work in stone received seventy cents to one dollar a day.

     But steam is up and the bell rings, and we must "take the cars for Jerusalem", How strange the words sound. They call the cars "American" because they open at each end, but they are divided into compartments, and this, together with the arrangement of seats, makes them quite unlike our cars. On our way we shall cross the track of armies, we shall touch great battle-fields, we shall pass places of wonderful historic interest, we shall see the beautiful Sharon and beyond it a wilderness of picturesque hills, and if all goes well we shall arrive at "The City of David".

              Between Jaffa and Jerusalem, exclusive of these, there are five stations. That at Jaffa is a neat structure, and together with the freight depot, the engine house, the great water-tanks, and the tracks with cars and engines standing upon them, presents a scene unfamiliar to Eastern eyes. On the plain we pass close to Beit Dejan, a name which takes us back to the days of the Philistines. Here and there villages appear in the landscape, some of them hugging the ground so closely that the eye needs a little practice to distinguish them readily. 

         Twelve miles from Jaffa we reach our first stopping-place, Ludd, the Lod of the Hebrews and the Lydda of Roman and Christian times, and which at a later period bore the name of  Diopolis. Its tall palms are an attractive feature of the modern town Just before reaching the place, we notice on our left a magnificent tree which has a singular history, hitherto unwritten, connected with Napoleon and his Syrian campaign of 1799.

          When all of Europe trembled at this name it is no wonder that the simple people of Syria and Palestine regarded his arrival as their Doomsday, and both mountaineers and dwellers in the plain were filled with terror. Old people still remember their fathers tell of the startling rumours that swept over the land when the Great Conqueror actually stood on the sands at Jaffa. As the news of deeds then and there enacted reached their ears, the hearts of ruler and peasant alike were filled with the gloomiest forebodings. Their fate was sealed, and it was only a question of time before it would be decided, they thought, who or what would survive the invasion of this hostile and victorious army.     

              After Jaffa, on the direct road to Jerusalem, the next most important town was Lydda, rich in soil and gardens, interesting in historical traditions, and rejoicing in material prosperity; and it was supposed to be inevitable that this would be the first point to suffer from the invading foe. The village is situated in the midst of a great plain, and  has always been noted for its olive-groves. Far beyond the limit of the town, and likewise in 1799 of the olive groves themselves, although the groves have at present reached and gone beyond this limit, there stood a tree which to the people of Lydda and of all that region is a tree of fame. The tree, sacredly guarded from harm, stands, as we saw from the cars, with gracefully rounded top, its branches spreading eighty feet and at their extremities reaching nearly to the ground, its thick foliage affording a delightful shade from the sun, or shelter even from the rain, sound and flourishing as though it were yet in the vigour of its early life, a conspicuous object to one passing on the main road from Lydda to Jaffa, and only a few hundred yards from the new railroad. This is the tree known to everybody as Tul-wa-ir-ja'a, pronounced Tul-wir-ja'a.

        The tree is a thorn-apple called by the natives in different parts of the country Sidr, Dom or Nubk, which grows near Jericho and elsewhere to an enormous size. Everyone of its thorns is double, one part to stab and one part to hook with,. and woe to one's clothing if it accidentally comes in contact with these savage boughs. The natives manage, with long iron hooks, to cut off the twigs and branches which they pile into fences around their gardens or houses, and against men and animals nothing could form a more effective barrier.

      The Arabic name just given by which this tree is known, is not easily translated into English, that is, so that it will sound poetical and pretty; but literally it means "Look and Come Back", or "Look and Return". From this tree the vast plain for many miles toward Jaffa was open, so that one could see at a great distance any large object like an approaching body of men, and every hour messengers were sent out from the town to see if Napoleon and his army were approaching, and to return and report, so that from earliest dawn to latest twilight there was a constant succession of watchmen coming in to assure the inhabitants - it so happened, for Napoleon did not penetrate the country towards Jerusalem - that the dreaded man was not in sight. Look and Return, or Look and Come Back is, in a land full of dead monuments, a beautiful and living monument of remote but once thrilling events.

           About Lydda and the next station, Ramleh, two miles distant, there are at least twelve square miles covered with olive groves. At intervals during this short ride we get glimpses between the trees of the town of Ramleh and its conspicuous tower, that of the Forty Martyrs, a name justified by both Christian and Mohammedan tradition. From its lofty windows both Crusading and Moslem conquerors have looked out over the broad plain, anxiously scanning the horizon on all sides for an approaching foe. The word Ramleh means sand, "The Sandy", but since human industry has made the region fertile this feature is no longer apparent. It strikes an American as a little singular that the railway station at this place should be close to the graveyard - suggesting unfortunate emergencies which sometimes arise in railroading experience.

     Still across the rich prairie-like country, we come after ten miles to Es Sejed, a place of no special interest, except that here is a spring and the engine is supplied with water. This question of water is after all one of vital importance, and was one of the serious difficulties to be considered and overcome in the construction of the road. At Jaffa there is a well, another at Ramleh, but after this spring at Es Sejed there is no water till Bittir is reached. From Bittir, water is brought to the station at Jerusalem, eight miles distant, and stored in great tanks, as there is no natural supply at  the Jerusalem end of the route.

         In a country dotted with places of historic interest, it would be idle to attempt to indicate them all; but Gezer may be pointed out, one a royal Canaanitish city and the scene of many battles; likewise the forever memorable valley of Ajalon; the great hills which guard the Pass of Beth Horon; Latrun, once a stronghold and somehow connected with robbers; and hidden just behind Latrun are Beit Nuba, where Richard the Lion-hearted camped with his army in A.D. 1192, and Amwas, the Emaus of Josephus, where the Fifth Legion was stationed till, at the command of Titus, it moved up through the mountains to join his other forces in the siege of Jerusalem.

            Seven miles further brings us to a station called Deir Aban. We are now near the mountains, but the valley is still broad and rich, and the thirty-one miles of plain between this point and Jaffa suggest what the country under better government might become. Here crossed the Roman road leading between Nicopolis or Amwas and Eleutheropolis, now Beit Jibrin. The region is rich in biblical interest. We are in the country of Samson, and probably near the place both of his birth and of his burial; and in a land where there are twenty foxes to one jackal, and where hundreds of them are caught every year, we may be allowed to suppose, contrary to the opinion of "learned commentators", that the former, and not the latter, were the instruments of his vengeance upon the Philistines.

     A few minutes beyond Deir Aban we find our vision suddenly impeded in every direction by bold and rugged mountains. The ride of fourteen miles to the next station, Bittir, is through wild and romantic scenery, of which even Switzerland might be proud. The gorges, the cliffs, the peaks rising skyward, the masses of broken rock, the deep cuttings for the road-bed, the bridges, the few clusters of olive-trees deep in the valley or clinging to a little earth far up on the mountain side, make a picture in which there is endless charm. In the Alps there is in winter an abundance of ice which helps to disintegrate the rocks, and which forms streamlets of great beauty; in the waterless Judean hills the rocks look old and time-worn, barren and dry. In the Alps the patches of earth in valley or on mountain side are made fruitful and attractive by untiring and skilful industry; in the Judean hills neglect is everywhere apparent and the result is desolation. Were the same kind of skill and persistent energy spent here every year that is spent in the Alps, this aspect of desolation would in a large measure be removed. At the same time, unassisted nature does all in her power to remedy these defects, and those travellers who are so fortunate as to see Palestine in the spring may think the description just given to be overdrawn.

      At Bittir the mountains recede or bend round in such a way as to form a vast natural amphitheatre in the middle of which the town is situated. Below the village are large vegetable gardens for supplying the Jerusalem market - gardens most attractive to the eye in this worn-out land. The view down the gorge to the west and up the valley for miles to the north, its superb air, and the fact that its fountain affords an unfailing water-supply, mark this as the place for a summer hotel - the delightful retreat of Jerusalemites from their city's stifling and dusty atmosphere. Rising far above the town is a long oval ridge covered with ancient ruins, admirable as a place for defence, and called the Ruin of the Jews. It is the traditional site of the city and stronghold Bethar, where, in the second revolt against Rome, A.D. 132-136, Bar Cochat [sic; normally called Bar Kochba. Ed.] and his brave followers made a memorable resistance against the Roman troops, but at last were compelled to yield, the famous Hebrew patriot himself perishing in the final slaughter.

      Eight miles further still, through picturesque scenery, and we shall be at our journey's end. When we entered the mountains near Deir Aban, we were in the great Wady Es Surar, which toward the sea is called Nahr Rubin, and northwest of Jerusalem Wady Hannina. It is not uncommon for a valley to be called by different names in the different sections of its course. A little more than half-way to Bittir we turned into Wady Es Sikkeh, although it appears to be a continuation of Wady Es Surar, and from Bittir to Jerusalem, Es Sikkeh is called Wady El Werd - the Valley of Roses - on account of the great quantity of roses that are raised there. In this valley, within a distance of four miles, there are three copious springs of the freshest, sweetest water that the country affords. What a pity that it cannot be brought to Jerusalem, since it could be done at a moderate expense.

     The last two miles of the road before it reaches Jerusalem cross the Plain of Rephaim, or Valley of Rephaim, which means the Valley of Giants. On the west side of this plain, and close to the railroad, are some colossal heaps of stone, known as The Seven Ruins - Es Seba Rujum. No one knows who placed them there, and the imagination gives them an exaggerated importance. The practical explanation of their existence is in the tradition that the Plain of Rephaim was once covered with gardens, of which there is now no possible trace, and that these stones were gathered from the soil, that its cultivation might be the more complete and perfect. These hills the railroad company have purchased, laid a track to them, and are using the small stones of which they are entirely composed to bed down their main track. How accommodating the old inhabitants were to place these millions of cubic feet of stones just where they would be most convenient for use in these modern times. The Valley of Roses has now broadened out and joined the Valley of Giants -- the one suggestive of ancient heroes and contending armies, and the other of fragrance, beauty and peace. Conquerors have come up this way to Jerusalem, and on this very ground King David more than once beat back the Philistine invaders. A new conqueror is now at the gates of the city, not to destroy life, but as the servant of man.

        We are now at the Jerusalem station, which is 2,480 feet above the level of the station at Jaffa, and we have made the journey in three hours and a half. Two years and a half have been occupied in building the road, and the cost of it was not far from $2,000,000. Four dollars will buy a round-trip ticket, first-class, good for two days, from Jerusalem to Jaffa. On Sunday, August 21st., an engine came within a few hundred yards of the Jerusalem station, but the track to it had not then been laid, and it was not until Saturday, August 27th., at ten o'clock in the forenoon, that the first through train from Jaffa, with engine and passenger cars, actually arrived at the station. This is stated as official information, partly for the reason that some persons like to be exact in such matters, and partly because the report has, either through oversight or carelessness, been widely circulated that the first train arrived at Jerusalem on Sunday, August 21st. which is not historically correct. The formal opening of the road to the public was on Monday, September 26th., when a dinner was given by the company, through its President, Monsieur Collas, who, with several distinguished engineers, who had come from Paris for the occasion, to one hundred and fifty invited guests, at which the after-dinner speech-making was, to an American, a notable failure, chiefly because it was done by Turkish officials, who appear to have no skill in that line. The Sultan was praised several times during the evening, a thing which, to those who knew with what difficulty the concession to build the road had been wrung from him, seemed somewhat out of place.

     Objection was made by the local government to the station being located on the site first asked for by the company, quite near the city; hence the present site was chosen, about one mile from the town. This is close to the German colony, and the land, a little less than nine acres, the property of the Greek Convent, cost $25,000; a fact which shows that Jerusalem, notwithstanding its great poverty, has land on which a high value is set, especially when a railroad company is purchaser. This colony, with its gardens, vines,  and tall cypress-trees, its pretty cottages with tile roofs, its church and commodious school-house, all indicating good taste, enterprise, and thrift, presents a striking contrast to the neglected and untidy appearance of all the Jewish colonies that have been planted in Palestine. From the station we take a carriage for the city, of the newer portion of which we have all the way a good view, and, passing the valley of Hinnom, reach, in a few moments, the Jaffa Gate, just inside of which is the Grand New Hotel, admirably managed, spacious and richly furnished, where a majority of the visitors to the Holy Land find a most comfortable home during their temporary stay. "

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Notes: This remarkable accounts clarifies a large number of issues which others have left vague. The link between the engineer and the purchase of Baldwin locomotives left over from abortive projects in Panama is now clarified; the relationship of "Wadi Surar" and its appellation of "Valley of Roses"; a little more about the life of Zimpel; etc. etc.  It is believed that Selah Merrill was somehow connected to the American Colony, though the unashamed advertisement at the end for the "Grand New Hotel", rather than the "American Colony Hotel", seems to contradict this.

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