EARLY ISRAEL RAILWAYS MEMORIES:

Aharon Gazit ofModi'in has prepared some memoirs of his childhood

"Although I remember the day when we arrived in Israel, one day in July 1949, my first memories are a little bit later, when we lived in Kiryat-Shmuel and where, with an older friend, we went to the station ofKiryat Motzkin, where we put coins and nails on the rails, and so got them flattened into new shapes. In those years, the IDF used every British-built siding to their camps, and the one at Kiryat Motzkin was no exception - so I had the opportunity to become acquainted for the first time with the various types of locos, mainly Baldwin 4-6-OS and LMS gF 2-8-0's.

But the real change for me  occurred in 1951, when we moved to Haifa. There, for a reason which will never be clear to me, my father used to take me to Haifa Central in the afternoon, and there I could watch every day the afternoon train to Kiryat Motzkin and Akko. As far as I can remember, it was around 16.00. A Baldwin led the train, consisting mainly of the oldest rolling stock, generally three coaches. It entered the station, stopped, and whilst passengers were boarding it, the locomotive left the train, went forward then backwards and back, coupled on again, this time with the tender leading. For some reason the loco always stood with its chimney under the footbridge, so it remained black for years ! The signalmen had pity on my father, so they gave him a chair, which enabled me to see the whole station from above. This chair remained there for years - maybe waiting for the father of an enthusaist of the next generation. Sometimes I was lucky enough also to see freight trains headed by an 8F. This happened mainly in summer. Because there were few passenger trains running in the beginning of the 1950's, freight trains could be despatched as early as 17.00, but sometimes also at midday. As far as I remember,  the afternoon train to Akko remained in service in its original formation - and with steam locos until 1957.

 

HARAKEVET  51 P. 26

 

An interesting fact is that, although the distance between Haifa Central and Akko (about 23 km.) isn't much longer than that between Tel Aviv South and Led, the Baldwin tank locos were never used as they were between Tel Aviv and Lod - with very similar loads. I remember that one day when a Baldwin loco was out oforder, in 1952, a Baldwin tank pulled the  whole train towards Haifa East. Many people gathered at Palmer's Gate to see the "big wonder"!

A cynical use of the train occurred during the seamen's strike, which Almogi (a leader of the Haifa workers and chief of the "Hapoel Executors") decided to break in an original way. Their house is just on the track crossing the gate near Custom's House, so when they gathered there, an 8F was moving backwards and forwards, whistling and puffing, thus making it impossible to hear each other! When I saw it, I could not imagine what was really happening, but more than forty years later J saw a programme on Channel 1, in which a documentary report of Geva Herzliyya was shown with this locomotive and then I understood!

In 1952 I travelled by train in Israel for the first time - to Kiryat Motzkin. I clearly remember the two saloon coaches 97 & 98 standing for  years at Haifa East batteries depot. An interesting fact is that these coaches (the rebuilt Sentinel railcars?) were never repainted in light grey but in light white, with a red strip under the windows, until 1961 when all ex-PRstock was repainted in dark blue to match the newer stock. From that journey I also remember the ex-Hedjaz rolling stock and locos still active at Haifa East, as well as rusting old locos.

The next experience belongs to August 1954. It was a journey to Jerusalem which left memories that are still fresh today ! Firstly, because it was a long journey  for  a  7-year-old  -   about 4 hours. The loco was new SAFE No. 1.

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On the way, at Hadera East, we received reinforcement in the shape of a Second World War US boxcar converted to carry soldiers, and an escort of soldiers and border guards.  At that time, incidents at sensitive points like Tul-Keram, Kalkilya and Bittir happened daily, and Israel Railways wanted to take no risks. The interesting part started at Lod which was full of steam activity, and where most types oflocos could be seen. We said goodbye to the diesel locomotive and the train continued from here with two Baldwins doubleheading. This was done for two reasons - firstly there were still only three diesels on the system, and also extra coaches from  Tel Aviv South had been coupled onto the train. It should be noted that the mountainous line to Jerusalem was much less green at this time, since most of the forests along the route were still very young at the time. We took water at Beit-Shemesh (still called Hartuv at the time) and when e arrived at Jerusaalem it seemed to be like a holiday to the people living beside the track- we even received applause !

One of the converted Baldwin tank engines was usually to be seen at Jerusalem, busy shunting. On the way back we had -maybe surprisingly - a diesel, No. 103. Before entering Na'an junction we stood for a while, and saw the works being carried out on the line to Beer-Sheba.

On another journey in 1956, when the Negev line was already open, we also stopped at Na'an. (On that occasion we were headed both ways by a G12.) A train arrived from Beer-Sheba headed by the later-famous sF 70414. It uncoupled, we moved on, then reversed and coupled onto the the  coaches from Beer-Sheba, continued to Lod and there these Beer-Sheba coaches were uncoupled again, continuing to Tel Aviv South, whilst we continued on our way to Haifa.

Other Memories:

1). - Around 1955 sF's were used to haul cement trains from Nesher.

2). - The P-Class 4-6-0's were used on the Tel Aviv - Haifa line until 1954, occasionally also in 1956. In  1956