Jaffa-Jerusalem Railway

The train to Jerusalem on a trial journey

September 26 1892 – 5 Tishrei 5653

The Jerusalem Jaffa railway line opened, significantly easing the uphill journey to Jerusalem as well as cutting it in half to five to six hours rather than the day and a half carriage ride already available. Sir Moses Montefiore was among those attempting to bring a railway line to Jerusalem, but his initiative was seen by the Ottoman authorities as a British plot to increase imperialist influence. In the end, it was a French company that built the line, after a license had been obtained by Jerusalem born businessman Yosef Navon. The sleepers were laid along the route of the Sorek and Refaim streams, with Swiss, Polish, Italian and Austrian engineers directing the Egyptian, Algerian, Sudanese and local Arab workers as they toiled. Unsurprisingly, the work took longer than expected. When it finally opened, to great fanfare, local dignitaries graced the platform as the locomotive steamed into Jerusalem’s new railway station. The railway functioned until 1998, when it was closed for lack of passengers – by which time it was a much longer journey by rail than by car. Reopened from Tel Aviv via Ramle and Beth Shemesh in 2005, the Jerusalem branch line is still slower than going by road – until the new train route, due to open in 2018.