Israel Railways invites you to get to know the history of the Railway from the Ottoman period and British Mandate right through to the establishment of the State of Israel, and the investment in the development of the railways and trains in Israel until today.
The development of Israel Railways is inextricably linked with the story of the State of Israel, and we are proud to have taken part in the development of the State, through establishing connections between cities and settlements across the country, by connecting people, and by creating diverse social and economic opportunities.
The history of Israel Railways
The roots of the Railway in the Land of Israel were planted within the vision of Moses Montefiore as a way of encouraging Jewish settlement in the middle of the 19th century. However, in fact, the first railway between Jaffa and Jerusalem was inaugurated only at the end of the century.
During the Ottoman Government and the British Mandate, many railway lines were established, including the line between Syria and Haifa through the Jezreel Valley. During this period, the Railway was used as the main transportation artery, which encouraged the Zionist settlement and the development of industry in the country. But at the same time, the Railway suffered from many attacks and dealt with frequent and extreme changes in the scopes of transportation, mainly due to circumstances beyond its control.
The establishment of the State of Israel saw the founding of Israel Railways, which began rehabilitation of the destroyed system and recruitment of new employees, in conjunction with the establishment of new lines and replacement of outdated equipment. This momentum ceased in the Sixties, but at the end of the Eighties government investment in passenger trains was renewed. Since then, the Railway is growing at an unprecedented rate and is again advancing settlement and the development of the country.
The Railway during the Ottoman period
1892 - The inauguration of the first railway line in the Land of Israel
The first railway line is built from Jaffa to Jerusalem by a French company, initiated by Joseph Navon from Jerusalem. The line is constructed within a winding route and a narrow rail, of one meter gauge. This line was the only public line in the country ever built by private initiative and funds.
1906 - Completion of the line from Haifa to Syria
The line from Haifa to Syria, whose rail gauge was narrow as well, is built by the Ottoman Government as an extension of the Hijaz Railway in Trans-Jordan, and from which extensions stretched to Acre and Samaria. In time, this line gains the nickname of "the Valley Train".
The Railway during the First World War
1915 - The Hijaz Turkish Railway reaches Be'er Sheva
The Hijaz Railway is also connected to the Jerusalem Line, whose tracks had been slightly extended. During the war, its extensions also reach Hadera, the outskirts of the Sinai and Gaza. Although this railway line is built to a high specification, it cannot bear the advance of the Turkish Army in its battles against the British in Egypt.
1916-1919 - The establishment of the British Military rail from El Kantara to Haifa
The military railway is built upon the standard British gauge of 143.5 cm, in order to connect to the Egyptian network and enable larger scopes of transportation. The British Army is careful not to move forward faster than the pace of its establishment, aiming to ensure regular supply to his soldiers. Extensions are also built from Rafah to Be'er Sheva and from Lod to Jerusalem, along the original route, whose tracks had again been extended.
The Railway during the British Mandate period
1920 - The establishment of the Mandatory Railway, "Palestine (the Land of Israel) Railways"
The Mandatory Railway is responsible for two different railway networks - the narrow Hijaz Rail of the Valley, with extensions to Acre and Samaria (and Trans-Jordan as well) and the standard railway, whose main lines were the Haifa- El Kantara Line and the Jaffa - Jerusalem Line.
1936-1939 - The Arab Revolt in Palestine (the Events of 1936-39)
During the period of the great Arab Revolt, the Railway experiences repeated attacks, while investing vast resources in security and repairing damage, with the support of the British Army and Jewish Guards.
1939-1945 - The Second World War
During the second World War, the Land of Israel is located at the core of the British activity in the Middle East, and the Railway triples in size thanks to assistance of personnel and equipment from the British Army. The main Line between Haifa and El Kantara is upgraded in order to increase its capacity.
1942 - Completion of the Military Line of Haifa-Beirut-Tripoli
The military line is established upon standard gauge tracks, based on the Haifa-Acre extension of the Hijaz Railway, whose purpose is to support British military activity in Lebanon and Syria. Its establishment also includes the quarrying of the tunnels in Rosh Hanikra. At that point, it is possible to travel by train from Haifa to Cairo, to Beirut (and from there to Turkey and Iraq), to Damascus and Amman.
1946-1948 - The struggle for the establishment of the State
The Railway absorbs attacks once again, this time including those carried out by the Jewish Underground: this results in extensive damage to equipment, buildings and infrastructure. At the time of the declaration of independence of the State of Israel, only the railway in the Haifa region remains active.
Young Israel Railways
1949 – Israel Railways re-inaugurates the line to Jerusalem
The reactivation of the line to Jerusalem is made possible due to the exchange of territories made with Jordan, with the intention that the entire railway will remain in the territory of Israel.
1953 - The inauguration of the Coastal Rail
Immediately after the establishment of the State, the Railway begins the reconstruction of the rail network and the construction of the new lines. The new tracks are intertwined with the existing network at Remez Junction next to Pardes Hanna and at Olamit Junction next to Petach Tikva. In 1954, Tel Aviv Central Station is inaugurated at its southern end, and in 1956, the railway to Be'er Sheva is inaugurated as well.
1959 - The Steam Era comes to an end in Israel Railways
Diesel locomotives and motor coaches, purchased using funds from foreign assistance and reparations, replace the last steam locomotives. The official farewell film stars Locomotive 70414, and the film's soundtrack song becomes a hit.
1965 - The inauguration of the line to Dimona
Until the Eighties, investment in the Railway focuses on transporting heavy cargo in the Negev; as a result, transportation of passengers is neglected, leading Israel Railways to a deep low in the state of its outdated infrastructure and equipment.
1967 - the Six Day War
After the occupation of the Sinai Peninsula, the Railway quickly utilizes the rail at the Gaza Strip and operates the lines in Sinai, for the purpose of evacuating equipment and transporting supplies to the IDF forces.
1975 - The inauguration of Haifa Bat Galim Station
Haifa Bat Galim Station is initially built as part of an integrated transportation center, together with a central bus station. This Station is one of the only two large stations built for more than 30 years.
1988 - The establishment of the Ports and Railways Authority
The Ports and Railways Authority is responsible for the renewal of the national investment in the development of the Railway. In 1989 passenger carriages are equipped with air conditioning for the first time and in 1992, the One Hundredth Year of the Railway in the country, the first passenger trains begin service after 20 years!
1993 - The inauguration of Ayalon Line
The Ayalon Line is built as part of the Ayalon Highway Project about 40 years following the beginning of its planning and it soon became the busiest line in the country. During the Nineties, many of the existing lines and stations are upgraded, and the Coast Line between Tel Aviv and Haifa is doubled.
2003 - The establishment of Israel Railways Ltd.
The Railway becomes a government company and continues the investment momentum with direct funding from the State. New lines are built to Kfar Saba, Ben Gurion Airport and Modi'in and the line to Jerusalem, which was shut down in 1998 due to its poor condition, is been upgraded and reopened.
2013 - The inauguration of Sderot Station
Sderot Station is built as part of the Ashkelon-Be'er Sheva Line, with the aim of creating a second route between the Central Region and the Negev, parallel to the opening of the main line to Be'er Sheva, whose extension is completed in 2012. In 2015, the entire line is completed (upon the opening of Ofakim and Netivot Stations).
2016 - The inauguration of the renovated Valley Line
65 years after its termination, the renewed Valley Line is inaugurated, connecting Haifa to Beit She'an, along most of the route of the historic Hijaz Rail. The new rail is built next to the historic railway, with particular attention to the preservation of nature and landscape.
2017 – Dedication of the Karmiel line. The idea of building a railway to the Galilee Mountains had been around since the 1950s. The line planned to extend to Hatzor Haglilit and Kiryat Shmona.
2018 – Launch of the new line to Jerusalem. It was Israel Railways' first electrified line, quickly and directly linking Israel's two largest cities. The new line includes Israel's highest and longest railway bridges and longest railway tunnel.
Continuing Israel Railways' Engine of Growth
Today, Israel Railways is establishing the High-Speed Railway Line to Jerusalem and as part of the 'Netivei Israel' plan, railway lines to Carmiel and Ra'anana are being established. Israel Railways is also preparing itself for the next revolution – transition to electric ignition in its trains.