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IainAlexander

Bahariya Military Railway 1916

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IainAlexander

Does anyone have any information on this narrow gauge railway which was built between April and October 1916 into the Western Desert of Egypt during the Senussi Campaign?

I am keen to know

- What unit(s) built it?

- Which troops garrisoned the adjacent blockhouses during the railway’s construction?

- Where did its locomotives and rolling stock come from?

Most of the information that I have discovered so far comes from Appendix E of Sir Archibald Murray’s Despatches which were published in 1920 by J M Dent and son and this is summarised below:

· The line ran from Bahnassa Station, near Samalut in the Nile valley towards the oasis of Bahariya but finished at Blockhouse B.6 which was about 50 kilometres short of the oasis

· Length: 134 kilometres.

· Gauge: 2 feet 6 inches.

· Materials: Steel rails, wooden sleepers, spikes, no bearing plates. Material all second-hand, bought from various light railway companies in Egypt or provided by the State Railways.

· Gradient: The ruling gradient was 1 in 100.

· Bridges: A large bridge had to be built over the Bahr Yussef Canal at Samalut.

· Rolling Stock: There were 20 engines and 200 wagons. A train typically consisted of one brake van and thirteen 5-ton wagons; useful load, 65 tons.

· Sand: Sand gave trouble on this line as it drifted over it very rapidly if there was a strong wind.

· This line continued to work throughout the remainder of the war but with a greatly reduced traffic; it closed in 1919.

A very good description of a journey on this railway exists in Martin Brigg’s ‘Through Egypt in Wartime’ but that journey was made in 1917 after the end of the Senussi campaign.

The number of locomotives and wagons initially came as a surprise to me but during construction this would have been a very busy line! The railway was narrow gauge, 134 kilometres long and built in the summer heat through very hostile desert. All construction materials had to be taken to the railhead by train as it extended but the railway would also have had to supply the garrisons for the blockhouses along its route, plus the Camel Corps, Light Car Patrols and Light Armoured Batteries that protected the builders and it had to transport and then supply the two dismounted yeomanry regiments, mountain battery and 4500 transport camels that were allocated to the Shusha Column to recapture Bahariya Oasis in October 1916.

I’ve seen pictures of the later garrison at Bahariya and of the tented camp at B6 but have never seen any images of the railway or its construction.

Any information would be gratefully received

Iain

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ifanlloyd

Ian

Fascinating,I can not find anything on this in any of my books !!!!! The only reference to a line in the Western Desert is in Narrow gauge at War 2 "the main sub-standard gauge in use throughout Egypt was 2ft 6ins ,one 120 mile line from Oasis Junc. to El Kharga having opened in 1907,and during the War a further line of this gauge was constructed for military purposes from a point on the Beni Mazar-Sandfa standard gauge line out towards the Bahria Oasis in the Western Desert"

That's it,will contniue looking !!!!

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IainAlexander

Ifan,

Now you know why I asked the question!

Between 15 April and 23 October 1916 the British Army built 134 kilometres of 2' 6" gauge railway using secondhand materials scavenged from other light railways in Egypt - that is 700 metres of track laid per day - and built a fairly large bridge yet no-one seems to have taken a photograph! I'm going to the RE Museum at Chatham next week to see if their archives shed any more light on it.

By the way, Martin Briggs's book 'Through Egypt in Wartime' can be downloaded from the internet as it is out-of-copyright and it contains good descriptions of journeys on both the Bahariya and Kargha railways as well as some details of one of the Suez Canal light railways that Keith Taylorson describes in Narrow Gauge at War 2. Worth a read if you are into narrow gauge railways but very different from the WDLR on the Western Front.

Also, there was another 2' 6" gauge railway 50 kilometres long with two 6-kilometre branches into Wadi Natrun that was used by the British Army 1915-18 but I've managed to get information on that one and also on the railway through Kargha.

Thanks for looking.

Iain

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fwwjournal

Just found this thread while browsing the forum.

 

My grandfather served with "C" Squadron, Cheshire Yeomanry - who were based at Shusha and at one time garrisoned blockhouses B.2 and B.3.  I have some notes on this online; they're largely drawn from official and regimental history, plus some of my grandfathers papers. The text is however supplemented by previously unpublished photos of my grandfathers, one of which is "The Light Desert Railway constructed at the rate of a mile & a half a day".   To the best of my knowledge this is the Baharia military railway.  There's also some pictures of armoured cars.

 

The following two sets of (linked) notes relate to this: Band of Oases | Baharia Expedition.

 

Selecting the pictures will bring up larger versions.

 

David

Edited by fwwjournal

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domsim

Iain

some interesting photos in the collection of the National Army museum-they were taken by Corporal Joseph Egerton of the Shropshire Yeomanry-some engines captioned in Libya and  and one photo captioned as Bahariya ralway but confused with the Sinai railway? I don't know if they are any use?

http://www.nam.ac.uk/online-collection/results.php?searchType=simple&resultsDisplay=list&simpleText=joseph+egerton

 

a fascinating collection to look at generally.

 

all the best

 

 

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fwwjournal

Thanks for highlighting this collection... I hadn't found it before. Similar in many ways to pictures I have that were taken by my grandfather, Thomas Minshall, who served with Cheshire Yeomanry.

 

Shropshire Yeomanry and Cheshire Yeomanry amalgamated in 1917 to form 10th Bn. (Shropshire & Cheshire Yeomanry) King's Shropshire Light Infantry.  I wonder if Thomas and Joseph's paths crossed while in Palestine....

 

David

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IainAlexander

Gents,

 

Thank you very much for posting this information - I'm obviously still getting Christmas presents!

 

Firstly, I can confirm that the Thomas Minshall photos are indeed from the Baharia Military Railway; also, the armoured cars have a rather distinctively-shaped and roofless turret which I understand was typical of the 10 and 11 Light Armoured Batteries that were assigned to protect construction workers as they built the railway.

The Joseph Egerton photos are fascinating but unfortunately they are badly captioned. A quick look at them suggests that images 95, 102, 105, 106, 108, 176 and 177 are indeed from the Baharia Military Railway and imply that its steam locos were hired from the Egyptian Delta Light Railway..

Images 172, 173 and 174 are definitely from the Western Oases Railway another narrow gauge line in the Western Desert that was captured and then garrisoned by dismounted yeomanry but much further South than Baharia. Image 59 and 89 are also probably from that railway

Images 26, 29, 50, 175 and 179 are of the standard gauge military railway across the Sinai from Kantara to Gaza and then into Palestine

Image 178 is described as a locomotive captured from the Turks but it was actually seized from a German cargo ship that had been moored in Port Said harbour at the start of the war with Germany and whilst Turkey was still neutral. It was to an unusual gauge and so spent most of the war in storage in Alexandria until the EEF started to capture Turkish railway lines of that gauge after the Third Battle of Gaza. The loco was then called forward in November 1917 as British forces sought to capture Jerusalem.

Image 108 is of a petrol engine inspection car built in Burton-on-Trent but I cannot determine its gauge or the location.

By the way, I have written an article about the military railways in the Western Desert  which should be published this month in 'The Narrow Gauge' which is the quarterly of the Narrow Gauge Railway Society magazine.

 

Thanks again for the postings

 

IainAlexander

 

  

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ifanlloyd

Iain

Brilliant articles they are to.I have managed to get the first two from Ian Allen.When are the next due out?

My interest  is that my Grandfather wad in the 98th Light Railway Co. in Palestine.

Cheers

Barry

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IainAlexander

Ifan,

 

I am glad that you enjoyed my previous articles, which benefited greatly from information on the discussions on this forum

 

'The Narrow Gauge' (TNG) is a quarterly magazine and, as I said above, publication of the article on the Railways in the Western Desert of Egypt during WW1 is imminent. Logically, the final article, which covers the light railways just South of Gaza and Beersheba before describing the narrow gauge lines around Jerusalem, Jaffa and Ludd, should appear in April 2017, however, each year TNG includes at least one special issue which focuses on a single topic so there is a slight chance that the fourth article could be delayed until July.

 

My original hope was to try to time my articles close to the anniversary of the events being described so a slight delay in publication is not untoward.

 

The recent surge of information on Baharia and another research project suggest there may need to be a couple of short supplements to my original plan of four articles

 

I've sent you a personal message as I have something specific to 98 LROC that is best dealt with outside the forum

 

IainAlexander    

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Hereford Horseman

Just found this thread!  I asked about some photos on another thread..... it looks like this operation!

 

HH

 

ROD 3.jpg

ROD 2.jpg

ROD 1.jpg

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IainAlexander

These are fabulous photos, however, they are not of Bahariya but of a railway further South!

 

The steam engines are from the Western Oases Railway which ran from the Nile Valley to the Kharga Oasis in the Western Desert. This 750 mm (2ft 6in) gauge railway was opened in 1906 and ran West from the Nile for almost 200 km. In February 1916, Senussi tribesmen occupied the oasis but in April 1916 were removed by British troops who then based a garrison at Kharga, built an airfield at Sherika nearby and also extended the railway for a further 30 km to support operations to capture Dakhla Oasis which is further West.  The railway was the principal supply route and was operated by the Egyptian Sate Railway on behalf of the Army throughout the war. 

 

The coach is a Second Class Bogie Coach from the standard gauge Egyptian State Railway but the location for the photo could be anywhere along the Nile Valley.

 

Thanks again for posting these images - I have seen other photos of the derailment but none as clear as this one.  

 

IainAlexander

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