Ottoman Railways

A Short History of Turkish Railways

 

TCDD was founded as a state company in 1927 by the new Turkish Republic to take over existing railways in Anatolia and to develop them in accordance with the needs of the country. Prior to the Republic, the Ottoman Empire awarded all concessions to private railways companies. These companies were financed by foreign capital except for the renowned Hedjaz Railway.

The Ottoman Government had little global network vision in their railway building and their projects can be categorized in two types:

  • Projects sponsored by the Ottoman government, usually for strategic reasons (Hedjaz Railway, Baghdad Railway, …).
  • Projects sponsored by private interests for business purpose (ORC, SCP, …), in area were the transport demand was already high. These projects were local and uncoordinated.

Although all the lines were connected at the time of TCDD creation, they did not constitute a network suitable for an efficient transportation. Large parts of Anatolia had no railways and some large cities were still not connected. A development program was prepared by the Republic government and entrusted to TCDD to carry it over. On average, TCDD doubled the size of the network (from about 4000 km in 1924 to 8500 km today)

Appendix:

  • Chronology of some Turkish history key historical dates from 1850 to 1950
  • The abbreviation page for details of railways and manufacturer abbreviations used.

Overview of railways in Anatolia

Before World War 1: the private companies

The table below shows all the companies in Turkey during the Ottoman time. Original names are most of the time in French, which was commonly used as international language in the Ottoman Empire in the late 19s century.

This table includes the branch line to Kars. Although not in the Empire at the time of building, this branch of the Transcaucasus railway was taken over when Kars was conquered by the Imperial armies in 1917

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Line

Start date

Taken over by

CO

Société Générale pour l'Exploitation des Chemins de Fer Orientaux

Istanbul to Bulgaria and Greece

1874

TCDD 1 January 1937

ORC

Ottoman Railway from Smyrna to Aydın

İzmir to Buca, Aydın, Sarayköy, Dinar, Eğridir

1866

TCDD 1 June 1935

SCP

Smyrna Cassaba railway, renamed Chemins de fer Smyrne Cassaba et Prolongements

İzmir to Turgutlu, Alaşehir, Uşak, Afyon and İzmir to Bandırma,

1869

TCDD 1 June 1934

CFOA

Société de Chemins de Fer Ottomans d'Anatolie

Istanbul, Izmit, Adapazarı, Eskişehir, Ankara, Konya

1873

C.F. Anatolie Bahgdad 1 June 1927

CIOB - CFIO Baghdad

Société Impériale Ottomane du Chemins de Fer de Baghdad or Chemins du Fer Impérial Ottomans de Bagdad

Konya, Adana, Toprakkale, Iskenderun, Islahiye, Meydanekbez, Nusaybin Baghdad

1904

C.F. Anatolie Bahgdad 1 June 1927

MTA

Mersin - Adana

Mersin, Tarsus, Yenice, Adana

1886

TCDD 1 January 1929

CFMB

Chemins de fer de Moudiana à Brousse

Mudanya Bursa

1892

TCDD 1 June 1931

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Transcaucasus Railways

Sarıkamış, Kars to border, plus 750 mm gauge line to Erzurum

1899

C.F. Anatolie Bahgdad 1 June 1927

First World War and Independence War

For various reasons not discussed here, the Ottoman Empire entered the First World War on the side of Germany and of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire and against France, the United-Kingdom and Russia. During the 1914-1918 period, no fighting occurred on the Anatolian soil but the "enemy railways" (the SCP, and the ORC) were placed under special military control until 1919.

In the aftermath of defeat, Anatolia was occupied by the Great Powers which in turn placed the "German railways" under special military control. However, fightings in Anatolia did start in 1920 when Greece proceeded with an attack and an occupation of Western Anatolia. The Turkish Nationalist, led by Atatürk, fought back and expelled the Greeks in 1922. These combats brought about heavy damage to the railways, especially in Eskişehir area.

During all this time, actual control and operation of the railway lines in Anatolia is quite obscure. It is likely that traffic was minimal and most of the equipment was not serviceable. Only parts of lines were operated by whoever had military control of the area.

After the War: railway nationalized through TCDD

After the War, a Turkish State company was formed to take over the railways that were under German ownership and lying in Anatolia under Turkish control. This company took the name of Chemins de fer d'Anatolie Baghdad and formed the nucleus of TCDD. All the railways belonging to the French or the British were returned to their former owners.

Short Name

Full Original Name

Line

Start date

Taken over by

---

Chemins de fer d'Anatolie Baghdad

Istanbul Izmit Adapazarı, Eskişehir, Ankara, Konya, Pozantı, Adana, Mersin

22 April 1924

TCDD 1 June 1927

In addition, a company was created by the French, after WWI, to take over the part of the Baghdad railways that was in the area controlled by the French (Cilicia and Syria). This company was reorganized when the French withdrew from Cilicia, and again when the assets in Turkey were transferred to TCDD.

Short Name

Full Original Name

Line

Start date

Taken over by

CNS

Chemins de fer de Cilicie Nord Syrie

Adana, Toprakkale, İskenderun, Islahiye, Meydanekbez, Nusaybin, Baghdad,

1918

BANP 1927

BANP

Société d'exploitation des Chemins de Fer Bozanti Alep Nissibine et Prolongements

Adana, Toprakkale, İskenderun, Islahiye, Meydanekbez, Nusaybin, Baghdad,

1927

TCDD (partly) 1 July 1933

CD

Société Turque des Chemins de Fer du Sud de la Turquie (Cenup Demiryoları)

Fevzipaşa, Islahiye to Meydanekbez; Çobanbey to Nusaybin and Payas to İskenderun

1 July 1933

TCDD January 1948

Second wave of line building

In addition to gradually taking over all the private railways, TCDD had a mandate for extensive line building to the point that it became the main expenditure of the government. This second wave of expansion occurred mostly in the 1930's and 1940's with the opening of important lines to places like Malatya, Ezurum, Samsun or Zonguldak

From the Second World War to present days

Turkey remained neutral during the Second World War. But after the war, with American aid through the Marshal plan, Turkey shifted its priorities from rail to road transportation. Over the years, bus and truck became the transportation of choice over the newly build roads.

The rail network expansion came slowly to a halt without being finished. In addition, under investment meant that line modernization was very slow. Steam engines were kept in service until very late in the 1980's. TCDD modernization program relies on modern automatic block signaling system and 25KV electrification of its main lines. Some double tracking and realignments have been done as well along the same main roads

Rail investment rebirth came through urban mass transportation. In the 1990's, urban networks, from light rail to heavy metro were inaugurated in most of the large Turkish cities. Transportation needs in large cities and road congestion brought about the latest shift in TCDD strategy. In the late 1990's, TCDD forgo its network expansion strategy and focused instead on the upgrade of the Istanbul Ankara mainline.

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