Syrian Railways

Chemins de fer syriens

Modern CFS passenger train, hauled by General Electric Class U17C, north of Aleppo on the former Baghdad Railway
Locale Syria
Dates of operation 19562012[1]
Predecessor Damas, Hamah et Prolongements
Hejaz railway
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in)
Length 2,423 km
Headquarters Aleppo

General Establishment of Syrian Railways[2] (Arabic: المؤسسة العامة للخطوط الحديدية,[3] French: Chemins de fer syriens, CFS) is the national railway operator for the state of Syria, subordinate to the Ministry of Transportation.[4] It was established in 1956 and is headquartered in Aleppo.[5][6] Syria's rail infrastructure has been severely compromised as a result of the ongoing civil conflict in the country.


Baghdad Railway train, circa 1910

The first railway in Syria opened when the country was part of the Ottoman Empire, with the 1,050 mm (3 ft 5 1132 in) gauge line from Damascus to the port city of Beirut in present-day Lebanon opened in 1895. The famous Hejaz railway opened in 1908 between Damascus and Medina in present-day Saudi Arabia also used 1,050 mm (3 ft 5 1132 in) gauge. Railways after this point were built to 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) , including the Baghdad Railway.[7] The French wanted an extension of the standard gauge railway to connect with the Palestine Railways and so agreed the building of a branch line to Tripoli, Lebanon, operated by Société Ottomane du Chemin de fer Damas-Hama et prolongements, also known as DHP.[8]

Baghdad railway station, Aleppo, built in 1915

The Baghdad Railway had progressed as far as Aleppo by 1912, with the branch to Tripoli complete, by the start of World War I; and onwards to Nusaybin by October 1918. The Turks, who sided with Germany and the Central Powers, decided to recover the infrastructure south of Aleppo to the Lebanon in 1917. The Baghdad Railway created opportunity and problems for both sides, being unfinished but running just south of the then defined Syrian/Turkish border.[8]

Post war, the border was redrawn, and the railway was now north of the border. DHP reinstated the Tripoli line by 1921. From 1922 the Baghdad Railway was worked in succession by two French companies, who were liquidated in 1933 when the border was again redrawn, placing the Baghdad Railway section again in Syrian control. Lignes Syriennes de Baghdad (LSB) took over operations, a subsidiary of DHP.[8]

The next big developments in Syrian railways were due to the political manoeuvering leading up to and during World War II. As Turkey had sided with Germany in World War One, the Allies were concerned with poor transport in the area, and their ability to bring force on the Turks. Having built railways extensions in both the Eastern and Western deserts of Egypt, they initially operated services via the Hejaz Railway, but were frustrated by the need to transload goods due to the gauge break. They surveyed a route from Haifa to Rayak in 1941, but decided there were too many construction difficulties. The standard gauge line from Beirut to Haifa was eventually built by Commonwealth military engineers from South Africa and Oceania during WWII, in part supplied by a 1,050 mm (3 ft 5 1132 in) gauge railway to access materials.[8] Eventually Turkey remained neutral and refused the Allies access to their jointly controlled sections of the Baghdad Railway, although by then the Allies had driven the Palestine Railway through to Al Akkari, Homs, Hama and onward to connect with the Baghdad Railway at Aleppo.[8]

Locomotives servicing the Allied war effort included the British R.A. Riddles designed WD Austerity 2-10-0, four of which post war went into Syrian service, designed CFS Class 150.6.[9][10]

In 1956, all railways in Syria were nationalised, and reorganised as CF Syriennes (CFS) from 1 January 1965. Expanded with monetary and industrial assistance from the USSR, the agreement covered the joint industrial development of the country. Covering the development of the ports of Tartus and Latakia, they were initially connected by rail to Al Akkari and Aleppo in 1968 and 1975 respectively. An irrigation project on the Euphrates, resulting in the construction of the Tabqa Dam, drove the connection of Aleppo to Al-Thawrah (1968), Ar-Raqqah (1972) Deir ez Zor (1973), reaching the old Baghdad Railway at Al Qamishli in 1976.[8]

Current system


Chemins de Fer Syriens
North to Ankara (old Baghdad Railway)
East from Çobanbey to Nusaybin[11]
0.0 Border with Turkey
Maydan Ikbis
Al Qamishli
Euphrates river crossing
Deir ez-Zor
Deir ez-Zor freight depot
El Yarubieh (old Baghdad Railway)
Abu Kemal
0.0 Border with Iraq
East to Mosul
Al Akkari
Homs freight depot
0.0 Border with Lebanon
South to Beirut and Tripoli
Palmyra freight only, for phosphate
Damascus Kadam
0.0 Damascus al-Hijaz
Sheikh Miskin
Suwayda (proposed)
0.0 Border with Jordan
South to Amman

Today, all 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) network and trains are operated by CfS. Using all diesel-electric powered traction, the main routes are:[5][12]


Prior to the civil war there was a proposal for a connection with Iraq between Dayr az Zawr and Al’Qa’im [13]



The headquarters of CFS, Aleppo

The network is designed wholly around diesel-electric traction. For operational purposes CFS is divided into three regions: Central, Eastern and Northern. At the end of 2004 CFS employed around 12,400 staff.

The system has a low level capacity, with top speed usually limited. A 30 km (19 mi) section of the Damascus - Aleppo line was designed for speeds reaching 120 km/h (75 mph), but most of the track has a limit of 110 km/h (68 mph). Most tracks of the CFS are limited to 80 km/h (50 mph). Operational train speed is also limited by a lack of interlocked signalling, with most of the system operating by informal signalling. The Damascus al-Hijaz railway station, which lies in the city centre, is no longer operational, and the railway connections with other cities depart from the suburban station of Kadam.

The result is that most passenger traffic has moved to air-conditioned coaches, and freight traffic dominates the operational trackage. The 2005 introduction of South Korean-built DMUs, where drivers were trained using a simulator,[14] on the Damascus - Aleppo route, and the high traffic Aleppo - Latakia route where intermediate stations are bypassed, resulted in higher usage and occupancy levels.

The only international connection is with Turkey. The link with Iraq, severed in the war of 2003, was restored for a time but closed again; there was a plan to reopen it in June 2009.[15] In 2008 it was proposed to open a joint rolling stock factory with Turkish State Railways at Aleppo.[16]

The only remaining section of narrow gauge line, running from a point on the outskirts of Damascus into Jordan, is operated by Jordan Hejaz Railways.

Rolling stock


Motive power

The motive power in 2007 was noted as:[17]

Class Image Axle Formula Number Year in Service Power
Max.Speed [km/h] Traction Type* Notes
unkn Steam locomotive in Bosra
LDE-650 Bo-Bo 9 1968 478 DE Shunting locomotives built in France
LDE-1200 Co-Co 11 1973 883 100 DE TEM2 Shunting locomotives built in Russia, 346 kN tractive effort
LDE-1500 Co-Co 25 1982 1102 DE Czechoslovakia, similar to CD(CZ) ČSD Class T 669.0
LDE-1800 Co-Co 26 1976 1323 DE American built General Electric U17C export model. 30 originally built in 2 batches
LDE-2800 Co-Co 77 1982 2058 100 DE Russian TE114, 110 originally built. Partly modernised by General Electric in 2000 by fitting 12cyclinder GE FDL of 3000 hp[18]
LDE-3200 Co-Co 30 1999 2400 120 DE Alstom DE32CAC diesel locomotives, engines by Ruston 3,200 hp (2,400 kW).[19][20]
DMU-5 10 2006 1680 120/160 DH Multiple unit from Hyundai Rotem, Korea for Aleppo-Damascus/Latakia long-distance services. 222 second class, 61 first class
* DH = Diesel-hydraulic, DE = Diesel-electric
Passenger vehicles

The railway possessed:[17]

Class Image Number Year in Service Notes
Type Y[21] 358 1982-'83 Original built for Damascus - Homs-line by VEB Bautzen. Delivered in orange-cream Städteexpress-livery
Freight wagons
CFS phosphate mineral wagon (2007)


Class Image Axle Formula Number Year in Service Power
Max.Speed [km/h] Traction Type* Notes
De Dion Bouton railcar 1930 Built for Hejaz Railway
Ganz/MAVAG R12 railcar


In 2003 the Syrian government planned to invest €9 billion in the system, with €12 billion annually to be spent in succeeding years. The longer term development of the network up to 2020 was the subject of studies undertaken with the help of the Japanese consultancy Jaika. Proposals included the construction of new lines for speeds of up to 250 km/h to Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. Restructuring of CFS was foreseen, with the state assuming responsibility for infrastructure and railway operations placed in the hands of separate independent business units.[12]

In October 2010 there were plans to set up a joint centre for rail studies, with Ferrovie dello Stato; and plans to build a rail link between Damascus and Jordan were temporarily revived, subject to funding.[22]

On 22 April 2005, Syria ratified the Agreement on International Railways in the Arab Mashriq, which provided for the implementation of a variety of north-south and east-west links between the states of the region, including the restoration of direct rail links between Syria, Lebanon and Iraq.

See also


  1. HaRakevet Magazine No. 99 = y. 26/4, p. 17.
  2. "الرئيسية." (Home page) Syrian Railways. 26 October 2007. Retrieved on 22 October 2013.
  3. "اتصـال." Syrian Railways. 16 June 2006. Retrieved on 22 October 2013.
  4. "Hme page." Syrian Railways. 21 May 2006. Retrieved on 22 October 2013.
  5. 1 2 "Chemins de fer Syriens". Ferenc Valoczy. Retrieved 2009-05-03.
  6. "Contact us." Syrian Railways. 17 June 2006. Retrieved on 22 October 2013. "Syrian Arab Republic Ministry of Transportation Syrian Railways Syria - Aleppo"
  8. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Hugh Hughes. "Middle East Railways". Retrieved 2009-05-05.
  9. Rowledge, J.W.P. (1987). Austerity 2-8-0s & 2-10-0s. London: Ian Allan.
  10. "CFS Motive Power". Retrieved 2009-05-04.
  11. Note: the old Baghdad Railway from Çobanbey to Nusaybin forms the border line between Syria and Turkey, with stations accessible from Syria.
  12. 1 2 "Chemins de fer Syriens". Jaynes. Retrieved 2009-05-03.
  13. 1 2
  14. "Syrian train simulator". YouTube. April 15, 2008. Retrieved May 7, 2009.
  15. 1 2 3 "June launch scheduled for Iraq-Syria railway". April 29, 2009. Retrieved May 3, 2009.
  17. 1 2 "CFS". 2007-06-25. Retrieved 2007-05-03.
  18. "GE Locomotives in Asia & Middle East". Retrieved 2009-05-04.
  19. "PRIMA DE 32 C AC diesel locomotives, Syria". Alstom. Archived from the original on 17 October 2005.
  20. : Syrian diesels
  21. HaRakevet: Rothschild PhD, Rabbi Walter (december 2004), Modelling notes - Syrian coaches. Series 17:4 issue 67
  22. "SYRIA". Railways Africa. Retrieved 2010-11-09.
  23. Arab Turkish Travel Gazette:Third railway gate between Turkey-Syria opens, December 26, 2009
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