Iraq Railways

Iraq Railways - Iraqi Republic Railways Company (IRR)

Map of the Iraqi railway system

The Iraqi Republic Railway Company (IRR) runs over approximately 1,900 kilometres (1,200 miles) of standard gauge track and runs from Rabiya in the north southward through Mosul, Bayji and Baghdad to end at Basra. There is also a branch line which runs from Shouaiba Junction (close to Basra) to the ports of Khor Az Zubair and Umm Qasr as well as westward from Baghdad through Ramadi and Haqlaniya to Al Qaim and Husayba. Finally, there is a branch line running from Al Qaim to Akashat and from Haqlaniya through Bayji to Kirkuk.

The railway started its life back in 1914 in what was then Mesopotamia (a province of the Otterman Empire) when some 123 kilometers of the Baghdad Railway opened. Construction had begun heading north from Baghdad to join up with a section of railway being built across Turkey and Syria. After 1916 however the British Military brough narrow guage equipment across from India to southern Mesopotamia to support their action aganst the Turks and subsequently were victorious and became the aministrators of a League of Nations mandate for the area. Later, in 1920, the railways were transferred to British administration as Mesopotanian Railways.

Following independence from Britain in 1932, Iraq purchased Mesopotanian Railways in 1936 and the company was renamed the Iraqi State Railways. Work then began to extend the railway and in 1941 PC class 4-6-2 locomotives were introduced on the Baghdad to Instanbul Taurus Express running between Baghdad and Tel Kotchek. At this time the British government also supplemented the fleet with HG claa 4-8-0 locomotives from India and USATC S118 class 2-8-2 locomotives from the USA, as well as with LMS Stanier class 8F 2-8-0 and USATC S100 class 0-6-0T locomotives.

Other major developments included the introduction of Hudswell Clarke 2-8-4T locomotives from 1951, following the opening of a branch line at Kirkuk by the Iraq Petroleum Company in 1947 and a new metre guage line between Kirkuk and Arbil in 1949. The east and west banks of the River Tigris were also finally connect in 1950 with the opening of a road and rail bridge. New steam locomotives were also added at this time including 2-8-2 locomotives from Maschinenfabrik Esslingen and the Vulcan Foundry and 2-8-0 locomotives from Krupp.

The next major event occurred following the overthrow of the Hashemite monarchy in 1958 and the declaration of Iraq as a republic. The railway was again renamed at this point and became the Iraqi Republic Railways (IRR). At this time it also began replacing its steam locomotives with a fleet of diesels, although this replacement program took much longer than originally intended and ran from 1961 to 1983.

In recent years the railways have suffered extensive damage as a result of both conflict and looting and the process of rebuilding is likely to continue for many years.