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T r a n s - I r a n

Train Istanbul - Tehran, Iranian 90-510, Razi border station August 1973 (WS)

Express (Damascus-) Van - Tehran, GM Canada engine 60.942, Tabriz, Oct.5, 2005 (Tomas Meyer-Eppler)

Express on the Trans-Iran railwayin Arak. (Alessandro Albe)

Express with General Motors engine in Isfahan. (Alessandro Albe)

The strategic railway Turkey - Iran was completed in 1970 - Iran was completed. In 1971 passenger services Istanbul - Tehran started, initially with change of trains at Lake Van. Then the horribly crowded dark-green trains were ferried across the lake. After the Iranian revolution they were stopped. In 2000 a once-weekly Trans Aasya Ekspresi resumed services Istanbul - Tatvan connecting with an express Van - Tehran. Passengers had to change trains at Lake Van.

Express Istanbul - Tehran (Vangölü Ekspresi)
Departure Razi (Iranian border), August 11, 1973:
Diesel 90.5 (CoCo, GM)RAIVan - Tabriz/Tehran
D (van, 4-wheeler)RAIRazi - or Van - Tehran
B (2 nd class)RAIRazi - or Van - Tehran
B (2nd class)TCDDIstanbul - Tehran
Ac (couchette 1st)TCDDIstanbul - Tehran
B (2nd class)RAIIstanbul - Tehran
Ac (couchette 1st)RAIIstanbul - Tehran
WR (diner)RAIRazi - Tehran
Ac (couchette 1st)RAIRazi - Tehran
Between Van and Tabriz c.20 freight wagons were attached.
Tatvan - Van by train-ferry.

Traction: Istanbul - Ankara DE24 (CoCo, Alsthom), to Tatvan Pier DE21 by TCDD, from Van 90.5 by RAI.
Colors: RAI diesels and cars dark-green.

Express Damascus - Tehran
Tabriz, Oct.10, 2005:
Diesel 60.942IIRR
6 couchette carsIIRRVan - Tehran
1 postal vanCFS (Syria)Damascus - Tehran
Colors: Locomotive green, Iranian cars white/light-grey

Connection once weekly with the express Damascus – Tatvan over the electrified line Fevzipasa - Malatya.

Express 67 Damascus – Tehran in Syria 2008
2 diesel CFS Damascus – Meydan Ekbez
1 van CFS Damascus – Tatvan
3 cars 1st class CFS Damascus – Tatvan
1 diner CFS Damascus – Tatvan
3 sleepers CFS Damascus – Tatvan
1 postal van RAI Damascus – Tehran
Colors: CFS sleepers blue/pastel, van RAI yellow/orange/green

Connection once weekly with the express Van – Tehran of RAI, consisting of couchettes (built at Graz resp. Bautzen) and diner (all information by Heiko Mueller).

Trans Asya Express
It consistedinitially only of white Turkish couchette cars and a diner. All passengers had to change on the ferry Tatvan - Van and had to take another train Van - Tehran.

Istanbul - Ankara E43000 (25 kV ac Toshiba), Ankara - Tatvan General Motors DE22, Van - border Alsthom DE24, in Iran General Motors 90.5.

In 2004 the section Van - Tehran was seen with turquoise/yellow Iranian sleepers Istanbul - Tehran of the Russian 0-T type built at Ammendorf, obviously the cars aquired in 1991 for Tehran - Moscow services, and a red Iranian diner.

Trans - Iranian railway
The extremely difficult Trans-Iranian railway from the Gulf to the Caspian Sea had been completed in 1938. During WWII it was the important way for the Allies' military supply for the Soviet Union. On the IrSR/IRR expresses Bandar Shahpur - and Khorramshahr - Tehran and Tehran - Bandarshah appeared cars from Germany, Belgium, during WWII also from India, and then new cars from Germany, Switzerland and France.

Traction: Steam locomotives from Germany classes 41 (2-8-0) and 51 (2-10-0), 41 (2-8-0) by War Department, 42.4 (2-8-2) from USA/TC, 86 (Garratt). The class 52.1 (2-10-2) was used probably only for freight. Diesels from USA/TC (Alco), from the '50s BoBo types and then CoCo types GM, and class 60 from Romania (now out of service).

Russia - Mideast
The Tsars already dreamt of a railway Russia - Persia - India. In 1900 Russian broad gauge reached Kars in eastern Anatolia and in 1908 also Dzhulfa on the Iranian border, in 1916 extended to Tabriz. During World War II, around 1942/43 when the Caspian Sea and the connection with the Trans-Iranian railway were of strategic importance for military supply, a railway from Astrakhan to Makhachkala on the western shore was completed (see the book ‘Eisenbahn im Krieg’ by Andreas Knipping and the Web site In 1945, before the Cold War started, the Soviet Undion got the first modern diesel engines, Db series from Baldwin, employed Tuapse – Samtrediya and Gudermes – Ordzonikidse, decorated with the Soviet star. In 1958, with the completion of the line Tehran - Tabriz, the broad gauge Dzhulfa - Tabriz was converted to standard gauge. In 1973 a Soviet sleeper Moscow - Sochi - Dzhulfa - Tehran was introduced and the train was named “Druzhba”, what means friendship. Later, due to the Abhkasian war, it was conveyed via Baku, and in the '80s confined to Dzhulfa. Nevertheless the line Dzhulfa - Tabriz was electrified and ASEA/SGP rather secretly delivered 25kV standard locomotives. In 1991 a twicw-weekly service Tehran - Moscow was resumed with one Russian and one Iranian train set consisting of Russian 0-T type sleepers, however it disappeared from the timetable in 1994. In the 21st century no train appeared on the line from Yerevan, Armenia, to Dzhulfa in Iran. In 2009 however, Railway Gazette Intl reported a feasibility study for a connection Armenia – Iran, which is to avoid the Azerbaijani enclave. In 2011 Railway Gazette reported also: “Turkey and Georgia are building a line to bypass Armenia.” In 2015 rumors of starting a tourist special Moscow – Tehran arose.

During the decades of the Cold War there had been no train connection between the Soviet Union and Turkey, the NATO outpost. Not before 1962 the Turkish line to the Soviet border via north eastern Anatolia was converted to standard gauge. The Dogu Ekspresi connected Istanbul with Kars, where passengers (with permit) could take a regional train to the border. Soon the Soviets added to the “Druzhba” a sleeping-car from Moscow to the border station Akhurian. For 1967 a direct sleeper Moscow – Ankara was evaluated, but then the Soviet sleeping car Moscow – Istanbul was introduced via Romania, not Anatolia, and later it disappeared.

Ex-Russian group E from the Djulfa broad gauge line, Tabriz, Iran 1973 (WS)

Special "Kaukasus-Krim-Express" by Alby Glatt, Soviet class VL8, on the way back from Yerevan to Tbilisi, in Armenia close to the Turkish border, 1981 (Karl-Heinz Walraf)

Dogu Ekspresi of TCDD Kars - Istanbul with DE21 near Sivas in 1973 (Guenter Haslbeck)

Special "Kaukasus-Krim-Express" with Soviet VL8 in Sochi, 1981 (Karl-Heinz Walraf)

Siemens Iran-Runner Nr. 1516, one of 20 which were built by Siemens in Germany, with Train 203 (Firuzkuh - Tehran) on Mai 8th 2016 in the station of Firuzkuh. The train runs with former danish an german cars. (Matthias Hille)