Schedules are updated every Thursday.

Labib Mansour 01 Nov 2022

Historical Snapshot: Lebanon’s Railways During the Civil War

Lebanon’s railways sprouted through the lungs of a dying Ottoman Empire, connecting cities and providing a base of operation for the French mandate that would later take over the trains. Then Lebanon managed to gain its independence, steadily taking control over the country’s railways in the process. When the civil war erupted in 1975, Lebanon’s rail network received one of its final blows, falling victim to the horrors of this atrocity. Here is a snapshot at what happened.

At the onset of the war, consumer rail services were almost completely suspended, with trains only handling cargo and essential freight. The primary objective of the rail network at this time was the transportation of fuel to Lebanon’s electric stations. Their transports ensured an almost continuous supply of electricity during the war.

Service on the Beirut-Naqoura line was interrupted by Israeli shelling during the war, and service on the Beirut-Tripoli line was halted and restarted several times depending on the state of fighting between various militias in the area. Service on the Beirut to Damascus line stopped in 1976 and eventually came under the control of the Syrian army after their entry into the country.

Several other parts of the line came under different militia control, some choosing to destroy them, operate them, or dig and sell them away. Parts of the railway ended up as scrap metal in Pakistan.

In the early 1980s, there was an attempt by the government to restore work on the railways. Bids were won by a French and British company to get the Beirut-Saida rail line operational, with six used trains from Germany bought to make this a reality. However, the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon brought that dream to a halt.

Eventually, lines all across Lebanon would succumb to the different scabs of civil war fighting, with the rail network becoming almost entirely inoperable by the end of the 1990s. However, it would be the neoliberal reconstruction of the post-war era that would deal the final deadly blow to Lebanon’s rail.